Hoyts Cinemas: Talkies for Country Areas

Hoyts Cinemas: Talkies for Country Areas
Access fees

An intertitle invites viewers to 'see for a brief moment’ the sound equipment for talking pictures. Then a Hoyts Talking Pictures Roadshow sound unit truck is seen coming down the street. Two uniformed men open the back doors and begin unloading the sound equipment. More intertitles follow promising to embody ‘every sphere of talkie entertainment’ with News of the World in sight and sound; as well as 'music and dancing by famous international stars’. Summary by Poppy De Souza

Sound films in the Hoyts touring program were an all American lineup: Mother’s BoyStrange CargoFather and SonShow BoatKitty and Tonight at Twelve. The first full Australian Talking Pictures program did not tour until 1931.

Title Synopsis

This Hoyts cinema advertisement shows the wonders of the Hoyts Talking Pictures Roadshow which toured a portable sound unit to bring the ‘talkies’ to country areas around Australia in 1929. The advertisement is silent, so much of the information is conveyed with intertitles.

Title Curator's Notes

Commercial talking pictures arrived in Australia around 1928 and initially boosted cinema attendances around the country. By 1929, many cinemas in the capital cities had been wired for sound, and audiences could easily access the ‘talkies’. However, converting picture houses to accommodate sound pictures was expensive and theatres in country or regional areas took longer to catch up. It wasn’t until 1937 that all Australian cinemas countrywide had been converted to sound. The portable sound units which toured with ‘skilled engineers and sound technicians’, seen here in this Hoyts advertisement, allowed audiences in country areas to access the wonders of the ‘talkies’ like their city counterparts.

Notes by Poppy De Souza


Education Notes

This black-and-white clip is a silent advertisement for Hoyts, a film exhibition company, promoting its 'Touring Talkie Show’, which took sound films and portable audio equipment to rural cinemas not equipped for sound. It shows a van with the words 'HOYTS TALKINGPICTURES ROADSHOW UNIT 1’ stencilled on the side. Two uniformed men open the back of the van to reveal rolls of cable and other audio equipment. A series of intertitles, superimposed against a stylised image of a turning film reel, is included.

Educational value points

  • The advent of sound feature films in the USA in 1927 created a sensation among audiences and within a year these films, dubbed 'talkies’, were being screened in Australia. Using a method known as 'sound on film’, the soundtrack was recorded with optical equipment that converted sound to an optical image next to the picture on the strip of film. Sound was generated when the optical image passed through a light sensor in the projector.
  • The advent of the 'talkies’ in 1927 resulted in the expansion of the US film industry, ushered in an era known as the Golden Age of Hollywood, and boosted Australia’s film exhibition industry. Cinema attendance peaked in 1928, the same year that US ‘talkies’ began to be shown alongside silent films in Australia. In 1928 Australians made 180 million cinema visits from a population of 6.3 million, well up from the 68 million visits in 1921 when the population was 5.5 million.
  • The Hoyts 'talkie entertainment’ program was entirely feature films from the USAbecause in 1928 it was the only country making commercial sound feature films. However, the program also reflected the dominance of US films in Australia. In the 1920s US and British distributors signed exclusivity deals with Australian cinemas, which resulted in limited screening possibilities for Australian films, sending the local film industry into a decline that lasted until the 1970s.
  • After Hollywood began to make sound films the popularity of the 'talkies’ rang the death knell for silent films, and other countries began making sound films from 1929. Efftee Studios’s Diggers (1931) was the first commercially viable sound feature film made in Australia, and the newly founded Cinesound studio also began producing sound films soon after. Audiences lost interest in silent films, which is why Hoyts stresses that its program consists entirely of 'talkie entertainment’.
  • This advertisement for Hoyts’s 'talking pictures’, made about 1928, is silent, reflecting the fact that sound technology was still in its infancy in the Australian film industry. Australia filmmakers, like their counterparts in the USA, 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 by Melbourne dentist Arthur Russell in 1909. By 1928, when this clip was made, the company owned 68 cinemas and controlled programming in many more throughout Australia. In 1931 leading US production and distribution company Fox acquired a controlling share of Hoyts, resulting in further expansion. Hoyts built the lavish Regent cinema chain in the state capitals, as well as establishing cinemas in suburban and rural areas.
  • The popularity of the 'talkies’ meant that cinemas in the big cities were quick to install audio equipment; however, rural cinemas were slower to convert to sound, mainly due to the expense. Hoyts attempted to address this problem with its roadshow units, which took sound films and portable audio equipment to rural and regional cinemas.

Education notes provided by The Learning Federation and Education Services Australia