Theatre and film entrepreneurs Edward and Dan Carroll, who operated cinemas and distributed films, were joined prior to WWI by Rockhampton hotel and cinema identity, George Birch, to form Birch and Carroll.
They were joined in 1923 by Townsville businessman Virgil Coyle to form a consortium of Queenslanders, Birch Carroll & Coyle.
Success and expansion typified the 1920s with the construction of the Wintergarden theatre in Brisbane, the first of the great picture palaces in Australia, soon followed by Wintergarden theatres in Rockhampton, Ipswich, and Townsville, and the now Heritage listed Empire Theatre in Toowoomba in 1934. The Brisbane Wintergarden’s incorporation of air-conditioning subsequently repeated in regional and country cinemas was to play an important role in their success.
In the 1920s, the Rydge family through Greater Union Theatres, now Event Cinemas, became a significant investor and complete owner in 1991. This helped to fund BC&C’s rapid expansion throughout Queensland, Northern Territory, and northern New South Wales. Because of the company’s success and the distinctive nature of the Queensland market, BC&C was able to operate as an independent local company.
The challenging depression era of the 1930s witnessed the arrival of the ‘talkies’ which required substantial investment in new technologies to exhibit the medium at a time of financial constraints. This transition saw many of BC&C’s theatres successfully combining film with live performances such as vaudeville.
WWII, however, proved to be an era of greater profitability with the influx of service personnel bringing large numbers of Australian and American troops to camp near capital and regional cities.
The post-second WWII era was one of triumph and turmoil. Turmoil, as television arrived in the late 1950s, followed by multi-theatres emerging and the current day home cinemas and live-streaming. Nevertheless, BC&C triumphed despite challenging periods by branching out into drive-in theatres, opening their own multi-theatres and now Event Cinemas.
Its enduring success owes much to impressive vision, adaptability, leadership and innovation over its history. First were the entrepreneurial originators, then outstanding CEOs, such as Terry Jackman AM, who doubled the company’s size during his tenure, and the steadfast guidance of the Rydge family for over 90 years.
BC&C has led the film exhibition, distribution and entertainment industry in Queensland for over 100 years. It transformed entertainment throughout the State, especially in regional and rural Queensland and is the only film theatre business of its kind in Australia.