Agitation for the Government censorship of films and posters began about 1911. Some titles and film posters were rather lurid, but exhibitors censored their films with discretion so that those who went expectantly to see such films as The White Slave Traffic (“adults only”) came away disappointed. The Cinematograph Film Censorship Act of 1916 provided for the censorship of films and its amendment in 1926 for the censorship of posters. The various regulations were consolidated in the Cinematograph Films Act of 1928, and in 1956 the Censorship Regulations were revised on the advice of the Film Censor, Gordon Mirams, to provide for five classes of certificate: (G) Approved for general exhibition; (Y) Recommended as suitable for persons aged 13 and over; (A) Recommended as suitable for adults only (persons aged 16 and over); (R) Screening restricted to persons over a specified age or to a specified class of audience; and (S) Recommended as suitable or unsuitable for a specified class of audience. These provisions make it possible for the Film Censor to reduce the number of excisions and to give guidance, especially to parents, as to the suitability of particular films. The (R) certificate covers most of the controversial films and the (S) certificate gives the censor the opportunity to recommend films especially suitable for children or family audiences. Appeals against the Censor's ruling may be made to a film appeal board.
New Zealanders in 1960–61 went to the pictures about 18 times per head of population. There were some 46,000,000 admissions to 511 theatres for a return of £5,396,000. The organisation of the motion picture industry has been the subject of reports by parliamentary committees in 1934 and in 1949. Most of the city theatres and many suburban theatres are controlled by Kerridge-Odeon or by Amalgamated Theatres Ltd. Smaller suburban and country theatres are controlled by independent exhibitors. Exhibitors obtain their films from film distributors who distribute the films of overseas producers, collect rentals, deduct expenses and charges, and remit the balance to the producing organisations. There is no customs duty on the importation of films, but the film distributors pay a film-hire tax – 10 per cent of their net receipts for British films and 25 per cent for foreign films, and exhibitors pay an amusement tax which is included in the price of admission. In 1961–62 the film-hire tax amounted to £190,000 and amusement tax for cinemas to £493,000. Both film distributors and cinemas are licensed by the Cinematograph Films Licensing Authority.
The Film Industries Board consists of four members of the Motion Picture Distributors Association, four members of the Exhibitors Associations, and a retired Stipendiary Magistrate appointed by the Minister of Internal Affairs. It acts as a tribunal to settle disputes between distributors and exhibitors and advises the Government on matters concerning the motion-picture industry. The Cinematograph Films Act of 1961 consolidated and amended the legislation relating to cinematograph films and brought into statute law important matters of principle formerly included in regulations.
Television was established in New Zealand in Auckland, Christchurch, and Wellington in 1961, and in Dunedin in the following year. The programmes consist largely of cinema films or films specially made overseas for television. An increasing proportion is of films made in New Zealand to cover local events. It is too soon to estimate the influence of television on cinema attendance or its importance in education.
by Walter Bernard Harris, M.A., DIP.ED., DIP.SOC.SCI., formerly Supervisor Teaching Aids, Department of Education Wellington.