Kinematograph weekly in the 1930s: trade attitudes towards audience taste

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The field of British film history has been transformed during the last two decades. Since the publication of Jeffrey Richards’ pioneering revisionist history The Age of the Dream Palace: Cinema and Society in Britain 1930-1939 (1984), film scholars and historians have used similarly revisionist methodologies to open up for critical revaluation a diverse range of topics on British cinema. Research conducted into the cinema-going habits of society in the 1930s has been particularly fruitful. Richards’ text provides the benchmark, but there have been a number of studies which explore in significant detail important, but often critically ignored, aspects of the film industry in the period. Film genres and visual style (Harper 1994), stars and the star-system (Stacey 1994), film popularity (Sedgwick 2000), and audiences (Kuhn 2003; Harper 2004) have all been the subject of detailed critical analysis. There is, then, a flourishing historiography of British cinema in the 1930s. What has been lacking, however, is a nuanced account of the complexity of audience taste. To be sure, some of the work mentioned above touches upon the issue. Harper (2004) conducts what is in effect a local study of taste in a Portsmouth cinema during the decade. But nothing broader has been attempted. Sedgwick’s work concentrates on popularity via receipts of bookings and distribution, but does not aim to provide a map of audience taste as a whole. Important gaps still exist, therefore, in the history of cinema-going in 1930s Britain. This article is intended to partly redress this. Based on a reading of Kinematograph Weekly (hereafter Kineweekly), arguably the cinema trade’s most important journal in the period, this article offers a historically revisionist perspective that problematises the complex issue of audience taste as perceived by those who were supposed to know it best: film trade personnel.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)229-243
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of British Cinema and Television
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2006


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