In adopting the perspective of the New Cinema History movement, which endeavours to shift the focus of film history away from questions of texts and their production, this article provides an overview of the Royal Commission that concentrates on the central place of exhibition within the Australian film industry. The two areas of enquiry here concern the relation of exhibitors to distributors and to audiences. This assumes that exhibition operates as a hinge point in national cinema, connecting local audiences with global distribution companies. The first part of the article examines the nature of distribution contracts and the ways in which exhibitors competed against each other, rather than simply seeing them as struggling with Hollywood. The second part foregrounds testimony given to the Commission concerning the constitution and behaviour of audiences. The article concludes with the proposition that Australian audiences have consistently failed to behave in accordance with certain broadly held social principles and that the role of the Commission was not to stimulate the production sector, but rather to find rhetorical ways of addressing the problems represented by exhibition and audience practices.