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             44.  A BRJSBANE  RETROSPECTIVE                                                 by lan Hanson

             After reading Brian Miller's article on Brisbane theatres in Cinema Record  10,  I was prompted to dust off the
             word processor and write about my early years as a teenager working in the theatres of that city, firstly, as an
             usher and then a projectionist assistant. I still have many fond memories of those all to  brief years from the
             early 1970's fixed  in  my mind.  Whilst living  there  I  began  taking  an  avid  interest in  the  motion  picture
             industry,and with the aid of my files and through the camera of both myself and the late Gordon  Berry,  the
             following observations of both the theatres I worked at, and/or visited are perhaps worth noting in these pages.
             Before that I feel a fragmentation of some statistics is warranted.

             Brisbane in 1959, (the year in which television was introduced to that city) housed a population of 543,000.
             Drive-In theatres were on the rise with six operating in  the greater Brisbane area at that time. The city con-
             tained 14 picture theatres with a total combined seating of 16,731, whilst in the suburbs there were 72 theatres
            with seats for 54,046 persons. These figures are based on the official Motion Picture Distributors Association
             listing and published in the Motion Picture Directory. By the 1970's however, Brisbane was changing and T.V.
             had made inroads into the cinema business.                                           ·

             The Brisbane City Council  had sole jurisdiction on health and safety requirements in all of these theatres.
             Through state legislation enacted in 1924, Brisbane City was merged with all of the metropolitan councils. In
             addition the council acquired the then rundown tramway system from a private company the following year.

             The theatres were regulated by Chapter 16 of "The City of Brisbane Acts" 1924 to 1944.The act was enforced
             through the Department of Health and the Chief Inspector. A remarkable aspect of the act, certainly for earlier
             years, was that there was no ordinace banning smoking in theatres. Some city theatres did ban smoking in the
             auditoriums as part of their own policy. I can recall such rules being enforced at the Metro, Her Majesty's and
             some of the newer cinemas such as the Forum.

             Chapter 16 also states that; "Theatre premises be connected directly to the nearest Fire Brigade station  by an
             alarm system" and ''The licensee or occupier of a theatre must have all his staff trained in fire prevention and
             extinction and in methods preventing panic". The projection room had to be fireproofed,  all films had to be
            stored in metal cases, and the theatres had to be disinfected once a week.

            The author started working a few nights a week at the Astra at Morningside in 1972. The Astra was a family run
             concern and some effort had been made to improve the decor and features of what had been, for many years,
            a tired and neglected cinema which had well and truly past its "use by" date. Parts of the exterior had been re-
             painted and stage curtains had been installed (The latter possibly the first time such a novelty had ever been
             installed here.) Shortly before I had started there the entrance had been relocated further along the street away
            from the corner owing to a truck crashing through the doorways and causing a melee in the box office. The new
             entrance,  part of a  refreshment room  added  in the 1950's, contained  several steps leading down from  the
             street.  A combined ticket box and candy counter had been installed. A  set of double doors led to the back
            crossover of the auditorium.

             Like so many theatres in  Brisbane in those days the Astra was extremely primitive in appointments. Having
             been an open-air show and rebuilt in  1924 as a hardtop cinema. The interior perhaps fell well short of non-
             descript. Large arched timber beams placed at intervals along the walls and ceiling supported the structure.
            The undersides of the roof were lined with some form of Cane-lte. The building had a high pitched roof with low
            set walls, a typical feature of these older cinemas.

            The auditorium contained a sloping floor with seating for 500, although it may have been higher as one source
             claimed 750. There was no balcony and access to the bio-box was by means of a perpendircular ladder, located
             in the back storeroom of the theatre. After the ordeal of climbing into the projection ·room, I remember noting
            the projectors as being made by the Sydney firm of Cummins & Wilson. Each machine had a Peerless arc
             lamp, the power source aminating from a rectifier of some great vintage. The slide machine was very old but
             screen results were good. The seating in the cinema was of the wooden frame, canvas deck chair type, whilst
             a few rows in the back stalls were of the standard tip-up variety.

             The Astra survived television intrusion for many years but closed finally in 1977, due to falling patronage aided
             no doubt by television, this time in colour.  It therefore can be said that the Astra typified  the many suburban
             theatres that once existed around Brisbane for decades. Interestingly though there appeared to be three main
             groupings which these cinemas could be classified into. The first is the type just mentioned. The second variety
             of building used lattice, often used in a semi-circular shape under the line of the roof.
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