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Australian film and television chronology

The 1900s

1900: Soldiers of the Cross premieres

The Melbourne Town Hall was the venue for the Salvation Army’s presentation Soldiers of the Cross. Referred to by the organisation as a 'lecture’, it combined 13 short films, over 200 glass slides, hymns, music and the oration of Commandant Henry Booth, who was the grandson of Salvation Army founder General William Booth. The production was realised by Major Joseph Henry Perry, an enthusiastic supporter of the new medium and head of the Salvation Army’s Limelight Department. Although it has sometimes been claimed that Soldiers of the Cross was the world’s first feature film, it can more accurately be regarded as a pioneering multimedia work.


Pike, A & Cooper, R 1998, Australian Film 1900-1977, 1st edn, rev. Oxford University Press, Melbourne, p 4.
Shirley, G & Adams, B 1983 Australian Cinema: the First Eighty Years, Chapter 1 ‘The First Decade’, Currency Press, Sydney, pp 10-13.
Michael Wollenberg, great-grandson of Joseph Perry.

1901: Inauguration of the Commonwealth filmed

Filmed in Sydney on 1 January 1901, Inauguration of the Commonwealth was the longest film yet made in Australia. Sponsored by the New South Wales Government, it ran for 30 minutes – five times longer than any previous production.


Sabine, J (Ed) 1995, A Century of Australian Cinema, Mandarin, Melbourne, p 25.

1906: The Story of the Kelly Gang produced

Running between 40 and 60 minutes depending on film projection speed, The Story of the Kelly Gang was the first feature-length narrative film produced in Australia. It is believed by some film historians to also be the first of its type in the world. Filmed over several months in the Chartersville Estate near Heidelberg, Melbourne, by director Charles Tait, the film was shown silent in a country test run before opening in Melbourne on Boxing Day 1906 with live sound effects added. Surviving footage of The Story of The Kelly Gang was restored by the National Film and Sound Archive in 2006.


Shirley, G & Adams, B 1983, Australian Cinema: the First Eighty Years, Chapter 1 ‘The First Decade’, Currency Press, Sydney, p 17.

1909: Beginnings of Hoyts

Melbourne dentist Dr Arthur Russell began showing movies on Saturday nights at St Georges Hall in Melbourne. Russell, who was reported to have been a cornet player and resident magician for the Hoyts travelling circus of America, soon formed Hoyts Pictures and expanded operations into Sydney by the end of the First World War. In 1926, Hoyts merged with Electric Theatres and Associated Theatres to form Hoyts Theatres Limited. In 1932, the Fox Film Corporation (now Twentieth Century Fox) secured a major shareholding in the company.

In April 1985, the Fink family became the sole owner of Hoyts and expanded the company into film distribution, home entertainment and cinema operations in New Zealand, USA, South America and Europe. By 1994 Hoyts was among the ten largest cinema chains in the world. In 1999, Kerry Packer’s family company, Consolidated Press Holdings, bought the chain and began selling off cinemas. In 2003, Hoyts sold its Hoyts America operations to Regal Entertainment.


Moran, A & Veith, E 2005, Historical Dictionary of Australian and New Zealand Cinema, The Scarecrow Press, Maryland, USA.
AllExperts Encyclopedia, Hoyts