Published on December 27th, 2015 | by Chris O'Connor

Saturday Night At The Movies DVD Review

Saturday Night At The Movies DVD Review Chris O'Connor

Summary: The shift in focus from the event of going to the cinema to simply watching a film.


Picture Palaces

I need to start this review by saying I am hugely biased… My great Uncle in law was Ivan Hutchinson, the movie host of Channel 7s movie show and a film critic. In our family we always dismissed Bill Collins and his reviews as he seemed to favour anything and everything black and white whilst being very harsh towards other productions… Ivan on the other hand took each film and appraised it based on what it had to offer (that was our thoughts at least). So in watching this production it was a little sad seeing Bill Collins face but not being able to see Ivan’s (he passed away in 1995, I’m sure otherwise he would have been a major contributor to this documentary). But I digress. The first thing I noticed about this disc is that it’s labelled as the feature being 96 mins… in fact there are three “chapters” and each is roughly 55 minutes so I’m not sure where that came from but keep that in mind if you are looking for something to watched based on how long it is.


Narrated by Graeme Blundell we are taken from the first Cinemas in Australia through to the introduction of the “talkies” and the Drive In’s to the decline and resurgence of the Cinema in Australia. In between the historical information recounted by Blundell we are graced/subjected to “celebrities” and “personalities” telling us of their experiences with Cinema in Australia. I’m not a huge fan of this style of show filler… I was quite happy to listen to the theatre historians and projectionists… but (as much as it was interesting enough) I don’t really feel people such as Ken Sutcliffe and the like are an authority on Australian Cinema and feel like they are merely padding the show to fit a given time frame.

Fortunately the reliance on “people of interest” reduces after the first episode and we are instead left with the people who clearly have a passion for the industry and its history… and the history and enthusiasm for the Picture Palaces is where the true fascination lies for me in this show. It’s wonderful to see some of the very early theatres, to hear the tales of how people would have mobile projectors that they would take from town to town to set up and show the locals a film or two.

It’s fascinating to see the grandeur of the old style cinemas, things we now recognize as our live theatre venues and “event spaces”. To hear of how much passion went into the spectacle of the cinema and how much of the appeal was the experience almost regardless of what was actually being seen.


There’s a heavy dose of nostalgia (both direct and empathetical) in hearing of the decline of Cinema in Australia, the shift away from the event screenings, the loss of the showmanship that went along with a film presentation. The homogenization of the buildings and experience of going to the Cinema also presents a desire to have some of that grandeur return to the field. I don’t think the charm is lost so much with the transition to digital (which is quite interesting to see near the end of this documentary, rather than film canisters there are essentially portable hard drives containing our beloved movies now), but with the lack of customer care and interaction from staff. We see that the Picture Palaces of old would have a full compliment of staff on board, all there to make the guests/viewers feel special and welcomed and pampered, now of course we don’t even go to a ticket booth in some Cinemas, we go to the “concession stand” and collect our ticket… with the suggestion that we might like to get a mortgage to purchase some popcorn or choc tops to go with it.

But there is also a glimmer of hope. Listening to the industry people tell of the impact video had on the business and how they eventually came through ok… to now talking of digital piracy and the way it is impacting modern Cinema… you get the feeling that there may be more storms to weather (some very literal it would seem) but we should still be able to go and see a film on the big screen for some time yet.


DVD Details

Film Genre – TV Documentary
Label – Madman Entertainment
Audio – English (Dolby Digital)
Running Time – 162
Aspect Ratio – 1.78:1
Region Coding – 4
TV Standard – PAL
Rating – M
Year of Release – 2015
Primary Format – Movies/TV – DVD

About the Author'

Father of four, husband of one and all round oddity. Gaming at home since about 1982 with a Sinclair ZX Spectrum. Moving on to the more traditional PC genre in the years that followed with the classic Jump Joe and Alley Cat. CGA, EGA, VGA and beyond PC's have been central to my gaming but I've also enjoyed consoles and hand helds along the way (who remembers the Atari Lynx?). Would have been actor/film maker, jack of many trades master of none.

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