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“Jimmys and Nellies”, 1912

In the years around the First World War the midsummer picnic on the beach was a highlight of the year in the rural North Island district of Taranaki. In January 1912 the picnic was filmed by the region’s own cinema mogul and movie producer, Garnett Saunders. A week later, scenes of the pillow fights on the beam, barrel rolling and tape chewing competitions were screened to a capacity audience at Saunders’ New Theatre in New Plymouth. The local newspaper reported, “parents joyfully recognising their own particular 'Jimmys' and 'Nellies', and some groups of merrymakers gave vent to their feelings in little suppressed exclamations of satisfaction".

A year after the war ended, the picnic was held again. The games and competitions were the same, but there would have been a distinct decrease in the number of men present.

Year:1912

Location:New Plymouth, New Zealand

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“Jimmys and Nellies”, 1912

In the years around the First World War the midsummer picnic on the beach was a highlight of the year in the rural North Island district of Taranaki. In January 1912 the picnic was filmed by the region’s own cinema mogul and movie producer, Garnett Saunders. A week later, scenes of the pillow fights on the beam, barrel rolling and tape chewing competitions were screened to a capacity audience at Saunders’ New Theatre in New Plymouth. The local newspaper reported, “parents joyfully recognising their own particular 'Jimmys' and 'Nellies', and some groups of merrymakers gave vent to their feelings in little suppressed exclamations of satisfaction".

A year after the war ended, the picnic was held again. The games and competitions were the same, but there would have been a distinct decrease in the number of men present.


Year: 1912

Length: 02:34

Production Company: Empire Theatre Film Co.

Credits: Producer: Garnett Saunders, Camera: Brandon Haughton

Source: Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Catalogue Reference: F2655 Scenes at the East End Annual Picnic, New Plymouth


Location: New Plymouth, New Zealand


The Taranaki Herald reported on 1 February 1912, “[Moving pictures of the seaside Picnic... drew an immense crowd to the New Theatre…. It was quite evident that the local element in the programme was providing a big draw. The building is meant to accommodate 630 people with seats. The number present last night when the first picture was thrown upon the screen must have been nearer 800 and the only disappointed ones in the huge crowd were those who could not gain admittance”.

Garnett Saunders, an enterprising businessman and theatre operator, worked with cameraman Brandon Haughton to film local events like this. The films were processed quickly and screened in the cinema within days. It was a sure-fire way of ensuring a full house, as locals crowded in to see themselves on screen. Locally made films, concentrating on topical events, were typical of early New Zealand film-making. Without an industry or infrastructure to support them, only a handful of film-makers managed to sustain a career.