If anyone had the ability to laugh, tell jokes and anecdotes in the face of adversity, especially his own, it was our long time and valued member of AMMPT, Hedley Sims. While not unexpected due to a prolonged and courageous battle in recent years with cancer, the local cinema community felt a great sadness and loss when the final day came. Hedley’s knowledge of, and contribution to the local industry during his career will be irreplaceable, as will be his irrepressible wit and encouragement he gave to others.
Hedley breaks down a programme at one of our Cygnet screenings
Adrian Peter Hedley Sims was born in York, Western Australia on November 22nd 1937 to parents who were in the farming and farrier business. It was not until the Sims family moved to Midland Junction in the 1940s and Hedley was exposed to photography and “pictures” at Midland Junction High School that his future was mapped. Hedley joined a “picture circuit” where huge reels of movie film were transported around the countryside to local halls to show pictures to the various communities. Hedley fell in love with the movie industry as he learned to “thread up” the rolls of film in the huge projectors, “strike up the arc”, show the advertising slides which were then on glass slides which had to be physically manipulated in a slide projector – and then the “pictures” began.
Tribute to Hedley Sims (1937-2011)
In this tribute, we hear Hedley’s at the Cinema City wake in 2007. Hedley was the chief projectionist at this movie complex from 1988 till 1994.
In 1954 he began his first “real” job in the cinema industry as an assistant operator with Consolidated Theatres at their venue in Bassendean. Hedley gained his own circuit in 1957 and for several years showed pictures at halls at Carila, Byford, Cannington – halls that had a projectionist bio-box attached as part of the building. At one stage Hedley even contemplated opening his own specially built “picture gardens” – but television began to emerge on the horizon and the “picture industry” contracted into specifically built large movie houses. Who could forget the grandeur of the Piccadilly Theatre or the Grand Theatre in central Perth, where Hedley eventually worked showing many of the block-busters of the era.
The introduction of Cinemascope and Surround Sound were further adjuncts to the movies of those years and going to the “pictures” really was a great occasion, with Usherettes directing the audience to their seats. Hedley’s extensive experience resulted in him being offered a job as Senior projectionist in 1960 at the Haymarket Carlton when he traveled to London.
In 1968 Hedley was involved in the technical fit-out and opening of the Cygnet cinema in Como, previously known as the Como Pictures. He went on at that venue as its Chief Projectionist until in 1970 was appointed Relief Chief Projectionist at City theatres CBD venues, the Piccadilly, Grand and the Royal. In 1974 till 1979 he was Chief Projectionist at the Grand, then moving into the chain’s flagship drive-in, the Skyline.
1981 saw Hedley return to the Piccadilly and in 1981 was appointed the Chief technical Supervisor for City theatres. With the building of the TVW7/City Theatres CBD complex, Hedley was in charge of that venue from 1988 till 1994.
Hedley’s movie career spanned 54-years and involved work ranging from traveling picture show circuits, suburban and city venues, and Drive-ins, and later, with the re-discovery of outdoor cinemas, operated at venues such as the Joondalup Pines Picture Garden during UWA’s annual summer Perth International Arts Festival. Hedley’s movie projectionist expertise in the sourcing of cinema equipment was also utilized on a consultancy basis with many other groups, and as a member of the Australian Museum of Motion Picture & Television, Hedley continued his fervour for the film industry to ensure that future generations became aware of past film technology. He believed in today’s world of instant movies with DVDs. Blue Ray, USB thumb drives via computers or home movie theatres, today’s generation will not have been exposed to the early days of the movie industry where “going to the pictures” was the highlight of the week. Friday evening or Saturday afternoon matinee or Saturday night at the “pictures” was a prime social event in the 1950s and 1960s and one of the main entertainment mediums.
The Society of Australian Cinema Pioneers – WA Branch of that Society has selected Hedley as their 2011 Pioneer of the Year as a person who in their opinion has given outstanding service to the Motion Picture Industry. Notification of this Award was only received after Hedley had passed on – but family and anyone involved in the film industry will know that in that “great movie house in the sky ” Hedley’s film industry skills will be in demand, and he will be “striking up the arc, dimming the lights, opening the curtains, and on with the show”!
On June 15th 2011 Western Australia lost a stalwart of the movie industry. Hedley leaves his loving wife Valmae, two sons and eight grand-children and many memories of a man whose dedication to an industry was unique.