From silent screen to multi-screen

A history of cinema exhibition in Britain since 1896

Author: Stuart Hanson

The exhibition of films has developed from a lowly fairground attraction in the 1890s to the multi-million pound industry of today. This book charts the development of cinema exhibition and cinema-going in Britain from the first public film screening in February 1896 through to the opening of 30-screen 'megaplexes'. It recounts the beginnings of cinema and in particular its rapid development, by the eve of the Great War, as the pre-eminent mass entertainment. The book considers developments of cinema as an independent entertainment, the positioning of cinemas within the burgeoning metropolitan spaces, the associated search for artistic respectability, the coming of sound and a large-scale audience. The period from 1913 to 1930 was one in which the cinema industry underwent dramatic restructuring, new chains, and when Hollywood substantially increased its presence in British cinemas. Cinema-going is then critically analysed in the context of two powerful myths; the 'Golden Age' and the 'universal audience'. The book also considers the state of cinema exhibition in Britain in the post-war period, and the terminal decline of cinema-going from the 1960s until 1984. It looks at the development of the multiplex in the United States from the 1960s and examines the importance of the shopping mall and the suburb as the main focus for these cinema developments. Finally, the book discusses the extent to which the multiplex 'experience' accounts for the increase in overall attendance; and how developments in the marketing of films have run in tandem with developments in the cinema.

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