Forlorn and bedraggled spectacles
Cinemagoing in the blitz
in Cinemas and cinemagoing in wartime Britain, 1939–45
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Prolonged periods of aerial bombardment were a reality for many towns and cities in Britain during the Second World War, meaning that air raids and bombing were realities for British cinemas and cinemagoers. Hundreds of cinemas were damaged by enemy bombing during the war. Looking at the ways in which patrons were informed about the possibility of impending attack, the destruction of cinemas and the deaths of cinemagoers, this chapter positions the British exhibition industry on the front line for both the blitz and later ‘Doodlebug’ (that is, V-1 pilotless rocket) raids. The destruction of the Whitehall cinema in East Grinstead, in which more than 75 people were killed, is used as a case study. The intrusive nature of modern, industrialised warfare threatened to undermine the cinema’s ability to facilitate escape, but also made the possibility of escape all the more precious and valuable.

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