- By James Taylor (Research Co-ordinator, Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision)
Going to the movies was a favourite pastime for New Zealanders prior to the First World War, and over the course of the war it became even more popular. The “pictures” as they were then known arrived here in the mid 1890s, and during the nineteen-teens “Picture Palaces” began sprouting up in cities and towns around the country. Rural areas, small country towns and outback communities didn’t go without either. Travelling showmen toured the country in horse-drawn carts, motor-cars or lorries, and set up temporary screens in shearing sheds, halls, churches, or wherever else there was a suitable space for a screen, a film projector and an audience.
The films watched by the picture-going public were different than those today’s audience are used to, as the one hour plus feature film was in its infancy. The typical cinema programme changed over this time: in 1914 cinema-goers saw a series of short fiction and non-fiction films, comedies or dramas, as well as newsreels and “topical” news films showing events of interest filmed by cameramen working for a local cinema, like Henry Gore of Dunedin.
HMS New Zealand, June 1913 (filmed by H.C. Gore). Learn more about this film.