On the appearance and disappearance of staff
in Cinemas and cinemagoing in wartime Britain, 1939–45
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Maintaining adequate staffing levels was a major concern for many cinema managers especially after many young men were called up into the services. Exhibitors repeatedly attempted to get certain members of staff “reserved” – that is, exempted from conscription – and repeatedly found itself on the losing side in its skirmishes with the Ministry of Labour. This chapter looks at the ways in which British cinemas reacted to the loss of employees, and the ways in which changing employment demographics – most noticeably the increased proportion of female staff and the greater number of women projectionists (a.k.a “projectionettes”) – effected patron experience. The chapter also investigates the challenges facing managers as they sought to obtain and maintain uniforms for their employees. Clothes rationing brought about significant changes to the appearance of people employed in the cinema as clothes coupons, utility overalls and second-hand costumes became the order of the day. In a period before shabby was chic, poorly maintained clothing threatened to undermine pre-war ideas of the cinema as dream palace.


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