From intermissions to ice cream trays: Remembering our old cinemas

A trip to the cinema has changed a lot over the years. Source: Getty.

A trip to the cinema is an event that has lasted decades, but it’s changed a lot over the years – and some of the much-loved traditions of the 1960s and ‘70s have disappeared over time.

While it was once a treat for the whole family – and one of the only ways to catch a new movie – there are now more options to download and watch movies from home, changing the experience for many.

Meanwhile, as larger chains have expanded and taken over smaller, local cinemas, the old traditions we loved growing up have been replaced by more commercial and cost-effective methods, catering for larger crowds in one go.

One of the most cherished memories of earlier, smaller cinemas was the intermissions mid-way through the film.

Staff would come down to stand in front of the screen and in the stairways with trays full of ice cream tubs and wooden spoons, along with sugary snacks such as Fantales, Minties or Jaffas, ready for the second half.

Read more: We’ve come a long way since the theatre of the forties and fifties!

Now, those breaks have largely disappeared, as cinemas pack in more movies per day and more adverts and trailers to promote upcoming premieres.

Another fond memory for many was standing to either sing, or listen to, the national anthem before the movie began playing. While this may not have been a regular occurrence right across the country, many picture theatres made it mandatory.

Writing on community Facebook page ‘Australia Remember When’, the owner of the site wrote: “Pictures would start about 2pm and after we stood for the national anthem (God Save the Queen) the pictures would start.”

They added of the intermission: “After we stocked up with dixie ice creams and Jaffas, it was back to our seats ready for the Heckle and Jeckle cartoon and then the main picture.”

Meanwhile, drive-through cinemas are still popular across Australia, but they too have changed a fair bit over the past few decades. Many people may remember seeing a children’s play area under the main screen, giving kids some entertainment during the lengthy films.

Another user on the social media page remembered: “Everybody bundled in the car, kids in their jim-jams and mum would have made some sandwiches for tea, or as a special treat we’d be allowed to get a pie or some chips and a coke from the kiosk at interval. Remember how mum would always take a thermos of tea too because it seemed like tea time could never be complete without a nice cup of tea!”

One of the most obvious changes is the huge advance in technology, transforming black and white films to the 3D and animated pictures we see today.

As larger chains continue to expand across the world, the smaller intimate cinemas have begun to disappear. While a few have survived more modern times, often renovating to offer people a more nostalgic experience, others have been developed into new businesses.

Another user on the Facebook page, Ian Keith Kershaw‎, shared a photo of a now-repurposed cinema in Wynyard, Tasmania, dating back to 1926. It’s since been taken over by the neighbouring Wharf Hotel.

Others in Adelaide were taken over by Tom the Cheap Supermarkets, pharmacies and hardware stores.

While many people have no doubt embraced more modern changes to their cinema experiences, others still mourn the loss of older traditions.

A Reddit user asked the popular chat site why intermissions had all but disappeared, and they got a mixed response from other internet users. One wrote: “It is mostly so theatres can make sure they run as many shows in a day as possible.”

Others slammed the amount of trailers and adverts now shown before films, while another added: “Trailers are fine, but I hate when they show commercials before even the trailers start. It’s gotten so bad here there are literally 30-45 minutes of stuff after the lights dim and before the movie starts.”

Do you miss the older cinemas and traditions of the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s? What memories do you have of them?

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