Showmanship in wartime
in Cinemas and cinemagoing in wartime Britain, 1939–45
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Pre-war cinema management manuals were adamant that publicising a cinema was one of the most important – and challenging – jobs that an exhibitor had. Using The Stars Look Down (1940) as a case study, this chapter shows how promotional activities were made all the more difficult by wartime limitations that restricted advertising. Legislation that effectively brought about paper rationing not only imposed a maximum size on posters, but also restricted the number that could be produced, controlled where they could be posted and prohibited the publication of information – such as place names – that might conceivably aid the enemy. As more established forms of publicity were curtailed, there were concerns that cinemas would become less visible within the urban environment, a concern made all the more pressing by the lack of exterior lighting and regulations that limited expenditure on maintenance. The chapter explores the place of showmanship in wartime, both in terms of advertising individual films and programmes, and also the promotion of the cinema as a site of experiential pleasure.

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