Mossman goes back to the flicks

Thursday 31 January 2013

Mossman goes back to the flicks

by Pam Willis Burden

A new publication set to be launched next week will take a look at over a century of history of the two cinemas in Mossman - the Photoplay and the Rex.

The Northern Photoplay Company began screening in Lunn’s Coronation Hall about 1912. Some of the building remains today as the Welcome Mart in Mill Street.

It was one of the first permanent picture shows in Queensland - most early films were exhibited by travelling showmen.

The Photoplay Company was formed by Richard 'Dick' Lunn, owner of the Hall, and local photographer Ernest Hannaford. They imported their own apparatus and an electric lighting plant.

Pictured: An image of the Photoplay Theatre taken in the mid-1930s

After a few years, Hannaford left the area and Dick Lunn continued to run the theatre until 1946, making him one of the longest serving motion picture exhibitors.

He had invested massively in the 1930s to install new equipment to present the Talkies to Mossman, and renovated his Hall for the new sound projectors.
The Douglas Shire Historical Society are proud to have Dick’s grand-daughter, Wendy McCrae, coming from Cairns especially to launch the book.

Dick sold his business to Far Northern Theatres who, at one stage, had the largest independent circuit in North Queensland, operating 17 theatres from Bowen to New Guinea. The company built a new theatre in Mossman in 1956, called the Rex after Douglas Shire Chairman, R.D Rex.

Many local people remember going to both cinemas. Many of today’s Mossman grandmothers had their first kiss in the back row, and many men as young boys mimicked the cowboys they watched at Saturday matinees.

Stories are told in the book - titled 'Let's go to the pictures in Mossman' - from former projectionists, descendants of owners and managers, and patrons who enjoyed their time in the canvas seats. Most photos have not been seen before.

Yet the biggest mystery still remains.  

After several new owners, when did the Rex close? What was the last film shown there? People say 1979 or 1980 but so far no written proof can be found.

Hopefully publication will prompt somebody to reveal the truth.

The Rex still stands, now called Pinjarra Place in Mill Street opposite the library. At present the auditorium is not used.

The publication has been supported with funding from the Australian Government’s 'Your Community Heritage Program, Sharing Community Heritage Stories'.