Standing for the Queen at the movies

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 was expected to stand for ‘God save the Queen’.

Her Majesty at the pictures

For the first two decades of Queen Elizabeth’s reign, New Zealanders stood for the national anthem before every movie session. 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’.

In Britain, the national anthem was played after the main feature. ‘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.

Some smaller independent theatres dropped the national anthem and eventually the larger 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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Posted: 26 Mar 2022

By the time I was in my teens in the late 60s we would stay sitting down and not sing God Save the Queen at the pictures, and mother members of the audience would abuse us and tell us to stand up and show respect.


Posted: 09 Nov 2021

Remember it well in the 50s and 60s. Pleased it was done away with in later years

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.