First picture show in Adelaide at Theatre Royal in 1896; Salvation Army doco made in 1899

The Theatre Royal in Hindley Street presented one of the Adelaide's first picture shows in 1896.
Image courtesy State Library of South Australia

The first public film show in South Australia was at the Theatre Royal  in Hindley Street in October 1896 – within a year of the Lumière brothers’ first film screening in Paris.

There were also screenings at the Beehive building (1896) and the YMCA’s Victoria Hall in Gawler Place (1897). Each of these first films in Adelaide, depicting dancers and American folk heroes, lasted just under one minute.

In 1897, Wybert Reeve, manager of the Theatre Royal, became the colony’s first travelling “picture showman”, screening 30 short films in metropolitan and country towns.

But the novelty of moving pictures lasted just over a year. From 1898 to 1905, only occasional picture shows were presented. But during that time, the first film to be made in South Australia, General William Booth boards SS Arcadia at Largs Bay (1899), was shot by Joseph Perry of the Salvation Army.

Adelaide Town Hall was used occasionally in 1906-10 as a cinema under names such as Tait’s, Bruce’s, Peacock’s and Prince’s.

The Black Eagle Hotel on the corner of Hindmarsh Square and Pirie Street in 1909 had an open air cinema called Paris on the site of the former Elite Skating Rink. Another open air cinema was on the present site of the Adelaide Hilton.

In 1906, when cinema regained the popularity, local and interstate entrepreneurs would produce local shorts such as Happenings Taken at the Adelaide Show, Adelaide’s Fire Service and Animated Adelaide. These would be shown at night in a vacant hall.

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