Amazing Amateurs: John Anderson Home Movies
Stories & Ideas

Wed 31 May 2017

Amazing Amateurs: John Anderson Home Movies

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Your museum of screen culture

Marvel at regional Victoria in the 1940s

The Anderson family home movies show early Ballarat taken on 9.5mm and 16mm film by local film enthusiast John (Jack) Robert Anderson, who went on to become the owner of the Regent Cinema, Ballarat, Victoria.

Before Jack got into the movie business, he was a filmmaker himself, capturing, in particular, the enthusiasm of youth through his 9.5mm camera. Ballarat’s Sturt Street in an era when there were trams, the marble monument of Queen Victoria, Botanical Gardens, Lake Wendouree and the Town Hall – from the point of view of young Jack and his friends. They venture out on picnics, go to the races dressed in all their finery, enjoy the muddy fun of the Ballarat Harley motorbike ‘Mud Scramble’ and their own motorbike sojourns to neighbouring towns and picturesque countryside.  

Featured here are his home movies taken on the film format 9.5mm. The sprocket holes are in the centre of the frame and if a projector damages the sprocket holes, unfortunately the image is also damaged. Having the sprocket holes run along the side of the image, as found with 8mm film, prevents this from happening.

9.5mm film laid horizontal
9.5mm film with centre sprocket holes (laid on side)

Jack developed a love of cinema early in life when, in the 1930s, he would collect film offcuts from shows at the local town hall, splice them together and show them to friends through a magic lantern image projector (for the price of a beer bottle).

After a stint in the army where he honed his photographic skills, Jack returned to Ballarat to work at a photographic studio. Marie Bourke, who also worked at the studio, became his wife and business collaborator. It was at this time that Jack starting filming local activities and events. 

Jack and Marie enjoyed a model of collaborative family business operation as shown by the establishment of ‘Radio Cabs’ in Ballarat. Having established one successful business, Jack pursued his love of cinema and he and Marie would eventually create a film distribution circuit across regional Victoria.

Jack and Marie (partnering with others) would go on to establish cinemas such as the ‘Astor Cinema’ in Ararat, ‘Bell Post Hill Drive-In’, Geelong and the ‘Southern and Northern Drive-Ins’ and ‘Vegas 70 Cinema’ in Ballarat.  In the 1970s, the Anderson family acquired and restored the ‘Regent Theatre’ in Ballarat which became the first multiplex in regional Victoria.