36 Todd Street,
Alice Springs, NT 0870

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Located across the street from the Stuart Arms Hotel in what was then known as the town of Stuart (re-named Alice Springs on 1st August 1933. The first movie screenings in Alice Springs were in the Cinema which opened in 1927. The Stuart Arms Hotel was demolished in 1986 during construction for the new Todd Mall. The site is now a two storey shopping centre(Alice Plaza).

Contributed by David Coppock

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film on December 15, 2018 at 2:17 pm

GREG LYNCH SAYS…SILENT MOVIES COME TO STUART, NT, AUSTRALIA – Stuart, wide open frontier town, a thousand long miles from Darwin, and Adelaide in the south. Looking for new opportunities, South Australians Joe and Eileen Kilgariff arrived in 1927 with their four children. Joe was a builder by trade with a family background in hotel-keeping and an entrepreneurial passion for showing movies. Previous experience as a projectionist in Barmera SA had told him that movies were a growth business, and to make sure he had brought all his equipment with him. Almost immediately he set up shop and began showing silent movies in an old Iron shed that he called a cinema, located just across the road from “The Stuart Arms”. Meanwhile, Eileen in the months that followed had been studying the comings and goings of the hotel, and a decision was made to take over the lease. History confirms that Leonard Malvern Frances, and Reginald Valentine Naughton transferred the lease of “The Stuart Arms” to Eileen Elizabeth Kilgariff on the 8th November 1927.The Stuart Alms was located on the corner of Todd and Parsons Streets. Joe began to renovate, upgrade and extend the building. In 1929 Steve Kilgariff joined his brother Joe and moved his family to Stuart in an attempt to escape a major slump in the South Australia building industry. The family arrived with great expectations on the new Ghan train. Bernie, Steve’s son was commandeered as a bell ringer to promote Joe’s cinema business. On a Saturday night sometime back in the late 20’s it probably sounded like this, “Tonight, Tonight, Electric Pictures here Tonight” as a young Bernie marched up and down Parsons Street ringing his bell and calling out on the top of his voice. In later life he was to tell stories of how this was his introduction to public speaking, and how he would anxiously wait for the weekly episode of the serial to arrive on the Ghan. Usually made up of 12 episodes, patrons took their serial very seriously. Joe Kilgariff pioneered the exhibition of silent moving pictures in the Alice, and It is assumed that this continued until the arrival of sound three years later. Eileen’s sister, Mona Minahan arrived in 1932 and began working in the family business at the Stuart Arms Hotel. Mona became the Territory’s first bar maid and went on to become a legendary Alice identity. For the Kilgariff family, following the trail of the iron rail to Stuart began the formation of a dynasty that would see them building their way across the length and breadth of the Northern Territory. This was in places as diverse as Daly River, Barrow Creek, Tennant Creek, Winnecke, Aileron and The Granites. It wasn’t until 1 August 1933 that the township and name of Stuart was officially changed and gazetted as Alice Springs.

NB: Contrary to legend there are no records of any cinema screenings at “The Stuart Arms”. There are no known photographs of Joe Kilgariff’s cinema, which was located opposite “The Stuart Arms”. The information in the opening paragraph comes from the published recollections & public interviews of Bernard Francis Kilgariff AM, who was a successful Australian politician and a founding member of the Country Liberal Party. Bernie Kilgariff died at the age of 86, on 13 April 2010 …

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