Opened: Early to middle sixties
Location: Waiganui, Port Moresby
Capacity: 450 cars (Including a set of ramps that were supplied with sound by several post mounted flare speakers)
Screens: One, 85 foot wide
Facilities: Fully licensed restaurant, snack bar, candy bar, seating, children's playground
Operator: Far Northern Theatres
Most Important Product sold: What else - SP Beer!
Closed: Middle Eighties, now an Industrial site
PORT MORESBY DRIVEIN - IN CINEMASCOPE!!!
This photo (I've stretched it a bit) was taken from the top
of the screen tower. The front building housed the projection room
and the hot food snack bar was at the back of the building. There
was seating at the left end of the main building, 60 to 80
seats?, the candy bar was located behind the seating and the office
door is visible also behind the seating. The gap to the right of
centre was the entrance steps to the restaurant. The patio areas
were separated by a lattice fencing. The bar was stocked with a good
selection of wines, spirits, champagne and of course, SP and San Miguel
beers. The toilets were off the right hand side of the building.
Behind the main building were several storage sheds and a Boyhouse. To the right of the trees at the right of the photo was a Besser block building that housed the film vault and another Boyhouse. (A Boyhouse is accommodation for the workers)
The ramp that runs off to the back left of the building was fed by flare speakers that were used only on demand.
The entrance and box-office was off to the right of the photo and further right again was the generator set which fed the drive-in and the Wards Cinema on a nightly basis. The generator was a Caterpillar unit housed in its own shed.
The roof that is visible to the left of the trees at the right was the General Managers residence.
Here are two more photos of the Skyline Drive-in (and the photo
featured earlier - correct size) which were also taken from the top of
the screen frame. The first photo is the right side of the field
when facing the screen and behind the trees on the left hide the area where
the peanut plantation was located and is also the area where there were
remains of aircraft engines, etc from the WWII era.
The latter photo shows the box-office at the back edge of the field. The trees to left of the box-office hide the film vault and boyhouse and hidden in the trees to the right of the box-office was the power generator. The building that is visible also to the right of the box-office is the Wards Cinema.
The generator was an absolute necessity as the local power supply was totally unreliable and if a show was to be completed it was far better to be running on the generator. The generator supplied both the drive-in and Wards Cinema.
The Panoramic view!
Another photo, it was from the same vantage point at the top of the screen frame. The 'road' that is running off to the top left of the photo is the remains of Wards strip, the landing field from WWII. The round building in the distance was affectionately referred to as 'The Pineapple Building'. The square building in the background is the Australian High Commission.
(Thanks to Michael Pace for photos & description)
Doesn't these photos just make you thirsty for an SP!
The Skyline Drive-in and Wards Cinema were situated on the same site in the suburb of Waigani. On the same site were the General Managers residence and a small cottage where the Technical/Operations Manager lived.
All the performances were double features. The equipment line-up in later years were Toshiba projectors and soundheads with 6000ft spools, Strong X-60 B 4000 watt xenon lamps and rectifiers.
The Drive-in had a fully licensed restaurant, as well as a hot food snack bar, candy bar, seating for around 80 people on the patio and a children’s play ground in front of the screen. The field could accommodate 450 cars including the ramps that were supplied with sound by the flare speakers. The speakers were fed from a separate amplifier that was in the managers office and only turned on if required, which was most week-end nights.
"The locals went, but more tended to watch
from outside the fence seems to be my recollection. There may even
have been a pit area under the screen for them to sit in."
" My family and I lived in Port Moresby for a few years before the
advent of TV and Video Clubs. The drive in was a regular , we arrived and
unpacked our chairs,cushions and food . Looking around this was a customary
thing which we and other's did on a DRY night. It was mostly crowded and
we had often to queue to get in and out.I
remember that adverts were shown before the main film."
"Security staff patrolled the fences, ramps, Wards Cinema carpark and general areas, also acted as car-hops at the boxoffice and were indispensable when it was time to transfer money back to the treasury. The old film vault at the back of the projection room was used many times to lock up people that had been caught jumping over the fence. At the end of the performance they would be forcibly removed from the drive-in. The property would be guarded overnight. Manopi, a Southern Highlander patrolled the area armed with a bow and arrows. If you needed to leave the house during the night you made sure that he knew who you were as he shot first and asked questions later" [Editor's note - I'll have to be careful next time I'm at Coburg - who knows...?]
"They showed the same movies that you would have been watching in Australia as the drive-in was built prior to Independence. In later years they were bringing in a selection of kung-fu movies from Hong Kong which were very popular. The most successful movie ever shown in PNG would have probably been an obscure little movie called TEARDROPS which was an Indian production. By our standards it was nearly laughable, made on a shoestring budget where the shoestring actually frayed badly, but it drew record PNG crowds."
"The site of the Skyline Drive-in and Wards Cinema was on part of the World War 2 landing field called Wards Strip. The right side of the field had a selection of aircraft engines and metal that were from that era. One of our staff asked permission to grow peanuts on the right side and several weeks later it was brought to my notice that a projectile was being tossed out of the way every time that the peanut plantation was becoming larger. I called in the army just in case that it was a problem. The team from the army finally arrived, took one look and promptly turned white. They stationed one soldier to make sure nobody touched it while they went and picked up a truck filled with sandbags. They picked it up packed it into the sandbags and slowly drove away. I was told later that they had blown it up to quite a spectacular display."
"You made no mention in your reminiscences about the fogging machine going around the drive in lanes at interval. I think some people actually looked forward to breathing the stuff in... The 'fogging machine' was on the back of a light truck or ute. The 'fog' was to kill any mosquitoes. There was always mossies around there... I think the 'fog' is mainly kerosene vapour."
"I lived in Port Moresby from 1955 to 1961. In addition to the fogging machine, the proprietors also used to hand out mosquito coils. I think the mosquitos, and being in the car with windows wound up while my parents smoked, are my main memories of the Skyline.
Prior to the Skyline, Wards Strip was a magic place of paved runways, taxiways and wrecks of planes. This was made all the more magic by my father having been based there for a short while before moving North with his B24 squadron. Looking at the area from Google Earth, it's such a shame that its all gone."
“Moresby story: Whilst watching the James Bond film "Dr No" at the Skyline Drive-In during 1977 the screen suddenly went blank about 2/3rds of the way through the film. A nervous voice then came over the speakers and advised that the theatre did not have the final reel, there was no more film, go home. And we did just that, went home, no refund, no re-screening at a later date, nothing........”
And a funny story from Rick Washington (former projectionist)
"Browsing your website about Wards, has prompted me to contact you with my not so favourite, but funny memory.
For years I was a projectionist at the Skyline, (in the days of 400ft loads and Carbon arc lamps) and I was there during the construction of Wards cinema. As the projectors, in Wards, were the 70mm units from the old 4mile theatre, I was keen to learn to operate them. Harvey Porter, (manager) approved my training by allowing me to talk to the technicians and have some practice screenings before the opening nite.
Came the big nite and the theatre was packed to capacity with all guests being invited. Food and drinks were served before hand and every one was is a happy mood. Meanwhile, I had loaded a 2000ft spool on to the machine, and had spliced the national anthem on to the head of the feature . At 8pm
Harvey gave a short speech and invited every on to enjoy the show. That was my cue to down house lights and start the show. My heart must have been doing 200BPM and was trying to jump out of my chest. I was nervous as hell. On switching on the run motor, I was supposed to turn the take up spool by hand to take up the slack . I stuffed it up and I broke the film at the bottom sprocket and , it backed up into the gate, where it jammed. In the theatre, everyone had stood up and of course, The Queen became a still on the screen and then she very quickly burnt up.
Closing the Dowser on the projector, left them all “in the dark”,
whilst my trembling and shaking hands tried to re thread the film.
Finally, I got it going , but management was hot happy. It was a
total stuff up on my part, but it did not end my projecting stint
with them as I stayed on for a number of years."
here for further recollections
Wards cinema was also on the Drive-in site. There was a sign on front
of the cinema that said "NO FARKING IN THE DRIVEWAY" !!! (see photos).
Thanks to Michael Pace for these photos.
The entrance to the drive-in was double lanes at the back of the
cinema separated by a
very well kept garden. At the very edge of the side view of the cinema is the large poster
board. These photos will certainly jog the memories of the people who were in Port Moresby and
knew the Skyline Drive-in. Wards had a massive curved screen measuring 21.5ft x 50ft, and
fully equipped for six channel 70mm presentations.
A relevant article (uncredited, possibly by Geoff Masters)
Equipment from the Glencoe Theatre later used in the theatrette under the General Manager's residence.
The remains of the drive-in in 1993 when visited by Michael Pace.
Acknowledgements and thanks to Michael Pace, Ross Eastgate OAM, Keith Chamberlain, Robert Campbell, Scott Martin, Lloyd Bunting, Nigel Quayle, Rick Washington and Trevor Michie for the material used on this page.
Does anybody have any further information or photos of PNG Drive-ins? If so, please email Peter Berrett at firstname.lastname@example.org Contributions will be gratefully acknowledged.
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