Cinemas and cinemagoing in wartime Britain, 1939–45

The utility dream palace

Author: Richard Farmer

The utility dream palace is a cultural history of cinemagoing and the cinema exhibition industry in Britain during the Second World War, a period of massive audiences in which vast swathes of the British population went to the pictures on a regular basis. Yet for all that wartime films have received a great deal of academic attention, and have been discussed in terms of the escapist pleasures they offered, the experiential pleasures offered by the cinemas in which such films were watched were inextricably connected to the places and times in which they operated. British cinemas – and the people who worked in, owned and visited them – were acutely sensitive to their spatial and temporal locations, unable to escape the war and intimately bound up in and contributing to the public’s experience of it. Combining oral history, extensive archival research, and a wealth of material gathered from contemporary trade papers, fan magazines and newspapers, this book is the first to provide a comprehensive analysis of both the cinema’s position in wartime society, and the impact that the war had on the cinema as a social practice. Dealing with subjects as diverse as the blackout, the blitz, evacuation, advertising, staffing and conscription, Entertainments Tax, showmanship and clothes rationing, The utility dream palace asserts that the cinema was, for many people, a central feature of wartime life, and argues that the history of British cinemas and cinemagoing between 1939 and 1945 is, in many ways, the history of wartime Britain.

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