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Australian film and television chronology

The 1990s

1990: Screenrights launches royalty collection service

In 1990 the non-profit Screenrights organisation was set up to administer provisions in the Commonwealth Copyright Act 1968 allowing schools, TAFEs and universities to copy television and radio programs upon the payment of a fee. Screenrights monitors such copying and distributes royalties back to program makers. In 2007, Screenrights was collecting approximately $20 million per year.



1990: TV networks in financial turmoil

In 1990 the Seven and TEN networks were placed in receivership. Christopher Skase, whose Qintex group had large interests in Seven, fled Australia as Qintex began to collapse. Skase was one of Australia’s most wanted men in the ’90s, successfully eluding extradition from Spain on contentious medical grounds. Prominent businessman Alan Bond, who controlled much of the Nine Network, experienced severe financial problems in 1989 and was forced to sell TCN9 Sydney back to Kerry Packer in 1990 at a greatly reduced price.


Herd, Nick 2005, 'Australian Television History – Timeline’, unpublished.

1991: Australian Cinema retrospective in Paris

The largest ever retrospective of Australian cinema opened at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris on 29 May 1991. Presented in collaboration with the Australian Film Commission, Le Cinéma Australien showcased a comprehensive collection of works produced between 1900 and 1990.


AFC (Screen Australia)

1991: Pacific Film and Television Comission launched

The Queensland government established the Pacific Film and Television Commission to stimulate local filmmaking and attract international productions to Queensland. Walk the Talk (2000), The Proposition (2005) and Kokoda (2006) are among features supported by the PFTC. The Brisbane International Film Festival is presented by PFTC.

1991: Warner Roadshow Studios opens

Village Roadshow and Warner Bros became joint owners of the film and television studio on Queensland’s Gold Coast. Established by Italian producer Dino De Laurentiis in 1986 for his aborted production of Total Recall (1990), the four sound stages were bought by Village Roadshow in 1988-89, with Warner Bros becoming joint partners in June 1991. The studios have continued to expand, with an eighth sound stage constructed in 2002. Productions filmed at the site include Street Fighter (1994), Scooby-Doo (2002), Peter Pan (2003) and House of Wax (2005).

1991: John Weiley, IMAX master

In December 1991 the IMAX film Antarctica (1991) was launched at Dreamworld on the Gold Coast. Directed by Australian high-definition expert John Weiley, it won the Prix de la Géode, the highest award for IMAX films, and remains one of the few documentaries to gross more than $US100 million. Although running 40 minutes and therefore not qualifying for feature film lists, Antarctica is without doubt one of the most successful Australian productions of all time. Regarded as one of the best IMAX filmmakers, Weiley’s films include Imagine (1993) and Wild Australia: The Edge (1996).


Heliograph, High Definition Motion Pictures
Fraser, B and the Macquarie Library 1997, The Macquarie Encyclopedia of Australian Events: Revised Edition, Macquarie Library, p 723.

1992: Brisbane International Film Festival launched

The Brisbane International Film Festival opened its inaugural edition with Strictly Ballroom (1992). Initially a week-long event, BIFF later expanded to ten and 11 days, and in 1993 it introduced the Chauvel Award for distinguished contribution to Australian cinema. Recipients of the Chauvel Award (named after the Australian pioneer filmmakers Charles Chauvel and Elsa Chauvel) include Paul Cox (1993), Rolf de Heer (1998) and Jan Chapman (2002). BIFF is run under the auspices of the Queensland Government’s Pacific Film and Television Corporation.

1992: Strictly Ballroom strictly a smash

After receiving a standing ovation at the 1992 Cannes Film Festival (where it screened in the Un Certain Regard section), Strictly Ballroom (1992) opened to spectacular box-office business in Australia on 20 August 1992. Originally a stage play, Strictly Ballroom announced the arrival of Baz Luhrmann as a significant new Australian talent.

On 26 February 1993 the Chicago Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert opened his review with, 'The plot of Strictly Ballroom is as old as the hills, but the characters in the movie seem to come from another planet. Surely nobody in Australia dresses like this, talks like this, takes ballroom dancing as seriously as this? They do?’ At December 2005, Strictly Ballroom ranked as the fifth highest-grossing Australian film at the domestic box office with earnings of $21.8 million. It was the first instalment in Luhrmann’s 'Red Curtain Trilogy’, which was completed by Romeo + Juliet (1996) and Moulin Rouge! (2001).

1992: Pay TV gets the green light

On 1 October 1992, the Federal Government gave approval for the commencement of pay TV. In January 1995, Australis (branded as Galaxy) distributed Australia’s first broadcast subscription television service to Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney. Austar commenced services in August 1995, followed by Optus Vision in September 1995 and Foxtel in October 1995. In September 2006 there were an estimated 1,800,000 pay-TV subscribers in Australia, with approximately 24 per cent of Australian homes wired up for 'feevee’.

1992: Australian Broadcasting Authority established

Under the Broadcasting Services Act 1992, the Australian Broadcasting Authority began operations on 5 October 1992. The objectives of the ABA included television program diversity, limits on concentration of ownership and foreign control of the media. On 1 July 2005 the ABA was merged with the Australian Communications Authority to form the Australian Communications and Media Authority.

1992: Sylvania Waters pioneers reality TV

Shot over a six-month period in the house of a Sydney family, the ABC-BBC co-production Sylvania Waters became one of the world’s first 'reality’ TV shows. Although precedents had been set with the British series The Family (1978) and An American Family (1973), the huge success of Sylvania Waters is recognised as playing a pivotal role in the development of reality TV.

1993: MA15+ Classification introduced

The new film classification MA15+ was introduced by the Office of Film and Literature Classification. Films carrying this rating are restricted to persons 15 years or older, unless accompanied by a parent or adult guardian for the duration of the film.

1993: AFC establishes Indigenous Unit

Originally known as the Aboriginal Unit, the Australian Film Commission launched the Indigenous Unit to promote the participation of Indigenous Australians in the film and television industry. Projects the Indigenous Branch has been involved in include the TV-drama compilations From Sand to Celluloid, Shifting Sands and Dramatically Black. The Unit’s Indigenous Documentary Fund also supported the production of Yellow Fella (2005), which was selected in the Un Certain Regard section at the Cannes Film Festival.

1993: Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance formed

In 1993, Actors’ Equity of Australia amalgamated with the Australian Theatrical and Amusement Employees’ Association and the Australian Journalists’ Association to form the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance. The MEAA is a trade union that campaigns on issues such as the Free Trade Agreement and occupational health and safety matters. MEAA also lobbies governments on policy issues such as performers’ copyright, unemployment regulations, dismissal laws, press freedom issues and tax regulations.

1994: London Australian Film Festival launched

In March 1994 the first London Australian Film Festival was held at the Barbican Theatre. Supported by the Australian Film Commission, the festival presented 12 features and eight shorts. Since then the annual event has screened most major Australian feature films and documentaries made each year, plus a collection of shorts and archive selections.



1994: Community Television begins

In 1992, the Federal Government requested the Australian Broadcasting Authority to begin trials of community television. Using the vacant UHF 31 frequency in capital cities, broadcasts began in 1994 by operators who met the conditions that licences must be used for community and educational non-profit purposes.

1994: SBS Independent launched

In October 1994 the Federal Government released its Creative Nation cultural policy statement. Within the statement was the provision of $13 million over four years for SBS TV to commission high quality programs for broadcast on the network. SBS Independent was established and began commissioning an extensive series of documentaries and drama productions which continues to the present. SBSI also became a production partner in feature films including The Quiet Room (1996), The Boys (1998) and Australian Rules (2002).

1994: SPAA formed

In 1994 the Screen Production Association of Australia was retitled the Screen Producers Association of Australia. This trade union representing the interests of independent film and television producers began in 1956 as the Film and Television Production Association of Australia. SPAA rotates its annual conference and off-shoot event, SPAA Fringe, among state capitals.

1995: ScreenWest established

The Western Australian Film Council, established 24 January 1978, becomes ScreenWest with an official change of name and new constitution registered on 13 July 1995. ScreenWest is Western Australia’s screen funding and development agency, committed to developing, supporting and promoting film, television and digital media production in Western Australia. Feature films funded with ScreenWest support include Bran Nue Dae (2009), Australia (2008), Last Train to Freo (2006) and Japanese Story (2003).



1996: Love Serenade wins Camera d'Or at Cannes

Written and directed by Shirley Barrett, Love Serenade was the first Australian film to win the Camera d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. The award is given to the best debut film selected in an official section of the festival.

1996: World's biggest movie screen in Sydney

The IMAX cinema in Darling Harbour, Sydney, began operations in October 1996. Measuring 29.42 metres high by 35.73 metres wide, the screen covers an area of more than 1,015 square metres, making it the largest in the world. The cinema screens movies made in the 15 perforation-70mm film format. Projected at 60 frames per second (traditional film runs at 24 frames per second), IMAX permits high resolution on giant screens made of stretched vinyl coated with a reflective silver paint.


IMAX Sydney

1997: Gonski report delivered

On 6 February 1997, the Review of Commonwealth Assistance to the Film Industry report was presented by its author, David Gonski, to Senator Richard Alston, Minister for Communications and the Arts. The report’s major findings included acknowledgement that Commonwealth assistance had been critical in building and developing a film industry, and ongoing support was essential. Among its key recommendations was the proposal for a Film Licensed Investment Companies Scheme to replace the film and television taxation concessions 10B and 10BA.


Australian Film Commission 1997, AFC News, January-February, p 5.

1997: Geoffrey Rush shines in Shine

Geoffrey Rush's Academy Award for his performance as pianist David Helfgott in Shine (1996) made him the first Australian performer to win Best Actor since Peter Finch's posthumous Oscar for Network (1976). Shine received nominations in seven Oscar categories and won nine AFI Awards, including Best Film. New Zealand-born Russell Crowe also won the Best Actor Oscar, for Gladiator (2000) at the 2001 ceremony.

1997: The Film Licensed Investment Company scheme introduced

A recommendation of the Gonski Report, the Film Licensed Investment Company scheme was introduced to help stimulate film production. The pilot scheme in the financial years 1998-99 and 1999-2000 carried a 100 per cent tax concession. Investors received deductions for buying shares in a FLIC, which, in turn, invested in qualifying Australian programs. Unlike 10BA and 10B investments in single projects, shares in a FLIC spread the risk across a slate of productions. In 2005, the FLIC scheme was extended to allow one new licensee to raise up to $10 million concessional capital per year in each of the 2005-06 and 2006-07 years to invest in qualifying Australian films. The FLIC Company Ltd was granted the FLIC licence in December 2005.

1998: Fox Studios Sydney opens

In May 1998 Fox Studios opened in Moore Park on the site of the Royal Agricultural Society’s Sydney Showgrounds. The 3.2 hectare site featured six stages, production offices and workshops. Large-scale international productions either fully or partly filmed at Fox Studios Sydney include Dark City (1998), The Matrix trilogy (1999-2003), Mission: Impossible II (2000), Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones (2002) and Superman Returns (2006).

1999: Screen Tasmania established

Screen Tasmania was launched to support and develop the state’s film, television and multimedia industries. It was the successor to the Tasmanian Film Corporation, which existed from 1977-1982.

1999: DVD arrives

The fist Digital Versatile Disc players were sold in Australia in 1999. In that year, 310,000 DVD software items were sold, compared with 8 million VHS tapes. By 2005, DVD sales had increased to 48 million units, with VHS slumping to 760,000. Advancements in home cinema technology and the extra features contained on DVDs are among the factors contributing to the rapid growth of the DVD market.


Dale, D 2006, How the DVD Conquered Australia, The Sydney Morning Herald Entertainment Blog, 25 May 2006.