Sun Pictures Cinema – World’s Oldest Outdoor Picture Garden

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Sun Pictures in a small Australian town went further than drive-ins or beanbag-heavy moonlight cinemas when it first opened its doors on December 9th 1916 with its first silent film screening.

Today, locals and tourists alike flock to relax on tin deck chairs while watching films in one of the oldest outdoor picture gardens in the world.

Movies Under the Stars

Sun Pictures in Broome, Western Australia is home to the world’s oldest outdoor picture garden, founded on December 9th 1916 and first showing silent movies. Though owners have changed over time, Sun Pictures remains open today despite various ownership changes; its under-cover foyer area and seating in the rear remain protected against the elements but its front half remains entirely exposed – contributing to its unique atmosphere where planes flying overhead is often an audible rumble at screenings.

Old black and white photos hung on the walls at Sun Pictures offer locals a delightful nostalgic trip. Just speak to any older resident of town and they’re bound to tell stories about watching movies at the theater with fish swimming right up to their feet! Tidal flooding was much less of a problem thanks to a levee bank constructed in 1974 – though seating was segregated at first due to social hierarchy at that time!

Sun Pictures is now one of the city’s go-to spots for movie enthusiasts who wish to watch a flick under the stars. Every year, Governor’s Island Arts sets up an outdoor screen on Parade Grounds (your GPS can help!) in the park and hosts free Movies Under the Stars events every Monday during the summer season.

No chairs or pillows will be provided; you are encouraged to bring blankets and chairs of your own for sitting on. The film starts at sunset, with pre-movie activities such as giveaways from D’Amore’s Pizza Truck and Apollo’s Expresso & Shave Ice beginning an hour beforehand. Plus you can purchase food and drinks from Hester Street Fair!

Rooftop Cinema Club is an incredibly popular outdoor screening venue, so arrive early to secure a prime spot on the lawn. Don’t forget your warmest sweater and watch for the beautiful skyline views as the movie unfolds – they make for great photography opportunities too! In contrast to most outdoor screenings, Rooftop Cinema Club provides state-of-the-art wireless headphones so that you can watch and converse without disturbing other attendees in the audience.

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History

Sun Pictures had long been considered an innovator of outdoor movie viewing since 1916 when their humble tin building welcomed locals and visitors eager to relax into a deck chair under an illuminated night sky to enjoy movies under the stars.

Ted Hunter was an avid film enthusiast and ordered plans for a picture theatre to be built in 1917, opening it officially in December with a silent movie screening. Over time it changed ownership but continued operating through WWII before eventually being converted to sound movie viewing capabilities after World War II had concluded.

Sun Pictures stands out among outdoor cinemas by continuing to operate and showing multiple movies per night (most outdoor cinemas only show one). As such, it was listed on the State Register of Heritage Places due to its historical value; when entering its building you step back in time!

Old black and white photos scattered throughout the venue provide a fascinating look into its rich history. Some photos depict floodwater sweeping right up to the doors before a levee bank was constructed in 1974; locals will recall watching movies with fish swimming around their feet before leaving to find that street submerged!

Beginning with its establishment, seating was segregated according to Broome’s social hierarchy at that time. Europeans sat in the centre with children up front while whites and Asians sat to one side while “coloured” people had to sit on hard wooden benches on the right with separate entrance doors and entered through separate door. A boycott was launched against such segregation but wasn’t resolved until 1967 when new rules were put into effect.

Although seats no longer segregate patrons by race, they still do not provide the most relaxing experience in town. Benches consist of metal frames with strips of fabric draped across them like deck chairs combined into one unit – not exactly comfortable seating conditions! What really takes the breath away though is what lies above; an unsullied night sky of twinkling stars above the screen makes for an impressive sight, while when an airplane lands nearby airport audiences might respond by cheering and applauding as it flies overhead!

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Food & Drink

Sun Pictures is not your average outdoor cinema. While there may be deck chairs to relax on and a large screen to watch movies from, what sets Sun Pictures apart is its history and legacy; locals and visitors alike want to watch films in this historic building that serves as more than simply architecture; it’s part of Broome’s landscape, an example of how this remote town has managed to remain true to itself for over 100 years.

As soon as you enter this humble double-fronted tin structure, you’re instantly taken back in time. While watching a film on its small screens, take in its many vintage artefacts scattered about – they will remind you just how much has changed yet how little has stayed the same over the decades.

Early cinema was an essential hub of social activity and many romances blossomed here. The first movie shown at a cinema was Kissing Cup on December 9th 1916; three years would pass before its adaptation for sound films was completed, yet even after this transition took place it continued to play an essential part of community life.

Conversation with any long-time Broome resident will almost surely yield stories about Sun Pictures Theatre as part of their childhood memories. You might hear tales about floodwater coming right up to the doors or watching films while lifting their feet to catch fish swimming underneath their seats! Today, only a few seats near the front seating area are covered for rain and sun protection – most of the theatre remains exposed. Plus it sits under Broome Airport’s flight path so don’t be surprised to see people lifting their heads in anticipation as planes whiz overhead!

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Parking

Broome in Western Australia pioneered outdoor cinema before drive-ins or beanbag-heavy moonlight cinemas were even imagined, starting off the outdoor movie trend with Sun Pictures – now the world’s oldest operating picture garden. Even today this humble double-fronted tin structure still attracts locals and tourists eager to sit comfortably under the stars on deck chairs while watching movies at an integral part of their community.

Sun Pictures opened for business in December 1916 as an experimental silent movie theatre, showing silent movies. Over time as film technology improved and sound movies became widely available, so did Sun Pictures; adapting for sound production in 1933 caused its name to change to “Sun Pictures”.

Today, the Sun Pictures Gardens have become a UNESCO World Heritage Site and can be found on many itineraries of Broome. While open year-round, for optimal experiences they should be experienced between October and April when weather conditions are most suitable.

Pearlers would gather here to watch movies, meet women and court potential future wives. It served as a social hub and is believed to have seen relationships start and end on these premises. Unfortunately, those days have since passed but the building retains an air of nostalgia.

Sun Pictures seats are bench frames covered in strips of fabric draped across them – not exactly luxurious but still plenty comfortable enough. Upstairs seats offer incredible views of an unpolluted night sky filled with twinkling stars; yet what really leaves many visitors scratching their heads in wonder is what lies above the screen itself: Sun Pictures sits beneath Broome Airport!

Locating our facility: Parking can be found in a private parking structure on level 4, in the building with the ramp. Guests can enter the cinema from here but please note that spaces are limited and cannot be booked onsite. Alternatively, Franklin Ave provides free street-level parking options.