The ABC, said to be no more than a galvanised iron shed, was operated by the Australian Biograph Company until 1917; and The Lyric was run by the Sydney Picture Company until around 1913.
The two theatres entertained audiences with “the latest & best” silent films of the era, including the “great Australian sensational drama” What Women Suffer, a melodrama first produced for the Lyric Theatre in Melbourne.
In 1914, another cinema opened its doors in Mosman thanks to local resident and entrepreneur Arthur Russell Keeling.
The businessman purchased an ice-skating rink on the corner of Spit Rd and Clifford St, before converting it to a movie house in 1913, calling it The Australian Theatre of Pictures.
One of its first screenings was ‘With Captain Scott R.N. To The South Pole’, a silent film that told the story of Captain Robert Scott’s expedition to the South Pole in 1912.
The first talkie to be screened at The Australian was the Warner Bros film about a plane crash in Antarctica called ‘Conquest’, which aired on September 18, 1929.
Ownership of The Australian changed hands many times between 1921 and 1936, with picture show proprietor Frederick Crane taking over in June 1930, Fullers Theatres Ltd in 1931 and then its original owner, Arthur Keeling, buying it back in December 1936.