Pioneer of the YearSA & NT


Phillip (Phil) started as a third boy at the Port Elliot Institute in 1965 (while still at High School), then followed his cousin to the Port Elliot Drive In as an unpaid assistant during school holidays and some weekends. As he was doing a motor mechanic apprenticeship, he also kept in touch with the projection room via a church hall which had a pair of RCA Star of Star 35mm projectors.

After his apprenticeship ended in January 1971, Phil went to work for MGM Distribution for the last 6 months of its life, and during that time he obtained his South Australian Projectionist Licence. From there he was employed by Wallis Theatres at the Valleyline Drive In. In April 1976 Phil and his family packed up and moved to Queensland. While there he worked casually at the Toombul Cinema when it was a single screen, then was able to get a fulltime job at the Village Twin Cinema in New Farm.

For family reasons Phil returned to South Australia in mid 1977, working casually in a couple of cinemas until he commenced work at the Warner Theatre in the city which at the time was under the control of Freeman Brothers from the Fair Lady Theatre. Wallis Theatres took over the lease in June 1979 until the theatre’s closure in February 1980.

From then Phil was primarily stationed at the Chelsea Cinema, but also worked at Glenelg and Academy until 1983. During this time at the Chelsea, he screened “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” every Friday night at 11.30 and occasionally had extra sessions where all 1,100 seats were full. Later in 1983 he was moved to the newly purchased Piccadilly Cinema North Adelaide staying there until April 1990, when he returned to the Chelsea until May 2007. From May 2007 until July 2013 (when I retired) Phil was based at the Wallis Mitcham Cinemas.

During his theatrical working life he has also worked at many other cinemas on a very casual basis – Hindmarsh Town Hall, Lockleys, Wakefield Street City, Classic, Trak, Randwick Odeon for 6 weeks in 1979. Phil also started servicing projection equipment in the early 90s with the Late Max Beck in mainly country locations – Lameroo, Roxby Downs, Leigh Creek, Whyalla, Port Pirie, Mount Gambier, Bordertown, Victor Harbor, Moonta, Renmark, Port Lincoln and Lobethal, and performing new installs in some of those locations.

Even though Phil has officially retired from the industry, he continues to keep an association with it through doing digital work for Big Screen Advertising Adelaide, volunteering for some independent SA cinemas and is a committee member for S.A. Cinema Pioneers. Phil says “It has been a great time, met some and worked with some wonderful people, and I would do it all over again”.

Congratulations Phillip Branford and thank you for your outstanding contribution to the Australian Cinema Industry, our 2023 South Australian Cinema Pioneer of the Year.