It’s the final day of the Darwin International Film Festival! And our love of film began here, in one of Darwin’s earliest and most loved picture theatres. The Star Theatre was located where the Smith Street Mall is today. Built by Snell and Gordon, the theatre sat over 800 people. Designed to be a versatile space, the stage was placed on rollers so that boxing matches could be held and the floor concreted in anticipation of future roller-skating events. When it finally opened in 1929, the first film shown was The Cat and the Canary which had a film reel that was reported to be 10,000 feet long. Scribbled on the back of this photo taken in 1933, is “Opening night of talkies, Darwin. (I'm here with Phyl). Note the mixed crowd.” Indeed the balcony was reserved for Darwin high society while working class and Aboriginal people, who were given permission from the Chief Protector of Aborigines to break their night-time town curfew so they could attend, were expected to sit downstairs. Despite losing popularity throughout the 1960s with two new cinemas in town, the Star continued to operate until Cyclone Tracy after which it closed forever.

Picture: Library & Archives NT. Audience within Star Picture Theatre, PictureNT, A. Jarvis Collection, PH0340/0035


Published: 25 September 2016

Forgotten Territory was a weekly photo column of historic images in the Northern Territory News which I curated from 2016 until 2019 supported by the collections of the Northern Territory Library and other cultural institutions around Australia, as well as local history Facebook groups. 

Click on the images to read the story behind the image.

Warning: May contain images of people who have died.

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These works were made on Arrernte, Larrakia, Gaddigal and Lenape land that was never ceded