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Early Australian Cinema
first feature-length movie

In the late 1800s Melbourne was Australia's wealthy, sophisticated world class city, often mentioned in the same sentence as New York, Paris and London. It's not surprising that in 1896, barely a year after the invention of the cinema camera and projector by the Lumiere brothers in France, Melbourne had its own cinema and the first local short film of the Melbourne Cup.

News and events films dominated Australian cinema for the next ten years, each film lasting no longer than 20 minutes.

In 1900 the Salvation Army in Melbourne set up its 'Limelight unit' to make religious films. The first production was Soldiers of the Cross, Bible stories filmed with hundreds of extras and elaborate costumes and sets.

Soldiers of the Cross was actually 13 separate films shown in between live theatre, slides, music and sermons, to make a multimedia show that lasted for two and a half hours. People sometimes argue that this was the world's first feature film (a feature film has to run for at least an hour).

In 1906 Dan Barry and Charles Tait of Melbourne produced and directed The Story of the Kelly Gang, a silent film that ran continuously for a breathtaking 80 minutes, definitely the world's first feature film. It wasn?t until 1911 that other countries began to make feature films. By this time Australia had made 16 full length feature films.

Who Did It?
Key Organisations
J & N Tait : production
Key People
Dan Barry : producer Charles Tait : director

Further Reading
Australian silent films: a pictorial history 1896-1929
Eric Reade
Lansdowne Press, Melbourne, 1970, pp 29-31.

Great Moments on the Australian Screen
Historical Film Restoration. Incl. clip of Kelly Gang
Ned Kelly
Film in Australia
History of Australian Film
Australian Film Television and Radio School
ScreenSound Australia

Related Innovations
Fluid head camera mount

A dramatic scene from the world?s first feature length movie. Courtesy National Sound and Film Archive.
ATSE Powerhouse Museum