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Our History

ACMI continues a tradition begun in 1946. Now a major new cultural agency of the State Government of Victoria and located in a purpose-built venue at Federation Square, ACMI takes its place as Australia's first centre dedicated to the moving image in all its forms.

The Past

A visit to Australia in 1940 by pioneering British documentary filmmaker Dr John Grierson led to the establishment of the Australian National Film Board in 1945 as a means to strengthen the Australian production industry.

1946

Dr Grierson's recommendations also led to the formation of state-based government film bodies and the State Film Centre of Victoria was established. The aims of the Centre were to maintain 'a list of all suitable documentary and educational films' with a responsibility to promote the material for public consumption. It was in this capacity that the State Film Centre established and maintained its own film library in addition to supporting regional lending services and mobile projection units that screened films to isolated audiences.

1956

The introduction of television to Melbourne audiences in 1956 saw the State Film Centre become involved in television production with a number of projects made specifically for the new medium. The organisation also played a valuable role as an archive of important Australian films such as The Sentimental Bloke (1919), acquired in 1957, and On Our Selection (1920) in 1958. During the 1960s, the State Film Centre increasingly provided advice on film treatments, production, scripts and distribution outlets to local filmmakers, demonstrating the growing importance of the facility to the local industry. In 1969, the State Film Centre assumed management of the newly constructed State Film Theatre, providing the community with an important facility exhibiting material not screened in commercial cinemas.

1970-1976

The 1970s saw a change in scope for the State Film Centre's acquisitions to include examples of student films generated by the introduction of film studies to universities. During this period, the Australian production industry experienced significant change, driven by new levels of government funding and emerging filmmakers producing confident, original films drawing acclaim from Australian and international audiences. The renaissance was led by films such as Homesdale (1971) by Peter Weir, Tim Burstall's Stork (1971), and Libido (1973), which featured the work of John B. Murray, Fred Schepisi, David Baker and Tim Burstall. The emergence of companies such as Hexagon Productions, which produced Alvin Purple (1973) and Petersen (1974), reflected a new vigour within the film industry, while the low-budget 27A (1974) by Esben Storm was indicative of the revival reaching all levels of production in Australia. The unprecedented success of Fred Schepisi's The Devil's Playground (1976), which premiered at the State Film Theatre in 1976, continued the strong revival in the Victorian film production industry. 

1983-1988

In 1983, The State Film Centre of Victoria Council Act 1983 (Vic) facilitated a new governing structure for the State Film Centre and foreshadowed a change in direction in terms of its policy. The new focus provided the impetus to create a new public presentation facility for Victoria. As early as 1986, plans under the working title 'Australian Centre for the Moving Image' were discussed, based around the redevelopment of the old City Square site in Melbourne. The initial push for development recognised the changing nature of screen industries in an environment of emergent digital media forms, and a need for an exhibition space free of the restrictions imposed in traditional display facilities. During this period of rapid change, the State Film Centre continued to develop important new programs and, in 1988, the Education Program was initiated. It provided a valuable interface between the Centre and the secondary school curriculum. The program took the form of screenings for VCE students based on core texts and in-service days for their teachers.

1990s

The State Film Centre further developed plans for the Australian Centre for the Moving Image in the early 1990s, evaluating several sites around Melbourne for suitability. A 1993 report from the Victorian State Government Office of Major Projects reaffirmed the viability of the proposed Australian Centre for the Moving Image. 

1996-2001

The selection of architects for Federation Square was based on an open, international, two-stage design competition. Over 176 entries from all Australian states and some 15 foreign countries were received for the first stage. Five of these entrants, including Lab architecture studio (based in London at the time), were selected to proceed to the second stage.
 
In July 1997, Lab architecture studio, in association with their joint venture partners Bates Smart architects, was announced as the winner of the Federation Square project. Lab architecture studio immediately relocated their office to Melbourne and began the complex task of designing Australia's most ambitious civic, cultural and commercial precinct.

The architectural competition for Federation Square demanded the design of a new civic square capable of accommodating up to 15,000 people in an open-air amphitheatre. In addition, the project included cultural and commercial buildings on a 3.6ha block to be built above the Jolimont railyards. Development of this site was proposed for more than 80 years, with numerous competitions and design proposals failing to move forward. The rationalisation of the Jolimont railyards, the demolition of the Gas and Fuel Towers and the celebration of Australia's Centenary of Federation provided the impetus for the completion of this important urban initiative.

2002

On 1 January, the Australian Centre for the Moving Image was officially established by the Film Act 2001 (Victoria). On 26 October, the first stage of the Australian Centre for the Moving Image was opened with two exhibitions, Deep Space: Sensation & Immersion and Ngarinyin Pathways Dulwan, running in ACMI's world-first Screen Gallery. On 17 November, the ACMI Cinemas officially opened.

2003

In the Screen Gallery in 2004, ACMI presented two Remembrance and the Moving Image exhibitions, accompanied by a major exhibition catalogue. ACMI presented retrospective film programs of Albert and David Maysles and Leslie Cheung, a retrospective of Bushranger films for Australia Day and for the first time presented the Resfest festival. As part of a wide range of talks and forums, our popular Lounge Critic series commenced.

2004

Acclaimed media arts exhibitions Transfigure and Proof, and the first ACMI/NGV collaboration 2004: Australian Culture Now were highlights in the Screen Gallery. In ACMI Cinemas we presented the much-anticipated and sell-out Australian premiere season of Matthew Barney's The Cremaster Cycle, and toured the Real Life on Film documentary film festival nationally. Curated film seasons focussed on subjects ranging from cult horror to the life of Los Angeles on film. We opened our unique interactive exhibition space, the Memory Grid, and continued to build on our award-winning Digital Storytelling program with an increased number of programs with community groups and regional Victoria. ACMI launched the Screen It! competition for primary school students to make their own moving image works.

2005

Following the appointment of Tony Sweeney as our new Director, ACMI entered a period of exciting growth in programs. We opened our popular Games Lab space and presented the acclaimed White Noise exhibition in the Screen Gallery. ACMI dramatically expanded its suite of film programs in 2005, with monthly 'Focus on' seasons, and new regular programs including Great Australian Cinema, Future Classics, Digital Cinema and Freaky Fridays: Late Night Cult. As an exciting culmination of a big year, ACMI presented the landmark exhibition Stanley Kubrick: Inside the mind of a visionary filmmaker.

2006

ACMI again collaborated with the NGV for the exhibition 2006 Contemporary Commonwealth, bringing together the work from contemporary artists from all around the Commonwealth. The Screen Gallery then played host to the immensely popular TV50, celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of Australian television broadcasting. The Best of the Independent Games Festival and an exhibition of machinima in Playing the Movies came to the Games Lab. And in the cinemas, curated film seasons featured such illuminaries as Osamu Tezuka, Alfred Hitchcock, Christine Vachon, Robert Altman, Dion Beebe, David Cronenberg and Pedro Almodóvar. We also our introduced a new First Look program with exclusive monthly screenings of new films and restored classics.

2007

It was a year of blockbuster exhibitions at ACMI in 2007, new records for audience attendance, outstanding world cinema, education and public programming. ACMI's major exhibitions program presented Australian audiences with two exclusive international exhibitions, the fascinating and magical Eyes Lies & Illusions, and the blockbuster Melbourne Winter Masterpieces exhibition, Pixar: 20 Years of Animation, which broke all records for attendance. And our commitment to new media art continued as we presented Centre Pompidou: Video Art 1965-2005, a 40-year survey of video art from around the world. We remain the home of must-see cinema in Melbourne and in 2007 we welcomed back 11 film festivals. Our own cinema programmers were busy curating another sensational year of film from Australia and beyond, featuring celebrated industry names such as Guillermo del Toro, Isabelle Huppert and a focus on punk. All in all, we presented 18 Australian premiere screenings and featured cinema from 160 countries. The State Government confirmed funding support for the delivery of a new ground floor gallery at ACMI, which will feature a permanent, free exhibition, dedicated to more than 100 years of the moving image - its history and future.

state film centre advertisement thumbnail

state film centre promotion

An old promotional film for the lending service.
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state film centre meets record demand

A look at the State Film Centre in the early sixties.
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