Cinema Seating in Australia and the History of Australian Cinema

As of early 2022, the average Australian cinema attendance soars to 77% as they go back to see movies after the lockdowns during the pandemic. While the big screen and surround sound are pivotal for moviegoers, the comfort chairs could bring the movie-watching experience better.

Cinema seating has come a long way since the silver screen became part of people’s entertainment options. To improve comfort and audience experience, cinema seating in Australia has undergone some transformations over the years. Here’s a guide on how to choose the best cinema seating:

1. Comfort with features

Make sure that the seats you choose are completely comfortable. Some chairs may be comfortable enough for you but uncomfortable or unfavorable for other people. Sitting on it for at least an hour and a half must feel good before the back starts to hurt. Before investing in a movie theater recliner, make sure to spend a lot of time with it.

2. Safety

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the cinema industry greatly. For the first time, many theaters across the globe were on the brink of closure, as lockdowns prohibited gathering at public indoor areas like theaters, causing lots of bankruptcy and unemployment. But as the lockdowns were lifted up, supporters of cinema have come forward with their campaigns to reprise the cinema industry. Theaters at locations least affected by the virus started opening up at half capacity with precautions, and later on, more and more theaters opened at full capacity.

When buying cinema seating, make sure it offers enough personal space for the safety of patrons. Recliners are a better choice than rockers because they give the right space. Though the initial cost of recliners is greater than rockers, the benefits, in the long run, will be unparalleled.

3. Cleanliness

When buying a recliner for an auditorium, make sure it’s easy to clean. Having seating with an easy-cleaning mechanism is a necessity to keep your business clean and trustworthy. Choose a recliner that not only looks good but also cleans well. Cutting your cleaning time will allow you to lessen the time needed for cleaning, which means more profits.

4. Durability

Investing in cinema seating is no small feat. The hefty investment you are willing to make must be durable and last for several years. If you opt for recliners, optimize the backrest cushion and the swivel table for long life.

5. Customization

If you want to offer something special, your seating must be uniquely designed so as not to be compared with the same old monotonous-looking recliners. You may want to choose a customizable recliner that allows you to choose the upholstery and color you like, the number tags, and the pattern of swivel tables.

6. Additional features

You must also ensure that the seats have other features to accentuate the overall visual experience. For example, the seats with a USB charger would be a pleasant surprise for the audience and could be a reason for repeat visits in the future.

7. Warranty

Post-sale services are crucial after you have invested a massive amount of money in cinema seating. You need to check the type of warranty you will avail with the purchase. You must also research the manufacturer’s reliability and after-sales service. Check the kind of warranty you’re availing as you buy, and do not look out for customer service. You don’t want to have a patron go home with a bad movie experience because your recliner was faulty and wasn’t amended on time.

History of the Australian Cinema Industry

Early Australian Cinema History (the 1890s to 1910s)

The cinema industry in Australia has a long and rich history, dating back to the late 19th century. The first public film screening in Australia occurred in October 1968, just a year after the Lumière brothers’ first public screening of a film in Paris. The film was projected to a paying audience in Harry Rickards’ Melbourne Opera House (which was later known as the Tivoli Theatre). The film was screened as part of a variety show act.

The first cinema house in Australia, the Salon Lumière, was operating in October 1896 and showed the first Australian-produced short film. Meanwhile, the Athenaeum Hall in Melbourne exhibited the first movie film shown in Australia within a year of the first public screening of a film in Paris in 1895 by the Lumière brothers. From there, the cinema industry grew rapidly; by 1910, there were over 3,000 cinemas nationwide.

The earliest film in the Australian film archive is a short film that shows Australian troops parading and loading on the ships to go to Boer War in 1900.

Soon after, Australians enthusiastically embraced the new film industry. Within a few years, the first filmmakers combined multi-reel documentary knowledge with local bushranger legends and produced the first feature film, “The Story of the Kelly Gang,” in 1906. This silent film, directed by Charles Tait, was a huge success and is now considered a landmark in Australian cinema history. The film told the story of the infamous Australian bushranger Ned Kelly and his gang. It was the beginning of a genre known as “bushranger” stories.

While Australians liked bushranger stories, the censorship boards didn’t. South Australia banned bushranger films in 1911, and Victoria followed in 1912. The New South Wales Police Department also banned the production of bushranger films in 1912.

Between 1897 to 1910, the Salvation Army in Australia operated the world’s first film studio, the Limelight Department, which produced evangelical material and carried out private and government contracts. During its operations, the Limelight Department produced about 300 films of various lengths. Their major innovation came in 1899 when Joseph Perry and Herbert Booth worked on Soldiers of the Cross, which was considered by some as the first feature-length film ever produced.

Cinema Boom and Bust (the 1910s – 1920s)

Throughout the 1910s and 1920s, the cinema industry continued to thrive in Australia, with numerous production companies and studios established. One of the most significant studios was the Commonwealth Film Laboratories, which was founded in 1913 and produced many of Australia’s early feature films.

By 1912, Australia had already produced 30 feature films. But for some reason, all production, distribution, and exhibition in Australia merged to form Australasian Films in 1913, bringing only 17 films that year. In 1914, only four Australian films were made when the beginning of World War I brought a temporary pause in filmmaking. These numbers may look small now, but Australia was one of the most prolific filmmaking countries back then. Between 1906 and 1928, Australia made 150 narrative feature films, almost 90 of them between 1910 and 1912.

During the 1920s, the cinema industry took a sharp decline, and the US and British production companies took over the distribution and exhibition of films in Australia. American films dominated the screens, and Australian films were often excluded from cinemas. Australia became the world’s leading importer of Hollywood films in 1922 and from 1926 to 1928. By 1923, American films dominated the Australian market, with 94% of films exhibited coming from the United States.

British quotas were introduced during that era, and Australia, New Zealand, and Canada created a film-buying group to counter Hollywood domination. The Australian Royal Commission was held in 1927, and it defined the British in such a way that Australian productions were included in the UK quota legislation. However, it did little to stop the decline, so by 1929, no productions were released.

Great Depression, WWII, and Post-War Period (the 1930s-1960s)

In the 1930s, the cinema industry faced several challenges, including the Great Depression and the rise of television. However, despite these obstacles, Australian cinema continued to produce successful films, such as “The Squatter’s Daughter” (1933), one of the decade’s highest-grossing films.

During that decade, Cinesound was the most active Australian film studio. Founded in 1932 as a subsidiary of the Greater Union Theaters, Cinesound took advantage of the quota restrictions and provided the Greater Union theaters with local alternative programming. The only real, local competition to Cinesound during the early sound era was Efftee, which Frank Thring owns. Thring wanted to take advantage of the quota legislation and be a part of a local, stabilized film industry. He brought RCA sound equipment to Australia. Unfortunately, the quota legislation was repealed in 1928, and he lost support, so he had to close down his company.

By 1936, only four countries in the world were wired for sound, and it includes the United States, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and Australia. As Australia suffered in the 1920s for the alignment with the British film industry, this time, it reversed and catapulted Australia to the forefront of the country’s cinema industry. With the availability of films and the legislation of British quotas still in place, Australia braced for an influx of film production. Australasia reorganized and called British Empire Films, their distribution arm, to supply their theaters.

In the 1940s, the Australian cinema industry faced another major challenge due to the outbreak of World War II. Many filmmakers and actors enlisted in the war effort, and film production slowed down significantly. As the war escalated, Cinesound turned into producing newsreels when the Australian government decided to channel news to the public through the existing newsreel companies in Australia. In 1943, Cinesound produced Australia’s first Academy Award for a war documentary short entitled “Kokoda Front Line.”

However, the industry experienced a resurgence in the post-war period by establishing new production companies and studios. This period saw iconic early Australian films like “Forty Thousand Horsemen” (1940), “The Overlanders” (1946), and “Eureka Stockade” (1949).

From 1946 to 1969, Australian film production averaged just over two films a year. There was none at all during 1948, 1963, and 1964. At that time, Australian films were films made in Australia by foreign production companies.

Renaissance (1970s to 1980s)

The 1970s to mid-1980s are known as the “golden age” of Australian cinema, with the emergence of the Australian New Wave. It was an era of worldwide popularity for Australian cinema, particularly in the United States. Films focused on the culture and identity of Australia, so the era also marked the emergence of Ozploitation, a film genre that exploited colloquial Australian culture.

This period saw the production of several iconic films, such as “Picnic at Hanging Rock” (1975) and “Sunday Too Far Away” (1975). These films focused on Australian culture and identity and influenced the country’s national identity.

Many regard the 1970s to 1980s as the “golden age” of Australian cinema, with internationally successful films like Mad Max (1979), Crocodile Dundee (1986), and the emergence of notable filmmakers such as Peter Weir, Gillian Armstrong, Bruce Beresford, George Miller, and Phillip Noyce.

Between 1970 and 1985, Australia produced nearly 400 films – more than what has been made in the history of the Australian film industry.

Diverse Filmmaking (the 1990s)

In the 1990s, the cinema industry in Australia experienced a shift towards more diverse and experimental filmmaking, focusing on exploring issues such as immigration and multiculturalism. This era saw the emergence of directors such as Baz Luhrmann, who directed “Strictly Ballroom” (1992) and “Romeo + Juliet” (1996), and Jane Campion, who directed “The Piano” (1993).

The 90s was a successful decade for Australian films and introduced several new stars to a global audience. The World War II drama film “Blood Oath” (1990) debuted by Jason Donovan and Russell Crowe. While several major international stars gained their early fame in Australia over the decade, a number of stable and established local stars remained prominent, including screen veterans Bill Hunter, Charles Tingwell, Jack Thompson, Chris Haywood, and Bryan Brown.

George Miller’s hit movie “Babe” (1995) used new digital effects to make a barnyard come alive, and it went on to become one of the highest-grossing films internationally from Australia.

21st Century

The early 2000s did not bring success to Australian cinema, with several films proving unpopular at the box office. In 2008, no Australian movies made $3 million at the box office. Strong box office hits were produced at the close of the decade.

Today, the Australian cinema industry continues to produce successful and critically acclaimed films with a focus on contemporary issues such as climate change and Indigenous rights. Notable recent films include “Lion” (2016), “The Babadook” (2014), and “Sweet Country” (2017).

The Australian film industry continued to produce a reasonable number of films every year, but like other English-speaking countries, Australia found it hard to compete with Hollywood and the American film industry. Some of the most successful actors and filmmakers from Australia are easily lured by Hollywood, and they rarely return to the domestic film industry.