Standing for the Queen at the movies

Crowd sitting in the Majestic Theatre, Wellington, to view Finian’s Rainbow, 7 December 1968. Before the main movie started the audience would have been expected to stand for ‘God Save the Queen’.

Her Majesty at the flicks

For the first two decades of Queen Elizabeth’s reign, New Zealanders stood for the national anthem at the start of every movie session. The drums rolled, the Queen appeared on horseback surrounded by gold-braided troops, and ‘God Save …’ boomed around the country’s Regents, Her Majesty’s, Majestics, Empires and so on – except on one memorable occasion when a South Island projectionist mixed up his soundtracks and treated the audience to the sight of Her Majesty reviewing the troops to the sound of ‘The Yellow Rose of Texas’.

This was different to Britain, where the national anthem played after the performance. ‘Attempts in a few theatres to follow the normal British procedure … resulted in an undignified rush for the exits as the drum rolls began’, movie theatre historian Wayne Brittenden recalled. In fact, the Brits were often no more reverent.

Some smaller independent theatres dropped the national anthem before the two big chains followed suit. ‘By the early 1970s Amalgamated had recognised the absurdity of the anthem in the prevailing cultural climate’, Brittenden wrote. ‘Standing up for the Queen in sandaled or even bare feet and then sitting down to enjoy the likes of Woodstock didn’t make a lot of sense. Sir Robert Kerridge, who had earlier vowed that [his cinemas] would never drop “The Queen”, gave in a short time later.’

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Stephen Saunders

Posted: 10 Jan 2021

Although I cannot find a citation, this was definitely the case in Australia too. I clearly remember, that my father would embarrass my mother, by remaining glued to his seat.