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P         ENNIES

                         F         OR


            Two generations have grown       variety shows, vaudeville and
          up not knowing the fun of a        traditional theatre?
          Saturday matinee. As prices          The world's first presentation of
                                             projected pictures to a paying audience  percent of her weekly wage for a seat
          creep up, is cinema leaving
                                             is generally believed to have taken  in the stalls.
          behind those who were once its
                                             place in the Grand Cafe in Paris on 28  Tracing cinema history through
          core supporters?                   December 1895. The show was        changes in admission prices is only
          Roger Seccombe investigates        organised by the cinema pioneers Louis  part of the story. The wage rates of the
                                             and Auguste Lumiere. One of the films  time, economic ups and downs, social
                                             in this program was Arrival of a Train  mores and the cost of other
             verything has its price - it's
                                             at La Ciotat Station. This item ran 49  amusements have all influenced the
         E certainly true of entertainment.
                                             seconds! We don't know just how much  community’s love affair with cinema.
          If it costs too much the public won't
                                             the Parisian audiences paid to attend,  This article will consider some of these
          buy it. Of course, it's got a lot to do
                                             but we do know word of mouth rapidly  issues.
          with how you sell the product: As the
                                             encouraged ‘full houses’.             The Cinematographe was promoted
          slogan said: ‘Can you afford not to
                                               Much later, Louis Lumiere had    just like other theatrical events: it
          have it?’ When the first movies
                                             second thoughts about his part in the  offered a range of prices and seating
          reached the screens of the world in
                                             invention of the movies, doubtless  comfort. Perhaps the assertion that it
          1895 it didn't take long for the public
                                             brought on by years of litigation and  was ‘the poor man's theatre’ was true
          to be convinced that they had to see
                                             patent wrangles with America and   and did help it become widely popular.
          them. The new marvel generated a
                                             Britain. He remarked, in 1930: "Oh, I  From the first appearance of
          ‘must-see’ reaction and audiences
                                             never go to the cinema. If I had known  movies in Australia there was strong
          happily opened their wallets to pay.
                                             what it would come to, I would never  competition amongst entrepreneurs
            Moving pictures brought fame and
                                             have invented it!"                 from Europe and from America.
          fortune to many entrepreneurs yet
                                               Despite the long sea voyage that  Thomas Edison's salesmen were
          ironically, the British pioneer William
                                             separated Europe from Australia, the  quickly in Australia promoting his
          Friese-Greene was to die in poverty
                                             Lumiere Cinematographe was soon    Vitascope, one of America's answers to
          with no more than the price of a
                                             unveiled here. A machine had been  the French Cinematographe. They also
          cinema admission ticket in his pocket!
                                             brought to Australia by the Lumiere  undercut the Lumiere prices! At the
          Expectations for the long-term
                                             salesman Marius Sestier in 1896.   unveiling of the Vitascope in 1896 at
          popularity of moving pictures varied.
                                             When the Lumiere program was       Melbourne's Athenaeum Hall, one-
          Skeptics did not see a long life – how
                                             advertised at Sydney's Criterion   price seats were offered for one
          could a novelty compete against the
                                                  Theatre on 24 November it     shilling for adults and sixpence for
                                                  included highlights of the 1896  children. Was this a case of
                                                  Melbourne Cup. Adult          undercutting the opposition or had it
                                                  admission prices were an      cost the promoters less to hire the
                                                  astronomical two shillings (20  Athenaeum than the Criterion? We'll
                                                  cents) for the Reserved Dress  never know, although both were
                                                  Circle and one shilling (ten  distinguished locations for early film
                                                  cents) for the Stalls, sixpence   presentations.
                                                  (5 cents) for the Family Circle  The majority of regular film shows
                                                  while children were half price.  in the next ten years were often
                                                  (Further price comparisons in  presented in converted shops,
                                                  this article will be expressed in  Mechanics Institutes, in tents, on
                                                  the currency of the time.)    football grounds or wherever the
          The change dispenser from the St.James/Metro  Audiences must have been pretty  showmen could afford to set up their
          Bourke St. How many pennies tumbled down this  keen to pay prices like these! A  primitive projection equipment.
          chute?  Fred Page Collection.          housemaid would have paid 10   Pioneer Melbourne projectionist, the
          10  2003 CINEMARECORD
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