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"Combine Developing Its Grip"

SYDNEY, Friday. - Statements were made at the film Inquiry to-day by Aus- tralian producers of motion pictures that there was a combine which was detri- mental to the Australian film industry. Some witnesses favoured the imposition of a quota, without which, they said, the industry could not be placed on a sound


Mr. Frank M. Thring, managing direc- tor of Efftee Film Productions, Melbourne, said that the continuance of the so-called good treatment of Australian films was at the whim and caprice of one or two in- dividuals, who in turn vere under the direction of foreign interests. Although "The Sentimenal Bloke" took £450 a week at first, and later £2,000 a week, he lost £5,000 on it. Without a quota the making of talking pictures in Australia could never be established on a sound foundation. English experience was that the only way to attract capital to the business of film making was to provide absolute security of release. That could be done only by legislative enactment. The two competing channels which were avail- able for the release of his pictures when he first went into the producing business had now been merged, which meant that he was now compelled to rely on the good- will of those interests, not only for terms but for actual release. He had been com- pelled to accept terms which, in view of the proved popularity of the productions, had not been equitable, and the occasion might arise at any time when he would be unable to obtain release at all.

The proper development of the industry, said Mr. Thring, called for a large capital. For Australians to make 52 pictures a year, which was only about 12J per cent, of the consumption, a capital of at least £500,000 would be required, apart from possibly £100,000 to establish suitable studios, plant, &c. This amount was too large for individuals to provide. No matter how much they might desire to develop the industry, and it was impossible to secure any public finance while the huge investment could be jeopardised at any moment because one individual in Australia or a board of directors in some foreign office did not want the Australian producer to get a share of the world's market, or even Its own. The people who opposed the quota were anxious that pic- ture production in Australia should not progress beyond its present limits. The question of restricting picture theatre licences vitally concerned the independent Australian producer. If a restriction were enforced it would be useless for anyone outside the particular friends of General Theatres Corporation to attempt to make Australian pictures. Such restriction would automatically put every theatre in Australia, no matter how small, under their direction. If the distributors ob- tained control they would force the ex- hibitor to sign block contracts, and it would be impossible for him to make room for Australian productions. If a com- bination of exhibiting companies secured control they would see to it that no Inde- pendent Australian producer could oper-

ate profitably.

Menace to Australian Industry

Mr. Charles Chauvel, who said that he had been In the film producing (silent and sound) industry for the last 14 years in Australia and in America, asserted that the future of Australian production de- pended entirely upon the attention given to the present situation. A huge combine of exhibiting interests, dominated or partly dominated by American capital, which every month was developing Its grip upon the whole industry, supplied the greatest menace to the present development of Australian film production, and the security of independent exhibitors. He was definitely in favour of destroying block-booking. Exhibitors should be pro- tected with a reasonable rejection clause in their contracts, and steps should be taken to reduce if possible the excessive charged being made upon the exhibitor by the proprietors of American reproducing equipment in order to preserve the spirit of competition and to retard the growth of any combine. There should be no re- striction on the theatre building activities of Australian companies which were backed by Australian capital.

"Quota System Greatest Asset"

Mr. Alexander Roy Harwood, director of Production Centenary Films Ltd., Mel- bourne, said that Australia was in a posi- tion to become one of the greatest film producing countries in the world, but owing to the ramifications of a certain combine progress in establishing this in- dustry in Australia was considerably re- tarded. The greatest asset in the suc- cessful establishment of the industry was the introduction of a quota system. The independent Australian producer was in a very precarious position.

Mr. Harwood said that his last produc- tion, "Secret of the Skies," had been ready for screening for nearly five months, but it had not been released, although it had been tried out In several suburban theatres and acclaimed a success.

Mr. George Patrick Hanna, of Pat Hanna Film Productions, supported other Australian producers in their appeal to the Government to give Australian pic- tures a quota which would adequately protect them and guarantee release of their product.

Mr. B. J. Grogan, who said he had been in the film business for 20 years with his interest on the exhibiting side, supported the proposal to build new theatres. He said that pool buying and "protection" were vicious evils in the industry. The chatter about quotas was the noise of the futile and the incompetent. As long as Australian films could be released the pro- ducer should not fear. The films should stand on their merits.

The inquiry was adjourned to Monday.