Celebrating a Melbourne icon

BY SIOBHAN DEE

To celebrate the centenary of Melbourne’s Luna Park, the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia (NFSA) has curated a compilation of historical films highlighting the famous amusement park. The films will be permanently available for viewing at the Australian Mediatheque – a collaboration between the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) and the NFSA, located at Federation Square.

The Opening of Luna Park Melbourne (1912)

This landmark amusement park has remained hugely popular since its opening on 13 December 1912. It continues to attract large crowds to its now historic location on the foreshore of St Kilda, Melbourne.

The Melbourne Luna Park was based on the original concept built on Coney Island, New York in 1903. It was developed by American showman and entrepreneur J D Williams, along with the Phillips brothers who later brought the Luna Park enterprise to Australia.

Closed in 1916 due to the First World War, Luna Park Melbourne reopened in 1923 with new and improved attractions. By the late 1970s newer, more modern mechanical rides had replaced some of the earlier original historic attractions.

Of the four Luna Parks built in Australia (the other two built at Glenelg, South Australia and Redcliffe, Queensland), only Melbourne and Sydney are still currently in operation and continue to provide fun and entertainment to all who visit.

The footage now available for viewing at the Australian Mediatheque includes scenes of St Kilda’s esplanade and foreshore as Luna Park Melbourne was being built (c1910); the opening of Luna Park Melbourne (see clip above) and scenes from Luna Park Sydney during the 1950s. Also included is footage from the Wurstelprater Vienna, one of the world’s earliest amusement parks, taken from the film The Green Cockatoo (Der Gruene Kakadu).

In contrast to the sophisticated theme parks that we thrill in today, this collection of films illustrates a time when riding the Ferris Wheel or the Scenic Railway were incredible new experiences.