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  • Our Story

    A unique institution at the heart of Melbourne's iconic meeting place, Federation Square, the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) celebrates, explores and promotes the moving image in all its forms - film, television, games and digital culture.

    Through award-winning Australian and international exhibitions, films, festivals, live events, creative workshops, education programs and resources, ACMI provides unsurpassed ways to engage with the moving image.

    Starting life as the State Film Centre in 1946, ACMI evolved from being a collection-based institution to an internationally recognised hub for screening and advocacy, screen education, industry engagement and audience involvement.

    As a major cultural, tourism and learning attraction, ACMI is an integral element in Melbourne's position as one of the world's truly creative cities.


    Our History

    Continuing a tradition that began in 1946, ACMI is now a major cultural agency of the State Government of Victoria and Australia's first centre dedicated to the moving image in all its forms.


    The 1940s

    A visit to Australia in 1940 by pioneering British documentary filmmaker Dr John Grierson led to the establishment of the Australian National Film Board in 1945 as a means to strengthen the Australian production industry.

    Dr Grierson's recommendations led to the formation of state-based government film bodies. The State Film Centre of Victoria was established with the aim of maintaining its own film library in addition to supporting regional lending services and mobile projection units that screened films to isolated audiences.


    The 1950s & 1960s

    The introduction of television to Melbourne audiences in 1956 saw the State Film Centre become involved in television production. The organisation also played a valuable role as an archive of significant Australian films such as The Sentimental Bloke (1919), acquired in 1957, and On Our Selection (1920) in 1958.

    During the 1960s, the State Film Centre gave advice to local filmmakers on film treatments, production, scripts and distribution outlets, demonstrating the growing importance of the facility to the local industry. In 1969, the centre assumed management of the newly constructed State Film Theatre, which exhibited material not screened in commercial cinemas.


    The 1970s

    The State Film Centre's acquisitions changed in scope to include student films generated by the introduction of film studies to universities. 

    The Australian production industry also experienced significant change, driven by new levels of government funding and emerging filmmakers producing confident, original films drawing acclaim at home and overseas. The renaissance was led by films such as Peter Weir’s Homesdale (1971), Tim Burstall's Stork (1971), and Libido (1973) featuring the work of Burstall, John B. Murray, Fred Schepisi and David Baker. The unprecedented success of Fred Schepisi's The Devil's Playground (1976), which premiered at the State Film Theatre in 1976, was indicative of the strong revival in the Victorian film production industry.


    The 1980s

    In 1983, the State Film Centre of Victoria Council Act 1983 (Vic) facilitated a new governing structure for the State Film Centre and foreshadowed a change in policy direction. The new focus provided the impetus to create a new public presentation facility for Victoria.

    As early as 1986, plans under the working title 'Australian Centre for the Moving Image' were discussed, based around the redevelopment of Melbourne’s old City Square site. The initial push for development recognised the changing nature of screen industries in an environment of emergent digital media forms, and a need for an exhibition space free of the restrictions imposed in traditional display facilities.

    During this period of rapid change, the State Film Centre continued to develop new programs and, in 1988, the Education Program was initiated, providing a valuable interface between the centre and the secondary school curriculum.


    The 1990s

    A 1993 report from the Victorian State Government Office of Major Projects reaffirmed the viability of the proposed Australian Centre for the Moving Image. The State Film Centre further developed plans for the new organisation, evaluating several sites around Melbourne for suitability including Federation Square.

    The selection of architects for Federation Square was based on an open, international, two-stage design competition. Over 176 entries from all Australian states and some 15 foreign countries were received for the first stage. Five of these entrants, including Lab Architecture Studio (based in London at the time), were selected to proceed to the second stage.

    In July 1997, Lab Architecture Studio, in association with their joint venture partners Bates Smart Architects, was announced as the Federation Square project winner.


    The 2000s

    On January 1 2002, the Australian Centre for the Moving Image was officially established by the Film Act 2001 (Victoria). On November 17 2002, ACMI Cinemas officially opened. Two years later we opened an interactive exhibition space called the Memory Grid.

    Following the appointment of Tony Sweeney as our new Director in 2005, ACMI entered a period of exciting growth. We opened our popular Games Lab space and presented the landmark exhibition Stanley Kubrick: Inside the mind of a visionary filmmaker. Our suite of curated film programs expanded with the establishment of monthly 'Focus on' seasons and regular programs including ‘Australian Perspectives’, ‘Seniors’ Cinema’, ‘Kids’ Flicks’, ‘First Look’ and ‘Long Play’.

    2007 became a year of blockbusters with the presentation of two exclusive international exhibitions: Eyes Lies & Illusions and the Melbourne Winter Masterpieces exhibition Pixar: 20 Years of Animation.

    In 2008, ACMI set a new world record for attendance to the international exhibition Game On, surpassing the previous figure held by Chicago’s Science and Industry Museum. And, in 2010, attendance records to ACMI were broken during our presentation of Tim Burton: The Exhibition.


    2009 - Today

    Driven by the desire to become the world's leading moving image centre, ACMI carried out the most significant phase of its development and growth since our doors opened in 2002. 

    In 2009, with the support of the Victorian Government, a suite of new production and exhibition spaces and refreshed public offers were introduced, providing diverse, stimulating and creative opportunities to actively engage with screen culture.

    The centrepiece of the redevelopment, Screen Worlds: The Story of Film, Television and Digital Culture, is a permanent, free-entry exhibition charting the journey of the moving image and, in particular, Australia's engagement with screen culture as consumers and creators.

    The major development project also incorporated a second exhibition space, two state-of-the-art production studios and a national screen culture resource centre in the Australian Mediatheque.

    In 2013, ACMI recorded its highest ever visitation – fittingly in our 10th anniversary year – attracting more than 1.156 million visitors.