Talking Pictures on Tour

Hoyts 1920s Talking Pictures Roadshow

Touring sound equipment to regional areas
 Nathan Smith

In 1929, Hoyts – with help from Studebaker and the Shell Oil Company – loaded cinema sound equipment onto a truck so regional Australia could experience the latest in 'talking pictures'. This is one of the stories featured in our new Vintage Cinemas curated collection.

Taking talkies to the people

The introduction of 'talking pictures' in the late 1920s changed cinema forever. But if your local regional theatre didn’t have access to this amazing new technology, what could you do?

Frank Thring Snr, managing director of Hoyts and Efftee Studios, came up with a novel solution: why not take the talkies to the people?

This clip advertises the new 'Touring Talkie Show' truck operated by Hoyts in 1929 – with sponsorship from Studebaker and the Shell Oil Company:

An advertisement promoting the ‘Touring Talkie Show’ truck operated by Hoyts Theatres, c1929. Please note: this clip is silent. NFSA title: 227608

Thring wanted to popularise the new cinema format in Australia and the ‘Talking Pictures Roadshow’ was a tremendous success wherever it travelled.

When the truck visited regional areas, Hoyts temporarily installed sound equipment at the local cinemas. They then presented a variety of talking pictures that included singing and dancing as well as vision.

The set-up time for each location was a long four hours, and it took six hours to pack up after the program was completed. The roadshow then travelled to a new location and started the process over again.

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The Hoyts travelling roadshow was also an early example of successful cross promotion, with a Shell Company truck leading the Studebaker into Melbourne to welcome it at its oil bowser.

In the video above you can see them using Shell Oil, after an inter-title which reads, 'The truck replenishes its supply of Shell Spirit and Oil’. Also visible in the clip are executives from Shell, Studebaker and Hoyts meeting the truck as it arrives in Melbourne.

The Studebaker brand was favoured for its industrial design and capacity to withstand long journeys carrying almost seven tonnes of equipment.

The truck could also handle road shocks, which was vital because the highly sensitive sound equipment was fragile and needed to be secured and strapped.

Of the four trucks travelling the countryside there was one in Victoria, one in Queensland and two trucks servicing regional New South Wales.

Read more about the Hoyts travelling roadshow and see other stories about historic Australian theatres in our new Vintage Cinemas curated collection.