On May 28, 1953, the 3D movie craze arrived in Brisbane with the screening of Hollywood motion picture Bwana Devil at the St James theatre. Brisbane critics greeted this new gimmick with mixed reviews. A reporter from The CourierMail was thrilled by the screening: “Yesterday I was pawed at by lions, nearly embraced by a screen siren and narrowly missed being impaled on a spear.” A film critic for the same newspaper was less enamoured: “For the first 10 minutes this effect is star tling, novel; but for the next 80 minutes it is just sheer eye-strain.”
Some predicted that 3D movies (affectionately referred to as “Deepies” ) would replace conventional films. This presented a dilemma for theatre owners: would the costly equipment required to screen the new films and refitting their cinemas be a good investment?
During 1953 and 1954, several theatres around Queensland chose to embrace the new technology. In September 1953, Rockhampton became the only provincial theatre in Australia equipped to project 3D films, and the first to screen a 3D film outside of a capital city. Theatres in other cities followed suit, including the Civic in Townsville, the Palace in Cairns and the Rialto in Ipswich. In April 1954, a representative of Warner Bros said that 3D “seemed to have more appeal in Queensland than in southern states”.
Only two months later, in June 1954, The Sunday Mail reported: “Deepies are dead – Hollywood junks 3D at vast cost”. For the next few decades the third dimension was ignored, bar a small resurgence in the 1980s. It wasn’t until the 2000s that 3D made its way back into mainstream films.