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                                                     By Niall Maurici
            Elizabeth Street extends, on its
          unbowed journey, through the very
          heart of North Hobart, Tasmania. Along
          the way it is dotted with a collection of
          restaurants, cafes and shops. Some are
          old, in ageing, sandstone buildings.
          Others are more modern structures.
          One in particular stands out. In between
          the Swan Street alleyway and a
          sandstone office block is a respectable
          brick building. The contours of its
          façade edge up like steps to a large
          overhanging sign that reads State
          Cinema. The cinema’s appearance may
          not allude to anything special, but a
          glance at the collection of posters that
          line the windows is the first suggestion
          that this is no ordinary movie theatre.
          There are no big budget Hollywood
          blockbusters here. The names      Closed for renovations, 1990.
          ‘Stallone’, ‘Jolie’, or ‘Pitt’ seldom
          make an appearance.               the belief of the upper classes was that  Cowboy films were also shown in the
                                            vagrancy and poverty were caused by  Saturday matinee to attract school
            The State Cinema has witnessed                          3
                                            ‘individual character defects’, and as  children to the cinema.
          many significant turning points and
                                            president of the Social Purity        By 1920 the cinema was no longer
          survived many changes, but through the
                                            Committee, Emily Dobson attempted to  a sustainable business and the premises
          hard times and the good, this historic
                                            rectify this. The committee called for  became vacant.
          moving picture house has remained one
                                            strong censorship of moving pictures,
          of a kind. The foundations of the                                       In 1921 the building was purchased
                                            for that was what they saw to be
          Cinema were laid on the remains of                                   by Leo Williams. Williams converted
                                  1         corrupting the poor. The cinema was a
          Badcock's Fuel Depot in 1913. Over                                   the premises into the Broad B Billiard
                                            cheap form of entertainment; even        1
          the following months, construction                                   Saloon. The theatre area was turned
                                            those with lowest incomes could afford
          continued, until eventually, in February                             into a gymnasium and boxing arena. It
                                            to indulge in it. In 1916, a bill was
          1914, the North Hobart Picture                                       is believed that that the building
                                            presented to parliament calling for a
          Palace was opened.                                                   remained a saloon under a succesion of
                                            ban of picture shows on a Sunday;                               6
            Alf Channell and Edward Morris,                                    different owners for fourteen years.
                                            Tasmania was the only state that had
          brothers in-law and proprietors of the              4                   In 1935, Hobart Lord Mayor J.J.
                                            not yet outlawed this. The House of
          new cinema, ran a steady program of                                  Wignall opened a new cinema in the
                                            Assembly voted down the bill, and the
          silent films, capitalising on their                                  building, with a new name - the
                                            North Hobart Picture Palace lived to                    7
          popular Saturday matinee and Sunday                                  Liberty Picture Theatre. The floor of
                                            fight another day.
          evening shows. The period leading up                                 the cinema had been lowered, new seats
                                               Famous silent era comics Charlie
          to the First World War saw the                                       installed and parts of the entrance
                                            Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Jimmy
          increasing popularity of cinema in                                   sublet for shop space.
                                            Finlayson and Ben Turpin were often
          Australia. In Tasmania, films were first                                It was while the cinema was known
                                            shown on the Picture Palace’s Pathé
          shown on a portable projector and 8ft     5                          as the Liberty, that a pivitol figure of
                                    2       projector. Sometimes an orchestra
          (2.4m.) screen, at the Town Hall. By                                 the Tasmanian film industry became
                                            would accompany the film, or, behind
          1914, small cinemas, including the                                   associated with it. Olaf ‘Ollie’ Jacobson
                                            the stage, sound effects would be
          North Hobart Picture Palace, had                                     was a film pioneer. Along with George
                                            created by banging wet mattresses and
          sprung up all over the state. Nearly                                 Bullock he built the first sound
                                            rolling metal drums full of dried peas.              8
          every town in Tasmania had its own                                   projector in Tasmania, and throughout
                                            Miss Rankin’s cinema candy store also
          cinema. For all of those who enjoyed                                 his lifetime, he worked in and managed
                                            ran a profitable trade. Edward Morris’s
          the new medium of entertainment, there                               many Tasmanian movie theatres.
                                            son Edgar fondly remembered paying
          were those who despised it as well.                                  Jacobson was the projectionist at the
                                            threepence to order a pie served at a
            Picture shows on a Sunday were       5                             Liberty for a brief period before he left
                                            table. After the war ended, audience
          fervently opposed by the church.                                     to manage a number of cinemas around
                                            numbers began to drop. The cinema’s
          Catholic archbishop Patrick Delany                                   Hobart. Jacobson would return to the
                                         2  owners had to find new ways to attract
          described them as “a vicious practice”.                              Liberty and the cinema would become
                                            people to see their films. One solution
          The unrelenting altruist Emily Dobson                                a family affair, stretching over five
                                            was to run vaudeville variety shows.
          supported Delany. During this period,                                decades.
          6   2007 CINEMARECORD
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