In 1949, when I was seven, we went to the movies nearly every week. But we didn’t call them movies; they were the “flicks” (because early movies “flickered”) or the “pictures”. The photograph shows Grandad Dale in fancy dress costume, dressed up as a movie hero of the time, Tom Mix.
In Maungaturoto, movies were shown in the Town Hall, which was a big wooden building half way down the hill towards the dairy factory, where the Community Hall is now. The same building was used for all sorts of different events (like dances and parties) as well as for the movies. There were no comfortable seats; just chairs and benches similar to those you use at school.
At the start of the evening, they would play a recording of the national anthem (“God save the king” — because we had a king then, not a queen). Everyone would stand and stay respectfully quiet while it played.
Then the “shorts” would start. The shorts were a mixture of very short films (each maybe 10 or 15 minutes long) and would usually include a news programme (like Pathe News), a comedy programme (like the Marx Brothers), and sometimes a travel programme (like this one on Egypt).
And, to encourage children to come every single week, they would show a serial for we youngsters. These were always action-packed and very exciting indeed. Something particularly exciting would always happen at the very end of the episode (like the hero appearing to fall into a pit of snakes) and you would have to come back next week to find out that, actually, he just managed to grab hold of the edge of the cliff and save himself!!! (This is why we say that “it was a real cliffhanger”, meaning that, at the end, you still weren’t quite sure what would happen next.) Here is a serial from that time: Batman.
There would be a break when the shorts were over, for the grown-ups to have a cigarette (practically everyone smoked in those days) and to buy Jaffas and chocolates and ice creams (no popcorn, though). And, then, finally, the main film would start.
All the films were all in black-and-white (we didn’t get colour films until the mid-1950s). British films of that time were often war films (it was only a few years after the Second World War) and comedies. American films were often cowboy films and romantic comedies. We didn’t see any films made in New Zealand, apart from some of the “shorts”, like travelogues and newsreels.
But the main thing I remember is that we just loved going to the flicks.