A great deal of noise

November 7, 2011

In 1950, Mr Scott obtained the right to exhibit motion pictures on Wednesday and Saturday evenings at the (1939 art deco) Numurkah Town Hall. Unfortunately (for Mr Scott), the town hall also had facilities for private dances and wedding receptions. Mr Scott said these functions substantially interfered with his demise of the premises as they caused a “great deal of noise” and he applied for an injunction. The ensuing dispute found its way to the High Court (see Scott v Numurkah Corp (1954) 91 CLR 300).

Although the Court noted that offensive noise is not capable of quantification and will depend on the facts of each case,  Fullagar J addressed the possible consequences which noise from a variety of bands could have on the patrons of a cinema, in the following terms:

The strains of a lilting waltz may make no impression on the hero or villain of a raucous and boisterous drama, whereas the pathos of a heroine with a voice like Cordelia’s may be murdered by an unholy conspiracy of saxophone and drum. And between these extremes lies a great variety of possibilities.”

Interesting postscript: a new trial was ordered on the basis that the trial judge, who in the course of the trial, attended the town hall had witnessed an experiment or demonstration which he should not have relied on.  There was no problem with a “view”, but it was a different matter for the judge to rely on what he heard.

Creative commons acknowledgment for the photograph.

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