HISTORY OF MOVIES BY BURSWOOD (INC) t/a TELETHON COMMUNITY CINEMAS
Like all great ideas the beginnings of Movies by Burswood involved friends, food and good wine. Its Foundation Event Coordinator (and still laboring away) Ken Gibbons was at a dinner with friends commenting that there was no outdoor cinema in Perth catering for families and focusing on entertainment.
All the outdoor cinemas seemed to be specialist entities and not somewhere families could take their kids, along with blankets, pillows and a picnic, and let the kids sleep whilst the older members of the family watched the movie.
At the time Ken was the President of the Liquor Stores’ Association of WA and had long been involved in raising funds for the Kids’ Cancer Support Group at Princess Margaret Hospital, and had an association with the cinema industry since his student days at Curtin University (then the WA Institute of Technology). He was on the lookout for another fundraising means.
As all true friends are wont to do they encouraged Ken with a challenge to “put your efforts where your mouth is” and with the bravado of a novice thought “why not?”.
First task: choose the ideal location. Solution: Perth foreshore, Burswood Parklands.
Approaching the Burswood Park Board with the proposal of providing access to their parklands for an outdoor cinema at the peak of their summer use for a three month period seemed an easy mission.
In hindsight it was an incredible act of faith by the Burswood Park Board. That first year Movies by Burswood made just $2700 for its charities, the second $32k, then $88k, and progressively each year over the past 22 years so that today almost TWELVE MILLION DOLLARS has been raised.
The Burswood Park Board’s decision to support the event has been hopefully truly justified.
And the source of the first volunteers? Those same friends who challenged Ken became the first volunteers and since then many hundreds, if not thousands, have joined the ranks of the Movies by Burswood family of volunteers.
The first person Ken turned to for assistance was Ron Tutt who was a doyen of the film industry and a long time friend. Ron was given the challenge of meeting the technical and logistical needs of setting up an outdoor cinema. Ever the perfectionist Ron ensured that Movies by Burswood had no equal when it came to quality of presentation in outdoor cinemas.
Sadly, after 10 years of involvement and a very short illness, Ron passed away mid-Season in 2011.
Movies by Burswood lost another long-time volunteer, Steve Bertocchi, in 2009. Steve, one of Ken’s original “volunteers” helping out from the very beginning, was an enthusiastic member of the team and a great friend before passing away from mesothelioma.
They have been just part of what has made this event and this organisation special.
We have helped many organisations over the decades: the Kids’ Cancer Support Group at PMH, Speak Easy WA, Camp Quality, Youth Focus, Noah’s Ark, Horsepower WA, Rebound WA, Type 1 Diabetes, 12 Buckets, Edmund Rice Camps, Riding for the Disabled WA, Starlight Children’s Foundation, Ronald McDonald House Charities, Wheelchairs for Kids, Heart Kids WA, Kids’ Camps WA, Friends of Autism, the Perth Inner City Youth Service, Telethon and Variety WA along with a host of others.
We now have venues in Bassendean, Murdoch and Joondalup along with a mobile unit to complement Burswood with over one million attendees over the years.
It has maintained a policy of affordable family cinema with ticket prices not being increased since 2011, Companion Card holders and their companion being admitted free, and a series of free screenings each season.
In the age of digital technology the organisation has now twice faced the cost of change in projection. The original was the change from the century old 35mm film-based projection, to digital projection a dozen years ago and now the conversion to laser projection.
Being a not for profit, donating its funds, it does not qualify for depreciation nor for the original conversion rebates film distributors offered cinema chains like Event and Hoyts cinemas.
The digital conversion cost almost half a million dollars, and now laser projection will come with a million dollar price tag for the organisation.
The motivation behind all of this: the objective of Movies by Burswood is to improve the quality of life of children facing a health or physical ability crisis. Ken is a stutterer and understands the challenges in life associated with a health or physical disability. He sees Movies by Burswood as helping at least some kids overcome the challenges they face as did he.
Anyone can make a difference. The important thing is recognising you can and doing something about it.