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'A very profitable enterprise': South Wales Miners' Institute Cinemas in the 1930s

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There is limited evidence about the cinema-going tastes of the working classes in Britain during the 1930s. A range of contemporary sources provides information on cinema-going tastes at a general and non-class specific level—Sidney Bernstein’s Questionnaires; film popularity lists; box-office successes—but evidence about working-class tastes is scant. We can, however, assess the cinema-going tastes of one particular group of working-class consumers—the miners (and their families) of South Wales—through the surviving records of the South Wales Miners’ Institutes. These records, part of the South Wales Coalfield Collection held at the University of Wales, Swansea, UK, contain material relating to the day-to-day running of the Institutes’ cinemas. Among them are a number of cinema ledgers. To my knowledge, though, only one ledger from the 1930s remains extant. That ledger belongs to the Cwmllynfell Miners’ Welfare Hall cinema and runs from 29 March 1937 to 28 December 1939. The ledger lists first and second features, along with a number of other programmes, such as shorts and news-reels. There are a number of breaks in the ledger, so we need to cut our coat according to the cloth of the somewhat sporadic material available, but it is nevertheless a highly valuable resource when constructing a map of working-class taste in the period.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-61
Number of pages35
JournalHistorical Journal of Film, Radio and Television
Volume27
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2007

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