Australia's first silver screen start

Published:
01/08/2021

 

The Manly Waterworks – famous for its role in the movie BMX Bandits, where a young Nicole Kidman, rode down a slide to escape her pursuers – is apparently up for sale.

In choosing Manly for the scene, the director may not have been aware of a significant precedent.

The very first presentation of a projected moving picture to a paying audience was by the Lumière brothers, in Paris in December 1895.

Only 10 months later, on 16 September 1896, Marius Sestier and his wife arrived in Sydney on the F.M.S. Polynésien.   They were carrying some unusual luggage.

Two days after his arrival, Sestier gave a private demonstration of the Lumière Cinématographe – moving pictures –  at the Lyceum Theatre and on 28 September 1896 he gave the first exhibition to the paying  public, at 237 Pitt Street, in the hastily prepared and renamed Salon Lumière. It is not known what film or films he showed.

The Lumière Cinématographe machine that Sestier used for the exhibition was a remarkable device. It was a movie camera, a projector, and a film printer all in one.

On or about the 4 October 1896, Sestier made what was almost certainly the first movie filmed in Australia. He filmed the ferry, the P.S. Brighton, arriving at Manly.

Three weeks later, on the 27 October 1896, Sestier gave the final exhibition of this premier Sydney season at the Salon Lumière. 

At the end of the last session, he showed his local film of the P.S. Brighton. Manly was the location chosen for Australia’s first commercial film and a Manly ferry was Australia’s first film star. Unfortunately no copy of the film has survived.

When she made her movie debut in 1896, the P.S. Brighton was 13-years-old, three years younger than Nicole Kidman when she made hers.

Author:
Richard Michell, Contributor, Peninsula Living Magazine

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