The world premiere of the movie A Town Like Alice was held at the Alice Springs open-air Pioneer Theatre (at what is now the YHA) on 24 July 1956.
Donning coats, scarves and blankets as protection from the chilly desert night, the ‘bush’ premiere was reportedly a relaxed occasion.
The event was so informal in fact that The Argus (28 July 1956) jokingly reported that “Hollywood would have been horrified by the easy-come-easy-go attitude of the townsfolk”.
The Australian Women’s Weekly described in beautiful detail the deckchairs, casual clothes and bright moonlight during the screening.
The Weekly also described the performance just before the intermission in which Western Arrernte men and women from Hermannsburg (Ntaria) sang the hymns ‘Lest We Forget’ and ‘The Lord Has Ascended on High’ in Arrernte.
Present at the premiere were many dignitaries including Peter Finch (who brought as his date Beryl Oliver, the air hostess from his flight to Alice Springs), Nevil Shute, Jock Nelson and Gough Whitlam.
It was reported that in the final few minutes of the film, the people of Alice Springs expressed themselves in “a great ripple of amusement” when they saw themselves as extras.
One was local businessman Reg Harris, who was quite dismissive about the premiere in his oral history interview with Library & Archives NT (NTRS 226 TS 859) saying that he “always thought there was a bit of an overreaction — everyone raving on about this film A Town Like Alice — because it actually wasn’t about Alice Springs, it was a town like Alice”