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Quantifying an 'essential social habit': The entertainments tax and cinema-going in Britain, 1916-34

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Original languageEnglish
Article number1
Pages (from-to)1-26
Number of pages26
JournalFilm History: An International Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 31 May 2019


This paper reconstructs levels of cinema-going in Britain over the two decades preceding the first accepted estimates of the national audience, produced in 1934. It uses the receipts from the tax on entertainments, levied by British governments from 1916, to examine the impact of broader developments, from war to major economic downturns, and radical changes within the industry itself with the introduction of sound technology. A significant discontinuity is identified in the emergence of the talking picture, which worked to broaden and deepen support for the cinema, confirming it as the dominant mass entertainment form of the period.

    Research areas

  • audiences, cinema exhibitors, taxation, prices of admission, war, recession

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