Hoyts Cinema Ad: Touring Talkie Show
A fleet of Studebaker sedans along with executives from Shell, Studebaker and Hoyts meet the ‘Talkie Truck’ as it pulls in to Melbourne. The executives shake hands with the sound technicians and engineers. The truck then pulls into a service station and fills up with 'Shell Spirit and Oil’. People gather around to watch. The truck then pulls up outside the Regent Theatre where it is farewelled as it embarks on its tour of country centres. Summary by Poppy De Souza.
This advertisement would have screened in regional cinemas prior to the coming of the Touring Talkie Show program, simultaneously creating an interest in and building the profile of the pioneering venture. By presenting the departure of the touring fleet from Melbourne as an important and public event, the advertisement positions the joint Hoyts, Shell and Studebaker venture as a service which audiences in country areas both need and deserve.
The screening program for these initial roadshows consisted of American films, and it wasn’t until 1931 that the first complete program of Australian talking pictures screened in local movie houses.
The Regent Theatre in Melbourne’s Collins Street was the flagship of Frank Thring Snr’s Hoyts chain and opened in 1929. In November that year, it screened the first talkie footage of the Melbourne Cup.
This silent advertisement promotes the new ‘Touring Talkie Show’ truck operated by Hoyts – with sponsorship from Studebaker Car Corporation and the Shell Oil Company.
Title Curator’s Notes
This advertisement takes the form of a news item with a clear storyline, a format familiar to cinema goers of the time who were used to watching newsreels. It is also an early example of cross-promotion where the interests of Hoyts, Shell and Studebaker are all promoted through their support for the 'Touring Talkie Show’. The advertisement focuses on the spectacle and excitement of the joint venture as first fleet of sedans depart from Melbourne for country areas. It does this by presenting the touring fleet of sedans as an event in itself, showing company executives and members of the public as equally interested in the venture, and in positioning the tour as a community service.
Hoyts Theatres, the Studebaker Car Corporation and the Shell Oil Company of Australia combined in a £6,000 deal to tour talking pictures around regional areas. The tour was the first of its kind in Australia. The enterprise was important because, while many cinemas in the capital cities had been wired for sound, audiences in country areas missed out. Portable sound equipment that toured in these Hoyts vans allowed country audiences to enjoy the coming of sound like their city counterparts. Over the next decade, theatres around the country were being wired to meet the growing demand to see talking pictures. By 1937 all Australian cinemas countrywide had been converted to sound.
The nitrate print of this advertisement was deposited with the National Film and Sound Archive by Ross King, who built a collection of cinema advertisements from the 1950s and 1960s, as well as a selection from 1920s, ’30s and ’40s. The film was given to King by Harry Gratton and, although instructed by his employer Val Morgan to destroy the print, he did not. It is thanks to both Gratton and King that this film survives.
Notes by Poppy De Souza
This black-and-white clip shows a silent cinema advertisement for Hoyts’s 'Touring Talkie Show’, which took sound films and audio equipment to rural cinemas not equipped for sound. In the clip, executives from the Hoyts, Studebaker and Shell companies greet one of the Hoyts trucks, or 'Roadshow Units’, in a Melbourne street. The truck fills up with petrol and oil at a kerbside Shell bowser, and makes a stop, en route to the country, at Hoyts’s Regent Theatre, where it is given three cheers by Studebaker representatives on its departure. The clip includes intertitles.
Educational value points
Early moving-image cinema advertisements, which were made from about 1900 onwards, often had a narrative or, like this clip, took the form of a quasi news item. This story-based approach is still widely used in advertisements and 'infomercials’, with a news story or documentary format used to lend authenticity to the advertiser’s claims.
- The clip is an early example of cross-promotion in cinema advertising, featuring products made by Shell and by Studebaker, which were co-sponsors of the 'Touring Talkie Show’. A cavalcade of Studebaker cars escorts the Hoyts truck, which fills up at a Shell petrol bowser. The truck is made by Studebaker and elsewhere in the advertisement an intertitle announces that 'after careful scrutiny and investigation of all other truck chassis, [Hoyts] selected Studebaker’.
- The Hoyts team are treated like heroes, accompanied by a cavalcade of cars across Melbourne and receiving a rousing three cheers on their departure. Their send-off is reminiscent of the farewells given to earlier expeditions that explored Australia’s interior. Like those explorers the 'Touring Talkie Show’ travelled great distances, often on unsealed roads and through rough terrain in remote areas where mechanical assistance was hard to find.
- This clip indicates that the Shell and Studebaker companies recognised the promotional benefits of being associated with talking pictures. In 1928, Australians made 180 million visits to the cinema from a population of 6.3 million. Through the association with the Hoyts venture, Shell and Studebaker had the potential to reach a huge audience, while at the same time being seen to perform a 'community service’ by bringing 'talkies’ to rural areas.
- The fanfare surrounding the 'Touring Talkie Show’ is indicative of the excitement generated by sound feature films. The first 'talkies’ were made in the USA in 1927 and within a year were shown in Australia. Using a method known as 'sound on film’ the soundtrack was recorded with optical equipment that converted sound to an optical image on the strip of film. Sound was produced when the optical image passed through a light sensor in the projector.
- The advertisement, made in 1929, is silent, reflecting the fact that sound technology was still in its infancy in the Australian film industry. (Efftee Studios’s Diggers (1931) was the first commercially viable sound feature film made in Australia.) Filmmakers in Australia and overseas had earlier made partial 'talkies’ by recording sound on wax discs or cylinders that were synchronised with the projected film.
- Hoyts is a major film exhibition company, founded in Melbourne in 1909. In 1926 it merged with exhibition companies owned by Sir George Tallis and Frank Thring Senior to become Hoyts Theatres. The company grew with Thring as its dynamic managing director, and by 1928 owned 68 cinemas in Australia and controlled programming in many more. In 1931 US production and distribution company Fox acquired a controlling share of Hoyts, resulting in further expansion.
- This clip shows a Melbourne street in the 1920s, including pedestrians and shops with hand-painted signs. Prominent shop signs such as these became popular from about the 1840s. In the 1920s it was customary for both sexes to wear hats in public, although here the petrol attendants are hatless. Women wore loose-fitting dresses with a dropped waistline and a hemline just below the knee, while men wore suits and waistcoats for both work and leisure.
Education notes provided by The Learning Federation and Education Services Australia