Het is vandaag precies 125 jaar geleden dat the Limelight Department werd opgericht, the world’s first film studio. Men zou dan geneigd zijn te denken dat dit in de Verenigde Staten was, of desnoods nog in Groot-Brittannië, maar nee, het was in Melbourne, Australia. En wat nog straffer is, ze werd opgericht door… The Salvation Army.
The Salvation Army was certainly progressive and innovative in its early approach to spreading the Gospel; the Brass Band – the pop-music medium of the time – is a prime example.
However, it is in the area of multi-media presentations that The Salvation Army showed itself as most inventive.
Captain Joseph Perry (bovenstaande foto), whilst manager of the Ballarat Prison-Gate Home, set up his own photographic studio and dark room. He produced and used his own glass lantern-slides to emphasise his sermons and lectures.
Such was the impact of his lantern shows that in November 1891 he was brought to the Melbourne Headquarters by Major Frank Barritt to produce a set of lantern-slides to advertise the forthcoming visit of William Booth to Australia. Thus, led by Major Barritt and Captain Perry, the “Limelight Department” of The Salvation Army was born.
The Limelight Department was the Salvation Army’s pioneering film production and presentation unit in Australia. Between 1892 and 1909 it produced many productions, including 300 films and the major multimedia presentations Soldiers of the Cross and Heroes Of The Cross. The unit also documented Australia’s Federation ceremonies in 1901.
Australia’s first dedicated film studio was created by The Salvation Army at 69 Bourke Street, Melbourne, in a room that still stands preserved much as it was at the turn of the century.