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Selected Short


                   David Kilderry

            The phrases Full supporting
          programme* and Selected short
          subjects no longer appear on the
          cinema pages of newspapers nor on                Advertising for shorts could be bland or detailed.
          theatre marquees. Gone are the rigid
          11.00, 2.00, 5.00 and 8.00; or morning,  The reason they outlasted the  Disney continued with shorts and
          matinee, intermediate and night   newsreel was practical: they created an  cartoons, not only to support their
          sessions of old. With the ultra wide  interval. Intervals or intermissions in  feature production, but to provide
          release patterns of the cinema business  this era of colour television were vital;  material to the education sector (16mm)
          today, a film can take more than 50  an opportunity to lure patrons to the  and eventually, to Disney’s own TV
          percent of its total box-office in its first  candy bar.             shows. Otherwise it was the
          two weeks when screened on the       After the box-office, concessions  independents which made shorts and
          maximum number of screens with the  sales ranked as the next most important  the few theatrical cartoons from the
          maximum number of sessions. There is  revenue earner, and exhibitors were not  1970s onwards.
          simply no time for shorts, cartoons or  about to give up a prime sales  During this last decade many of the
          newsreels in today’s cinema.      opportunity. Shorts filled out a program  best cartoons and shorts from the
            The mid-1970s to the mid-1980s  to around two and a half hours, with an  previous 50 years were re-issued to
          was the last era of shorts in the cinema.  intermission at around the 30-45 minute  maintain program content.
          For almost 80 years Hollywood, Britain  mark. This sat neatly with the four  These revivals often provided a high
          and Australia had produced thousands  sessions per day at city theatres and the  quality and entertaining first half.
          of short theatrical films. In fact the  single nightly session at suburban and  For much of this period I was an
          short film predated the introduction of  country locations.          assistant projectionist, and later
          the feature film by over a decade.                                   projectionist, for Greater Union in
            Film programs in the golden years                                  Melbourne. The circuit then consisted
          generally consisted of two features and                              of the Russell (six screens), Forum,
          a selection of shorts. As feature films                              Rapallo, Bercy and Chelsea.
          became longer and the production of B                                   These ten screens all ran shorts
          pictures decreased, the feature was                                  unless a rare ‘feature occupies entire
          supported by shorts only.                                            programme’, was scheduled. Films the
            The centre-piece of the shorts was                                 length of 2001: A Space Odyssey (re-
          always the newsreel, either a local or                               issued often at this time), A Passage To
          overseas edition. By 1970 Cinesound                                  India and The Right Stuff were now less
          News (Greater Union) and Australian                                  common.
          Movietone News (Fox, Hoyts) were two  Drive-in theatres were the first to  Three of these Melbourne GU
          of the last theatrical newsreels  give up on shorts. After the early boom  screens could run 70mm films, which
          produced anywhere in the world.    years the drive-in operator faced a  meant the conversion of the projectors
                                            dilemma: what sort of program suited
            That year they combined their                                      every session from 35mm to 70mm and
                                            audiences best?
          operations and produced a single                                     back to 35mm for the shorts.
          weekly edition called the Australian  Daylight-saving had a big effect;  Greater Union, unlike Hoyts, did
          Movie Magazine. This title more   audiences felt that they were out later  not introduce platters until much latter,
          accurately reflected the content.  than they really were, so one program a  ensuring that assistants were kept busy.
          Television news bulletins had been  night was an obvious decision. Interval  Programs were diverse to say the
          giving cinema newsreels a beating for  was even more important in a drive-in,  least; a story on Australian stamps may
          years - immediate news as opposed to  as the average customer spent more on  have been offered with a 1950s
          news a week in arrears.           food than in a hardtop. In many cases  CinemaScope Tom and Jerry cartoon. A
            The Movie Magazine continued    patrons made it the evening meal rather  thematic approach to programming was
          until 1975. Cinesound and Movietone,  than just a snack. By the 1960s most  non-existent; length dictated which
          separately and combined, continued to  drive-ins had settled on the double  shorts were in the mix.
          produce other shorts on various topics,  feature, and continued with it for the  A new print from the lab could be
          some in colour, and these circulated for  remainder of their days.   coupled with a 30-year old faded,
          a few more years.                    Production of theatrical shorts and  ‘splicy’ and brittle print that had spent
                                            cartoons had been winding down since
            After the demise of the newsreel                                   months on the deck of a ship after a
                                            the 1950s even though animation
          many observers wondered if any shorts                                circuit of the Pacific islands. These old
                                            departments continued at Warner Bros.,
          could survive, but they did, for one                                 prints often required substantial repairs:
                                            MGM and United Artists (Mirisch
          final decade, providing the ‘first half’                             some literally fell apart as they were
                                            DePatie-Freleng) until the late 1960s or
          of the show.                                                         wound on the bench.
                                            early 1970s.
          6   2006 CINEMARECORD
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