Page 17 - CinemaRecord Edition 3-2003 #41
P. 17

On the other hand exhibitors
          complained bitterly about what they
          saw as exorbitant service charges for
          W.E. equipment. This forced W.E. to
          publish a schedule of comparative fees
          charged in various countries. To show
          that their lion's share of the market
          must mean a superior product, W.E.
          claimed 7,170 installations world-wide;
          4,701 of them in America.  RCA
          Photophone replied two weeks later
          with a claim that they had supplied
          3,000 installations!
            Sydney manufacturer Raycophone
          advised the market that 114
          installations had been made in
          Australia, and four in New Zealand.
          Only two theatres were equipped with
          Raycophone in South Australia. At the
          same time, some 25 theatres had
          installed U&J/Benbow sound projectors
          in South Australia and Victoria.
            Bill Benbow designed and built a
          number of projector heads over the
          years. His first enclosed head model
          with rear shutter was probably his best
          seller of the 1930s. Neither the later
          Benbow Superior nor Benbow Junior
          (obviously a smaller version) seem to
          have been produced in any quantity.
            From the mid-1940s the factory
          was at 221 Pirie Street Adelaide. From
          this address Bill managed his theatre
          circuit and assembled a larger and
          better equipped engineering facility.
          This workshop, like so many others
          throughout Australia, was turned over
          to Defence Department manufacturing
          during World War II. The precision  A name to be reckoned with: The locations of Benbow picture shows at their peak.
          engineering skills involved in making
          intermittent movements and other   and one change often made another  Ltd. reached their peak in 1958 with 19
          projector components, were of great  seem imperative, such as better seating.  permanent and 14 touring venues.
          advantage to the military. This building  These upgrades were expensive but  During the war, Benbow
          was later demolished to widen the  essential if Bill was to attract an  Amusements fitted out a 1934 model
              (1, 5, 11)
          street.                            audience and then hold them, year in,  Chevrolet truck as a mobile film unit,
                                             year out.
          Mutual Benefits                                                      primarily to serve Army camps at
            By installing sound projectors at  The Institute always benefited;  Warradale near Adelaide, and Woodside
          South Australia’s Institute halls, Bill  receiving the hiring fees, repairs and  and Sedan in the country. This vehicle
          Benbow was in a good position to both  upgrades such as paint-work at little or  had its own power plant and sleeping
          expand his business and help the   no additional cost. At Minlaton   accommodation for operator Ron
          Institutes survive. Many Institutes  Institute/Town Hall, Bill constructed an  Ashby, conscripted into the Army so
          turned to talkies in an attempt to fill  entire dress circle while he was lessee -  that he could gain access to the camps
          their halls after observing declining  his wife Elsie, worked in the ticket  to screen films. The service was well
          attendances for silent films. Dance  office. “Every town I went into I did up  received, but one day, under
                                                                          (2, 5)
          nights were tried with varying results,  the hall - it cost me a lot of money.”  instructions from Bill, Ron told Base
          but the advent of talkies brought back  In 1937 there were nine theatres  Command that this would be the last
                  (12)                                                         visit. The vehicle’s tyres were worn out
          the public.                        operating in country Institute halls
                                             under the Benbow umbrella. Within a  and “because of rationing, the boss
            Institute buildings often required
                                             couple of years, this had grown to 15  could not obtain a new set.” “Leave the
          modifications for ‘talkies’ well beyond
                                             permanent screens with an additional  truck with us for a day” came the reply.
          adaptations to the projectors, which in
                                             10 touring venues. Based on figures in  Ron returned to see a set of new Army
          some cases were silent Garvie models.
                                             Film Weekly, Benbow Amusements    issue, heavy-duty tyres fitted.
          Electrical wiring had to be upgraded,
                                                                                       CINEMARECORD 2009 17
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