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4/4/1897: Australia's First Screening

Joseph Perry

While hard-nosed businessmen such as Thomas Edison (also a well-known inventor) and Charles Urban were stamping their authority on the movie industries of the USA and Britain, Australia was taking its first tentative cinematic steps under the guidance of an all together more spiritual hand.

Joseph Perry was an Englishman, born in Birmingham in 1864, who, at the age of ten, emigrated to New Zealand with his family and, at the age of nineteen, joined the Salvation Army.    In 1885 Perry was posted to Australia and, following the death of his wife, set up a photographic studio in Barkly Street, in the city of Ballarat, Victoria.

In 1891, Perry was managing the Ballarat Prison Gate Home, a Salvation Army refuge for men newly released from prison, and was using his own glass lantern slides to illustrate his sermons.   Major Frank Barritt, on a visit to the home, was impressed by Perryís lantern projector and took Perry and his equipment to Melbourne to publicise the forthcoming visit of General William Booth in September 1891.   A few months later, Perry and Barritt, along with Commissioner Thomas Coombs developed an illustrated lecture entitled In Darkest England using 50 of Perryís lantern slides, which toured the East Coast of Australia.

In 1892, a new section of the Salvation Army named the Limelight Brigade was established with a mission to communicate its messages of mercy and salvation to the public, and also to serve as a source of revenue.   Perry toured extensively, giving lectures and gathering images in both Australia and New Zealand.   In two years he travelled 3,000 miles and delivered 500 lectures.

In 1896, 34-year-old Herbert Booth, eldest son of William, was appointed Territorial Commander of Australasia.   Arriving in Melbourne with his wife Cornelie, Booth met Perry and quickly saw the potential of the Limelight Brigade.   With Boothís authorisation, Perry purchased a Motorgraph from the London firm of W. Watson & Sons in February 1897, and gave his first public demonstration at Albany on the 4th April after first hosting a private screening for Army members.   The publicís response was enthusiastic, and Perry toured Australia for two months before branching out into filmmaking with an actuality of a Melbourne street scene in October 1897. [ADD]

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Australia: 1897



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