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Cinema industry trends
admissions and key events, 1954–1974

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Year Admissions (m) Population (m) Admissions
per capita
The first drive-in theatre in Australia opened at Burwood in Melbourne in 1954 and two years later the number of drive-ins had grown to 23. The success of drive-ins lay primarily in the growth in mass car ownership and the rush of marriages and resultant babies (with the privacy of separate cars, drive-ins were thought to make cinema-going easier for parents of young children) (Collins 1987, 219-223). In 1955, Charles Chauvel’s Jedda was the first Australian feature to be shot and released in colour. Gone with the Wind (released in Australia in 1940) was the first major US film to be exhibited in Australia in colour. However, colour feature film production did not become the norm in the US until the mid-1950s, in an attempt to win back audiences that were being lost to television (www.acn.net.au, accessed May 2002; Collins 1987, 214, 240). The first television station to begin regular transmission in Australia was TCN 9, in Sydney on 16 September 1956. The rapid decline in cinema attendances in the late 1950s is attributed largely to the introduction of television (Shirley & Adams 1983, 210).
1957 124.0* 9.6 12.9 In 1957, in Victoria cinema attendances dropped by 5 million and by 1961 had dropped by an overall 52 per cent compared to admissions in 1956. This was typical of the trends occurring in the rest of the country (Collins 1987, 226). In 1959, 33 per cent of Melbourne’s cinemas and 28 per cent of Sydney’s were reported to have closed (Collins 1987, 229). By the mid-1960s, cinema attendance figures were once again on the rise. In 1965, there were more than 1,000 cinemas across the nation grossing around $50 million per annum. Australia, on a per capita basis, was one of the leading cinema-going nations in the world (Collins 1987, 231).
1962 66.0* 10.7 6.1
1969 47.0* 12.3 3.8
1972 53.0* 13.3 4.0 The 1973, a Tariff Board Report reported that the top evening adult cinema admission price was at the time around $2.00, rising to $2.50 for special attractions. The average adult admission price at the drive-in was $1.30, while the average admission price across all cinemas attendances was $1.40 (Tariff Board 1973, 45).
1974 68.0* 13.7 5.0 In 1974, cinema attendances were reported to be higher than in the previous year, with figures from overseas indicating that Australia had become the third most important market for US films after the UK and France (moving up from fifth place in 1973) (Cinema Papers March–April 1975, 42).

Source: See About the data.

* Indicates estimate: sourced from Smyth (1976, Economic Aspects of Film Distribution and Exhibition in Australia, 20). These figures are estimates by the author based on data obtained from the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics’ census of retail establishments and other services, interviews with cinema exhibitors, the Tariff Board Report (1973) and the Roy Morgan Research Centre for the Australian Cinema Advertising Contractors.