Cinesound Productions

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Cinesound Productions Pty Ltd was an Australian feature film production company, established in June 1931, Cinesound developed out of a group of companies centred on Greater Union Theatres, that covered all facets of the film process, from production, to distribution and exhibition.

1931 Cinesound Studio 1 in Bondi Junction, Sydney and Crew

Cinesound Productions established a film studio as a subsidiary of Greater Union Theatres Pty Ltd based on the Hollywood model. The first production was On Our Selection (1932), which was an enormous financial success.


Stuart F. Doyle and Ken Hall were the major figures involved in the establishment of Cinesound in 1931.[1][2] Stuart Doyle was the Managing Director of Greater Union Theatres, which stemmed from Australasian Films, and it was his desire to encourage an Australian film industry that provided the impetus for Cinesound to develop. Doyle appointed his then personal assistant, Ken Hall, to the position of General Manager of Cinesound, and also put him in charge as supervisor of production. In this role, Ken Hall directed all but one of the seventeen films that Cinesound produced and also handled the business affairs of the company. Hall continued to lead Cinesound until 1956.[2]

Both Doyle and Hall were very committed to the notion of showmanship, which encompassed ideas relating to the type of entertainment the public would want to enjoy, and how to effectively publicise that entertainment to the masses. The publicity campaign for The Squatter's Daughter, and its star Jocelyn Howarth, was particularly imbued with this concept. They were also interested in creating a star system along Hollywood lines promoting the idea that Cinesound was a "little Hollywood". It was this dedication to showmanship that led to all but one of Cinesound's feature films making a profit from the first release, and all of the films eventually at least broke even. In 1939 Hall said that the budgets of Cinesound films were usually between ₤10,000 and ₤20,000, and estimated that his first fourteen films had earned ₤350,000 at the box office.[3]

Corporate History[edit]

In 1933 Doyle announced he hoped to make 16 films at their various studios over the next 18 months.[4] This never happened although the success of On Our Selection (1932) and The Squatter's Daughter (1933), along with the proposed introduction of quotas for Australian films in the mid-1930s, saw Cinesound become bullish about expansion. They increased the size of their studio to make Strike Me Lucky (1934), and announced a series of future productions, including Grandad Rudd and an adaptation of Robbery Under Arms, as well as several films produced in Queensland over the next two years, one set in the cattle industry, another in the cane fields and a third on the Great Barrier Reef. It was proposed Cinesound would make 12 movies a year in the first year of the quota: four "super productions", four "quota specials", and four independent Cinesound productions.[5] There was also talk of establishing a studio in Melbourne at St Kilda.[6]

In 1936 they announced they would make six films a year, with one unit devoted to shooting outdoor movies.[7]

In the end the quotas did not prove effective enough to support such a program, although Cinesound kept making movies until 1940.


Year Date Profit Notes
1933 30 June ₤4,010 Enormously successful release of On Our Selection
1934 30 June ₤8,800 Continued receipts from On Our Selection plus successful release of The Squatter's Daughter
1935 30 June ₤4,220 Successful release of The Silence of Dean Maitland followed by box office disappointment of Strike Me Lucky, and popularity of Grandad Rudd. Cinesound stops production for six months to enable Ken G. Hall to study production methods in Hollywood.[8]
1936 Release of Thoroughbred. Stuart Doyle announces Cinesound's films will earn 60% of their money in Australia and New Zealand, and 40% in England.[9]
1937 Loss of ₤5,254[10] All of Greater Union's divisions suffered a loss during this period. In June 1937 Stuart Doyle resigns.
1937 31 December ₤2,788 Profits earned for a six-month period,[11] partly from It Isn't Done and Tall Timbers.
1938 2 July ₤7,647 Cinesound was affected by an amendment to British film legislation which meant that Australian films no longer counted as "British" under the local quota. This saw the loss of a guaranteed market for Cinesound films, which normally sold for £6,500 - £7,500 to Britain, and forced the studio to make more broad-based comedies.[12]
1938 31 December ₤10,010[13] Successful release of Let George Do It and Dad and Dave Come to Town.
1939 ₤936[13]
1940 ₤2,821[13] Last Cinesound feature film produced, Dad Rudd, MP.
1941 ₤1,242
1942 ₤5,018[14]
1943 ₤4,973[15]
1944 31 December ₤7,223[16]
1945 31 December ₤1,392[16]
1946 31 December ₤1,433[17]
1947 31 December ₤6,012[18]
1948 31 December ₤3,355[19]

In February 1939 a company was registered, Cinesound Features Pty. Ltd., a subsidiary of Cinesound Productions Pty. Ltd, to produce the feature productions of the parent company. The directors of the new company were the same as Cinesound Productions: Norman Rydge, Edwin Geach, and John Goulston.[20]

Talent School[edit]

Cinesound established a talent school for young actors in 1938. Run by George Cross and Alec Kellaway (who acted in many Cinesound films), it offered training in "deportment, enunciation, miming, microphone technique and limbering." By 1940 the school had had over 200 students, including Grant Taylor and Yvonne East, who featured in Dad Rudd, MP (1940), plus Valerie Scanlon, Lorna Westbrook, Natalie Raine, and Mary Sinclair.[21]


Cinesound Productions produced feature films until the Second World War, when it was considered that feature films were too great a financial risk to undertake. Cinesound then concentrated on producing the Cinesound Review, a newsreel that they had been generating to exhibit alongside their feature films.

After the war, a British producer and exhibitor named J. Arthur Rank bought a controlling interest in Greater Union, and used the theatre chain primarily to exhibit British films, whilst discouraging local feature production. Hence Cinesound never regained its place as a major local film producer, and Australian film production was almost non-existent for the next two decades.

In 1940 the Australian Government decided to channel news footage to the public through the existing newsreel companies, Cinesound and Movietone. In the same year Cinesound abandoned feature production for the duration of the war.[22] By this stage it was estimated Cinesound films had earned ₤400,000 at the box office.[23]

In 1942 Cinesound provided the operational base for the film unit of the US Signal Corps to prepare newsreels for viewing to American troops in the South West Pacific theatre of the war.

In 1946 arrangements were made with the commercial film distribution companies to distribute selected Commonwealth Film Unit productions in Australian cinemas on a commercial basis. Similar arrangements existed for the release of general sponsored documentaries produced by Movietone and Cinesound.

Other Australian producers were almost totally deprived of access to commercial cinema screens.

Despite the success of Ken G Hall's last feature, Smithy, which was backed by Columbia Pictures as a means of repatriating frozen currency held in Australia due to wartime restrictions, Greater Union Theatres decided not to resume post-war production through Cinesound.

Feature Films[edit]

Short Films[edit]

Unmade Films[edit]

Various films were announced for production by Cinesound that were not made, including:

Hall intended to cast overseas stars in the lead of Overland Telegraph, Robbery Under Arms and Erueka Stockade.[37]

Robbery Under Arms[edit]

Of all these an adaptation of Robbery Under Arms was the most frequently discussed - Ken G. Hall later described it as "the film I wanted to make more than any other".[38] Film rights were bought from Raymond Longford and a script prepared with the movie meant to go into production in winter 1934 after making Cinesound Varieties, but it was originally postponed because of a desire to make the film in summer time.[39]

It was then announced the film would be made the next year following Grandad Rudd at a budget of £15,000. However this was abandoned because Cinesound were unsure whether the ban against bushranging films still applied.[40] The project was consistently announced until Cinesound's withdrawal from feature film production in 1940. After the war Hall tried to produce the film independently but was unable to secure the necessary funds.


  1. ^ UNESCO HONOURS CINESOUND MOVIETONE PRODUCTIONS – Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (Australia Section)
  2. ^ a b Ken G Hall Award goes to the late Tom Nurse – Australian Film Commission News & Events. 27 November 2003.
  3. ^ 'KEN HALL SAYS A WORD FOR AUSTRALIAN FILMS', The Courier-Mail (Brisbane) Thursday 13 July 1939 Section: Second Section. p 6
  4. ^ "AUSTRALIAN TALKIES.". The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 - 1954) (Perth, WA: National Library of Australia). 11 August 1933. p. 3. Retrieved 29 January 2012. 
  5. ^ 'QUEENSLAND FILMS Production Planned', The Courier-Mail (Brisbane), Monday 6 August 1934 p 20
  6. ^ 'AUSTRALIAN FILMS Company Increases Equipment', Barrier Miner (Broken Hill), Thursday 9 August 1934 Edition: HOME EDITION p 5
  7. ^ a b "SIX FEATURE FILMS EACH YEAR." The Argus (Melbourne) 20 November 1936: 11 accessed 29 November 2011
  8. ^ 'UNION THEATRES PROFITS AND PROSPECTS DETAILS OF ORGANISATION', The Argus (Melbourne), Saturday 6 July 1935 p 20
  9. ^ "AUSTRALIAN FILMS." Examiner (Launceston) 20 November 1936 7 Edition: DAILY accessed 15 December 2011
  10. ^ 'FILM FINANCES', Townsville Daily Bulletin (Qld), Thursday 6 January 1938 p 3
  11. ^ 'AMALGAMATED PICTURES. Results of Operating Companies', The Sydney Morning Herald, Thursday 28 July 1938 p 8
  12. ^ 'GREATER UNION GROUP Half-year's Profit', The Sydney Morning Herald, Wednesday 4 January 1939 p 10
  13. ^ a b c "GREATER UNION GROUP." The Argus (Melbourne) 30 Apr 1941: 2 accessed 12 December 2011
  14. ^ 'GREATER UNION Net Profit Increase', The Sydney Morning Herald, Wednesday 25 August 1943 p 5
  15. ^ "Finance, Commerce and Markets GREATER UNION GROW." The Sydney Morning Herald 30 Aug 1944: 5 accessed 12 December 2011
  16. ^ a b "Greater Union Results Best To Date." The Sydney Morning Herald 29 Aug 1947: 6 accessed 12 December 2011
  17. ^ "RECORD PROFITS FROM PICTURES." The Canberra Times 29 Aug 1947: 4 accessed 12 December 2011
  18. ^ "GTR. UNION PROFIT." The Sydney Morning Herald 27 Aug 1948: 5 accessed 12 December 2011
  19. ^ "Film Group's Steady Net Profit." The Sydney Morning Herald 7 Sep 1949: 6 accessed 12 December 2011
  20. ^ 'Cinesound Features', The Sydney Morning Herald, Tuesday 14 February 1939 p8
  21. ^ 'Australians Seek Fame, 200 in Starlet School' Sunday Times (Perth), Sunday 30 June 1940 p6
  22. ^ 'NO MORE FEATURE FILMS. Cinesound Decision', The Sydney Morning Herald, Friday 28 June 1940 p 9
  23. ^ 'THE TRAGEDY OF CINESOUND'S STRUGGLE A Brave Rearguard Action-Fought Over 10 Years Has Ended Because the Odds Were Too Great', The Argus (Melbourne), Saturday 13 July 1940 Supplement: The Argus Week-end Magazine p 2
  24. ^ a b "AUSTRALIAN FILMS." The West Australian (Perth) 20 Feb 1933: 8 accessed 7 December 2011
  25. ^ "AUSTRALIAN FILMS." The Sydney Morning Herald 16 Jun 1932: 9 accessed 9 December 2011
  26. ^ a b "AUSTRALIAN FILMS.". The Daily News (Perth, WA : 1882 - 1950) (Perth, WA: National Library of Australia). 1 July 1932. p. 9 Edition: HOME (FINAL) EDITION. Retrieved 4 August 2012. 
  27. ^ "AUSTRALIAN PRODUCTIONS." The West Australian (Perth) 14 Jul 1933: 2 accessed 15 December 2011
  28. ^ "CINESOUND FILMS." The Sydney Morning Herald 26 Oct 1935: 21 accessed 15 December 2011
  29. ^ "Notes on the Screen." The Argus (Melbourne) 6 November 1935: 10 accessed 15 December 2011
  30. ^ "CINESOUND FILMS.". The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954) (NSW: National Library of Australia). 14 December 1935. p. 12. Retrieved 12 August 2012. 
  31. ^ "AUSTRALIAN FILMS.". The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954) (NSW: National Library of Australia). 30 April 1936. p. 5. Retrieved 12 August 2012. 
  32. ^ "CAPTAIN HURLEY.". The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954) (NSW: National Library of Australia). 22 January 1936. p. 11. Retrieved 12 August 2012. 
  33. ^ "BIG PLANS FOR 'TALKIES'" The Courier-Mail (Brisbane) 20 November 1936: 6 accessed 29 November 2011
  34. ^ "FIVE AUSTRALIAN FILMS IN YEAR.". The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1931 - 1954) (Adelaide, SA: National Library of Australia). 9 August 1938. p. 21. Retrieved 15 August 2012. 
  35. ^ 'Cinesound Starts Production On Mahoney Film', The Mercury (Hobart), Saturday 1 July 1939 p 5
  36. ^ 'Jack Lester Plans New Perth Show', Sunday Times (Perth), Sunday 5 November 1939 p 5
  37. ^ "LACK OF FILM PLAYERS.". The Courier-Mail (Brisbane, Qld. : 1933 - 1954) (Brisbane, Qld.: National Library of Australia). 26 June 1939. p. 2. Retrieved 16 August 2012. 
  38. ^ Ken G. Hall, Directed by Ken G. Hall, Lansdowne Press, 1977 p93
  39. ^ 'CINESOUND'S PLANS. A Musical-comedy Revue', The West Australian, Thursday 29 March 1934 p 3
  40. ^ "BONUSES FOR FILMS.". The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954) (NSW: National Library of Australia). 20 October 1934. p. 20. Retrieved 10 August 2012. 

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