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The Dish: filming locations

The Dish is an Australian movie based on the true story of the Parkes Radio Telescope’s involvement in the Apollo 11 moon landing. Parkes is a country town in central New South Wales, Australa, and has the largest radio telescope in the southern hemisphere.

School

The movie introduces the moon landing at a primary school, where the pupils are giving show-and-tell talks with home made models. Most of the students have models of the moon and a rocket. But the teacher, Miss Nolan (Roz Hammond), is relieved when one student, Melanie (Naomi Wright), has something different—the Parkes Radio Telescope.

The school is supposed to be the Balmain State School in Sydney.

A school building
The ficticious Balmain State School. From The Dish .

There is no school in Balmain with that name.

The building is actually the Fitzroy North Primary School, at 9-11 Alfred Cresent, Fitzroy North (3.5 kilometers north-east of the centre of Melbourne).

It is one of the oldest schools in Melbourne. Constructed and opened in 1875, it was originally called the Alfred Cresent School.

It was designed by Henry Robert Bastow (1839-1920), who came to Australia from Bridport, Dorset, UK. Free compulsory education was introduced into Victoria in 1872, which led to the building of many schools throughout the state. Bastow joined the Education Department in 1873 and was responsible for many buildings in the state, from his time at the Education Department and later with the Public Works Department where he was a Senior Architect. Sadly, he was retrenched in 1894 during the economic depression.

Australian Parlament House

The Parlament House scenes were filmed in the Old Parlament House, Canberra.

The new Parlament House in Capital Hill was opened in 1988. So these scenes were filmed in the original Parlament House that was used in 1969.

Parkes

This scene opens in the main street of, supposedly, Parkes. The Mayor of Parkes, Bob McIntyre (Roy Billing), his assistant Len Purvis (Andrew Gilbert) walk across the road.

Two people walking across the street
The mayor and Len walk across the street. From The Dish .

Despite the movie is set in Parkes, most of the town scenes were filmed nearby in Forbes (30 kilometers south-west of Parkes). Unlike Parkes, Forbes has kept many of its historical buildings.

The Wiradjuri Aboriginal people originally lived in the area. Both Parkes and Forbes were first visited by Europeans in 1817, when surveyed by John Oxley, the Surveyor General of New South Wales (NSW). And both towns grew after gold was discovered in 1861. Parkes was named after Henry Parkes, a premier of NSW who is known as the “Father of Federation” in bringing together the different states to form the Commonwealth of Australia. Forbes was named after Francis Forbes, who became the first Chief Justice of the NSW Supreme Court.

The opening shot was taken from the corner of Lachlan Street and Court Street, Forbes. The white building in the background is the Forbes Town Hall, where the other exterior scenes will be filmed.

The real street in Forbes
Lachlan Street in Forbes.

The building on the right is the Forbes Post Office.

The same street in wide-angle
Lachlan Street with Forbes Post Office on the right.

The building on the left was the Forbes District Ambulance building, with a sign over the name to change it to the Parkes District Ambulance station. It is located at 110 Lachlan Street, Forbes.

It was built in 1921 for the Bank of Australasia, and used as an ambulance station until it was damaged by arson attacks in late October and early November 2001. This was after the movie was filmed in 2000, so in the movie it was still intact.

It is located at “Armstrong’s Corner”, at the corner of Lachlan Street and Court Street. Jack Fullarton Armstrong (1836–1905) was a Scottish pharmacist who had his Apothecary Hall (or pharmacy) at this location since the mid-1860’s. He was also a magistrate, coroner and electoral officer. He was an alderman of the inaugural Forbes' inaugral municipal council, and was a mayor for three times.

The old Forbes District Ambulance building at Armstrong's Corner.

At the end of 2019, there were plans for the Forbes Arts Society to restore the building as a cultural centre and art gallery.

Hotel

The young cadet, Keith Morrison (Matthew Moore) walks in front of a hotel (i.e. pub) and meets the mayor.

Pearl (Kerry Walker) then comes out of the hotel and talks to the mayor.

Keith Morrison walks past a hotel. From The Dish .

This is the Post Office Hotel at 117 Lachlan Street, Forbes. It is the same location as the previous shot, and is consisistent with where the mayor and assistant were walking towards.

It is largely unchanged from the movie, with the exception of the advertising signs on it.

Post Office Hotel in Forbes.

The Victoria Hotel can be seen, across the road in the background, when Pearl is talking. Forbes had many pubs!

Post Office Hotel looking across Lachlan Street to the Victoria Hotel.
Post Office Hotel with the Post Office and Town Hall in the reflection.
Post Office Hotel in Forbes.

The ball venue

Bronwyn Spears (Denise Roberts) drives up in a car, gets out and walks into a building where the ball is going to be held.

Bronwyn drives up in a Hillman Minx. From The Dish .

The car is a Hillman Minx Series IIIC Saloon, which was manufactured between 1961 and 1963. Hillman was a British car brand, which had been bought out by another British company, the Rootes Group. This car would have been built in the Rootes Australia factory in Melbourne. Rootes Austraila was merged with Chrysler Australia in 1965 and the Melbourne factory was closed in 1972.

This was filmed in Harold Street, Forbes, with the Vandenberg Hotel in the background.

The Vandenberg Hotel was built around 1865 and was originally called the Court House Hotel.

The building she goes into is the Town Hall, at 2 Court Street, Forbes. It was built in 1890–91.

The exterior of the Town Hall is seen later when waiting for the ambassador to arrive, and even later when waiting for the Australian Prime Minister to arrive.

The interior scenes of the ball were not filmed here.

Forbes Town Hall on Harold Street, with the Vandenberg Hotel in the background.

Mayor’s home

On Wednesday night, 16 July 1969, the mayor holds an “Out to Launch” party at his house to watch on television the launch of Apollo 11.

Party at the mayor's house. From The Dish .

The outside of the house was filmed at the presbytery of the Catholic Church at 13 Johnson Street, Forbes—known to the locals as the Bishop’s House.

Notice the trees have grown considerably in the 19 years since the movie was filmed.

The Catholic presbytery in Forbes.

The house also appears in other exterior scenes featuring the mayor’s house. For example, this scene after the Sunday lunch scene: where the NASA representative, Al Burnett (Patrick Warburton), says goodbye to the mayor’s two children: Billy (Carl Snell) and Marie (Lenka Kripac) McIntyre.

Al saying goodbye to Billy and Marie. From The Dish .

We see the front door of the mayor’s house, when Keith Morrison (Matthew Moore) visits the house on Saturday afternoon.

Keith at the mayor's front door. From The Dish .

The door of the presbytery has a red stained glass cross, which the movie attempts to disguise.

Front door of the Bishop's House.

Thursday morning, 17 July 1969

The dawn montage of Thursday, 17 July 1969, starts with a view down the street.

Street at dawn. From The Dish .

Again, this was filmed in Forbes, looking down Court Street with the Town Hall on the left and the Vandenberg Hotel on the right.

This is actually an afternoon shot with the sun setting behind the buildings, pretending it is rising in the morning.

Court Street in Forbes.

Town street

Another shot of the town.

Another street at dawn. From The Dish .

This was taken looking north-east along Lachlan Street with the Post Office on the right and the old ambulance station across the road behind it.

This was another sunset shot, pretending to be a sunrise shot.

Post Office was built between 1979 and 1881.

Lachlan Street with the Forbes Post Office.

Church

The montage includes a shot of a church.

Outside a church. From The Dish .

This is the Saint Andrew’s Presbyterian Church at 11 Harold Street, Forbes. It was built in 1877.

St Andrew's Presbyterian Church in Forbes.

Fountain

Another shot of the church behind a fountain.

Fountain with a church in the background. From The Dish .

Since St Andrew’s is on the north-east side of the park, this was another shot taken at dusk and pretending it is dawn.

The Grecian designed fountain The fountain was donated by William Thomas in 1891, when he was the Mayor of Forbes.

The fountain in Victoria Park, Forbes.

The fountain is located in Victoria Park. It is across the road from St Andrew’s as well as the Town Hall and the Vandenberg Hotel.

Fountain with the Forbes Town Hall in the background.

Milk cart

Another shot in the montage shows a horse drawn milk cart.

A horse drawn milk cart. From The Dish .

I don’t know where this was filmed. If you know, please let me know.

Johnson’s Bakery

A baker loads loafs of bread from a shop into a van.

Bakery From The Dish .

Finally, a scene that was filmed in Parkes.

Johnson’s Bakery is at 27 Welcome Street, Parkes. It has been in Parkes since 1933.

Johnson's Bakery in Parkes.
Johnson's Bakery shop front.

Dwyer’s Butcher

Two butchers opens up their shop.

Butchers opening shop. From The Dish .

Another scene in Parkes: the Dwyer’s Meats shop at 216 Clarinda Street, Parkes.

Dwyer’s Meats has been in Parkes for 77 years. The family took over a previous butcher shop in 1942. At one point there were nine butcher shops in Parkes, but today there are none. The retail shop closed in February 2019, when the grandson of the original owner, Mark Dwyer, retired.

The Dwyer’s butchery was sold to Food Service Central in 2003 and was renamed to Dwyer’s Fresh. Food Service Central was later sold to PFD Food Services in 2014. It now supplies wholesale meats to the catering industry. It no longer has a retail store, sells some of their products were available from D’Aquino’s Parkes Cellars in Parkes.

Former site of Dwyer's butchery in Parkes.

The building on the south side of the butcher’s shop has been demolished since the movie was made.

Dwyer's butchery with the moon behind it.

Computer

The computer is seen when Glenn Latham (Tom Long) explains to Janine Kellerman (Eliza Szonert) how they know where Apollo 11 is.

The PDP-9 tracking computer. From The Dish .

This computer is not a prop, but is the real computer that was at the Parkes Radio Telescope at that time. It was lent to the filmmakers by the Australian Computer Museum Society (ACMS), who had it in their collection.

The computer can be seen in the background of other shots in the control room. For example, behind Ross “Mitch” Mitchell (Kevin Harrington) when he comes up with the plan to allow the ambassador to listen to Neil Armstrong.

It is a PDP-9 minicomputer from the Digital Equipment Corproration (DEC). Introduced in 1968, only 445 of them were ever built.

In reality the power loss didn’t happen, but if power was lost the computer’s memory would not have been wiped. The PDP-9 uses core memory, which doesn’t loose its data when there is no power. Though they would have to know how to restart the computer so it is in the correct state.

Today, the equipment inside the dish is much more modern. This is the control room under the Parkes Radio Telescope.

Modern equipment racks inside the Parkes Radio Telescope.

Ambassador’s arrival

On Friday, 18 July 1969, the American ambassador arrives in Parkes. In this scene the Mayor of Parkes Bob McIntyre (Roy Billing), his assistant Len Purvis (Andrew Gilbert), and the mayor’s wife May McIntyre (Genevieve Mooy) are waiting for the American ambassador to arrive.

Waiting for the ambassador. From The Dish .

This was filmed outside the Town Hall in Forbes. The building is at the corner of Court Street and Harold Street.

Court Street side of Forbes Town Hall.

Next to the Town Hall is the St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Harold Street. The Forbes Post Office is also next to the Town Hall.

Forbes Town Hall.

The ambassador, Howard Cotfield (John McMartin), arrives by car.

The ambassador drives up. From The Dish .

The ambassador’s car drives down Court Street towards the Town Hall.

In the movie, the Albion Hotel can be seen in the background. It was originally built in the 1860’s and once used as a Cobb & Co booking office.

A fire in the early hours of 10 February 2009 severely damaged the building and it was demolished. Today the Albion Park is where it once stood.

The Albion Hotel burnt down and the site is now Albion Park.

Outside the ball

A ball is held on Friday night. There is a shot showing people outside the ball.

People outside the ball. From The Dish .

This is not the Forbes Town Hall.

I suspect it was a pick-up shot. Probably taken somewhere in Melbourne, where Working Dog Productions (who produced the movie) is based.

Blackout

Suddenly the power goes out in Parkes.

The town looses power. From The Dish .

This shot was taken near the Parkes railway station. Welcome Street curving to the left and Lachlan Street going right.

Parkes and Forbes are near the Lachlan River, which passes the south of Forbes. It is one of the major rivers in New South Wales: named in 1815 after Lachlan Macquarie, the governor of the colony of New South Wales.

Welcome Street and Lachlan Street in Parkes.

The shot would have been filmed from the top of this pedestrian footbridge over the railway line.

Footbridge near Parkes Railway Station.

Saturday, 19 July 1969

Most of the scenes that take place on Saturday were filmed indoors on soundstages.

One filming “location” that often fails to get mentioned is the moon. Yes, they used the same moon that was visited in 1969!

The film took great effort into getting all the technical details correct. This includes having the moon at the correct location at the right time. In the film, they find the moon at azimuth 57°08': which would have been at 12:25pm. Shortly after they lock onto Apollo 11’s signal at azimuth 67°31'. This is all consistent with them finding it “with 15 minutes to spare” before their shift to receive the transmissions.

Sunday, 20 July 1969

The next morning opens with a shot of Breaden’s Tyre Service Station.

A service station. From The Dish .

The Forbes Inn Hotel at 43 Rankin Street, Forbes, now sits on the former site of Breaden’s Service Station.

Forbes Inn Hotel where Breaden's Service Station used to be.

Before the church service

A shot of a church, with a sign saying, “He has stretched out the heavens like a cloth, spread them like a tent for men to live in.

Church with a sign. From The Dish .

It is Isaiah 40:22, but not a literal quote from any particular translation of the Bible. Maybe it was changed for clarity or copyright reasons?

This is the outside of Saint John’s Anglican Church in Forbes, from the Court Street side. There is a different sign there now. I suspect the sign in the movie was the real sign from outside the church, since a prop would have been a more 1969 vintage style.

The Town Hall can be seen reflected in the sign in the movie.

A new sign outside St John's Anglican Church in Forbes.

This church was designed by Benjamin Backhouse and was opened in 1877. It is made of locally quarried stone, and replaced a small timber church that was built in 1861.

St John's Anglican Church in Forbes.

After the church service

After the service, the congegation talk outside the church. Len Purvis (Andrew Gilbert) and Ray (Jeff Keogh) discuss the televison coverage.

Discussing important matters after church. From The Dish .

These scenes were filmed outside the St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church—a different church from the opening shots! That was because St John’s had a funeral on when it came to shoot those scenes. Fortunately, everything was very close in Forbes: St Andrews was only 100 meters away from St John’s.

These scenes were filmed in the afternoon, even though it was supposed to be in the morning.

St Andrew's Presbyterian Church in Forbes.
The side of St Andrew's Presbyterian Church in Forbes.

Monday, 20 July 2021

Since the movie is set in Australia, the local time is Australian Eastern Standard Time (AEST) which is 10 hours ahead of UTC. So although 20 July 1969 is often cited as the date of the moon landing, in Australia it was already Monday, 21 July 1969.

The movie was very accurate with the time of events:

Note: things were simpler in 1969: UTC was the same as Grenwich Mean Time (GMT) before leap seconds were introduced in 1972; and NSW did not start observing Daylight Savings Time until the end of October 1971 (although it had it during World War II). Not that the later would have mattered, since it was winter in Australia.

The Parkes Radio Telescope

The movie finishes with an old Cliff Buxton (Sam Neill) back at the dish.

The CSIRO employee, Cameron (Billy Mitchell), tells him to go to the public entrance. His directions are correct: the visitor’s centre is back out and around to the left.

The dish from the staff-only north access road.

There are no posts in front of the entrance… thanks to Janine Kellerman (Eliza Szonert)?

The entrance to the base of the dish..

Playing cricket inside the dish was made up for the movie.

This set of wickets was added much later. The wickets in the movie was taller and was marked out with temporary black tape. Although the dish appears throughout the movie, the wickets only appear during the cricket scene.

The cricket stumps on the dish.

But hayrides are real.

The dish lowered for a hayride.

The Parkes Radio Telescope is still operating—over 60 years since it opened in 1961—keeping busy with important scientific work, until there is a sequel to be filmed.

The Parkes Radio Telescope.

Credit should be given to Santo Cilauro, Tom Gleisner, Jane Kennedy and Rob Sitch, who wrote, produced and conceived such a wonderful movie.

See also

Movies and show photos
Other filming locations and exhibitions for movies and television shows.

External links

Movie trailer
A trailer for the movie.
American trailer
This one has a voice over and was created for American audiences.
The Dish: fact versus fiction
What in the movie really happened and what did not.