Why Was Cinema Going so Popular in the First Half of the Century and Why Did It Decline After 1950?

3023 Words Nov 13th, 2012 13 Pages
Frances Connolly Year 1 Modern Britain Linda Polley 16th May 2006

Essay

Why was cinema going so popular in the first half of the century and why did it decline after 1950?

Both the rise in popularity of cinema going and its spectacular decline are not only well documented and discussed, but surprisingly, have generated little general disagreement among historians. Eddie Dyja states categorically that cinema popularity is easily explained, ‘it is cheap accessible and glamorous’1. Where as most of the blame for the decline is attributed to the advent of television.
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Film choice was a similarly crucial indicator of the reasons people went to the ‘pictures’. The most popular films were in general the American imports. The industry there had expanded exponentially, the studio system created by the major studio owners and the huge home audiences allowed for the production of big budget high quality films on a tremendous scale. The studios spent vast amounts of time and money marketing not only their films but their stars. Creating a culture of stars, Hollywood royalty who’s every action was big news, world wide and whose salaries could not be conceived of, by the poor working class audiences in Britain who devoured their films.

Cinema really came to pre eminence as ‘the entertainment of the masses’ during the war. Michael Sissons and Phillip French tell us that ‘whether it involved Rita Hayworth and Betty Grable cheering up the boys with displays of leg, or Noel Coward and John Mills inspiring them with displays of stiff upper lip,’6 the cinema made a significant contribution to the war effort. In effect, as well as entertaining the cinema now served a higher purpose. War was declared on 3rd September 1939, and although war fare did not immediately reach British shores the effects began to show quickly. Gas masks were issued, blackouts enforced, shelters

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