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Monthly Film Bulletin November 1949

Page history last edited by FilmSociety@gmail.com 6 years, 4 months ago



The Report of the Motion Picture Industry Committee presented to Parliament during its last session is mainly concerned with what the Committee and most witnesses agreed was 'the tendency towards monopoly... inherent in the motion picture business' in New Zealand. The publication of the Report was immediately followed by Regulations designed to combat the further growth of monopoly control in the industry. Reports of the Committee's findings on monopolies and of the Regulations appeared in the local Press.

But the Committee's reccommendations on the licensing and exhibition of substandard (16mm) and on the status of the New Zealand Film Institute, matters of some interest to film society members, received little or no publicity. The Film Institute's most immediate concern in submitting evidence to the Committee was to ensure that film societies could continue their activities unimpeded by restrictive licensing conditions. Licensing is demanded for all commercial exhibitions of either 35mm or 16mm film, but the film societies have always claimed that they are non-commercial and do not need to be licensed. The Institute's submissions were largely accepted by the Committee in respect of their non-commercial nature. The Report suggests that film societies will have little to worry about on the score of licensing in future.

If Regulations based on the Report are gazetted, it appears likely that film societies will have to obtain licenses from the Controller of Film so that certain elementary safeguards in connection with censorship, audience fire and panic protection, and commercial competition are observed - as they are at present. But the Committee has reccommended that film societies should be licensed as non-comcommercial exhibitors and exempted from the conditions of the commercial exhibitors license. This sounds very satisfactory but the Committee has not escaped some ambiguities. For it further recommended that the licensing officer, in deciding on the issue of non-commercial exhibitors' licenses, should also decide whether or not commercial use was being made of a film. If it is, then the exhibitor will lose his exemption from the commercial conditions.


The proposed system of non-commercial licensing would appear, then, to be based on not one, but two, tests of 'non-commercial' - the exhibitor and the film. The Committee has evaded solving the problems that have worried the Institute and the licensing officer in the past, Perhaps there is no water-tight solution, if not, the Committee might well have adopted the wisest and most satisfactory course by giving the licensing officer discretionary power. The licensing officer is empowered to protect the industry against 'unfair competition', and his discretion will decide what is 'unfair'. Though the Institute's request to secure non-commercial recognition for film societies that might screen first-release feature films of an unusual nature was not granted, yet, as the Committee's good-will towards the aims of the Institute and the film societies was made quite clear, it is unlikely that the licensing officer will make unfavourable decisions about particular films.

The recommendations of the Committee on the 'encouragement of the best films generally' were, as might have been expected, brief
and unoriginal. 'It is not possible,' the Report reads, 'to make specific recommendations regarding the normal commercial channels of
exhibition. Under commercial exhibition the earning-capacity of particular films - the box-office test - must be the deciding factor as to what type of film is shown, in what numbers, for what duration and in what cinemas. Up to the present, though many of them have been highly commended by overseas critics, even the best continental films have, with few exceptions achieved little or no popularity here, and it is clearly impossible to force public taste in such matters. If encouragement to the exhibition of better films is to be given, it must come mainly through the development of public taste and appreciation.'

How did  the Committee think this could be done? 'In bringing about such development, the film societies, library fiIm groups, and
other channels of non-commercial exhibition of sub-standard film ... though small in numbers, appear to be growing in influence. The co-ordinating body, which represents most of such groups, is the New Zealand Film Institute, the counterpart in New Zealand of similar bodies in Britain, Australia, Canada, United States of America and elsewhere. The British Film Institute receives a substantial Government grant in furtherance of its work, and it is reccommended that the New Zealand Film Institute, working in the field of adult education, should be given every possible encouragement."

Let's hope a pot of gold lies hidden behind this recommendation.


- John O'Shea


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