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Wednesday, 2 March 1927

Senator REID - That is so. His financial position became so embarrassing that finally, in conversation with his operator, he expressed the fear that he would soon have to close down. His operator, who, apparently, knew more than he did about the public taste, replied, "Not at all. You let me run the show for a month and I will guarantee to make it pay." My friend agreed to the proposal, and handed over control of the theatre to his operator for a month. This man gave the people the pictures they wished to see - pictures with plenty of "kick" in them - with the result that very quickly the theatre was crowded every night, and it was not long before the proprietor had to enlarge it. We must not lose sight of the fact that the American producers have practically a monopoly of the world's market, and, with their huge corporations, are in an almost unassailable position. We have been told that 90 per cent, of the pictures shown in Australia are imported from America. That is because America is practically the only market upon which we can draw. Many Continental pictures in their sex appeal are even worse than the worst American productions. It is very regrettable that American films so often entirely misrepresent outstanding features of British history, with the result that the rising generation in every country where these pictures are shown get an entirely wrong conception of Britain's important historical events. I am sure that if this royal commission is appointed the picture theatre proprietors of Australia will do all they can to assist it: The Australian climate is one of the best in the world for film production. There is, perhaps, just a little too much sunshine - the light, perhaps, is sometimes a little too strong. An advantage en joyed by American companies is the almost unrivalled climate of California for picture making. In England, on the other hand, the atmosphere is so dense that producers have to depend to a large extent upon artificial lighting. This increases overhead expenditure and adds to the difficulties of the photographers. The Minister has done well to remind us that Britain is not only rich in historical events suitable for screen production, but has a vast literature full of strong, healthy dramatic situations, as well as of magnificent scenery, upon which film producers could draw to advantage. It would appear, however, that at present there is a shortage of star artists, and that it is difficult to entice them from America. One British company that started with a substantial backing of capital found that it could not compete on satisfactory terms with the American corporations. Our only chance appears, therefore, to be along the lines of Empire co-operation. I referred just now to the unfortunate effects which, from an Empire point of view, American films had on certain peoples of the Empire. This is particularly noticeable in India, where many American pictures give Indian audiences an entirely wrong impression of Western life and Western civilization. These pictures are doing much to injure the prestige of Great Britain in India, because so often they present wholly demoralizing features of . our social life. There is no better means of educating the people from an historical, social, and moral point of view than is offered by moving pictures. There is not the slightest doubt that if the moral tone of the people were raised there would be a corresponding improvement in the pictures produced. The picture companies would . at once cater for the improved public taste. To a large extent the blame for the present unsatisfactory state of affairs rests, not upon picture theatre proprietors, but upon their patrons. Another factor that should not be lost sight of was mentioned by the Minister (Senator Pearce). Australian audiences demand two feature pictures each night, whereas in other countries the practice is to put on only one feature picture, filling up the programme with other suitable items. This practice of presenting two feature pictures is responsible for the shortage of uniformly good films. There is no doubt, also, that some, at least, of the Australian-made films have not been altogether desirable; they have portrayed Australians as so many cowpunchers and bushrangers. We have magnificent scenery, and good light for film production, and there is not the slightest doubt that, if we could produce pictures with a good background, they would be acceptable to other countries. Pictures filmed in Australia for Australian audiences only will never be profitable, because our own market is too limited. The American companies with a population of nearly 120,000,000 to cater for,, produce pictures for American audiences with the result that other countries have to be content with the class of picture that the home market favours. We cannot expectto fight the American syndicates unless we link up in an Empire project, because American corporations have not only secured the services of almost every artist that is worth picking up, but have a splendid climate for outdoor photography, and, with their gigantic scheme of distribution, are in a position to supply the requirements of the world. But I am not pessimistic. I believe that if we approach the subject in a commonsense way, we shall be able to evolve a scheme for Empire production that will, to some extent, at all events, give us pictures that will take the place of some of the American films. I hope that the commission, if appointed, will be successful in achieving this object.

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