Going To The Pictures

Children’s Cinema shows and Matinees

Through to the 1960′s, the formula at the children’s cinema shows and club matinees was familiar to the children but would differ between cinemas. Generally the children would queue up each Saturday, upon entering the cinema there would be a mad dash to get seats. Once seated the children would sing along to the bouncing ball on screen which would reinforce the club atmosphere and feeling of belonging, and wait for the weekly film show which would include cartoon, a main film and an episode or two from the serial.

In the 1950’s the average weekly attendance to children’s cinema matinees was over 1,016,000 with 1735 cinemas holding cinema matinees for children. {Source: media statistics website taken from report from Wheare Committee http://terramedia.co.uk}

Society at the time was more restrained in some ways than it is today, children were confined at home and school and the cinema on a Saturday was a place to be free and exercise their spirit. It was a place where gangs of kids could meet or come along together in a safe environment that provided a chance for parents to have some free time in the knowledge that their children were in a safe, warm and social
environment each week.

Cinema Clubs
The format of the Children’s Cinema Matinee varied slightly between Picture Houses. Some would be held on a Saturday morning others would be a Saturday afternoon. Some lucky children would attend two children’s film shows in a day at the local cinemas, providing them with a full mornings and afternoons entertainment.

Several cinemas especially ones who were part of the larger circuits such as the Odeon and The Gaumont Cinemas would have a club type atmosphere within their cinema matinees. The children would receive a badge and come up onto the stage when it was their birthday to receive a free ice cream or tickets to next week’s matinee. The notion of film clubs helped to develop the habit of going to the pictures from a young age which organisations like Rank and Odeon hoped would continue to turn young cinema goers into lifelong film fans.

Before the days of films made especially for children , what was shown within the children’s cinema matinees would often be an adult film which had either a ‘U’ rating or one which had been edited for the children’s matinee. Many of these films were said to “have a certain harmful morale and psychological influence on children ” { Frank Tyrer document Children and the Cinema 1948} There would often be adult themes shown, with very few child actors having a main or starring role until the development of Children’s Entertainment film in the 1940’s later The Children’s Film Foundation. This began as a trend in the market and resulted in a profitable business in producing films specifically for a young audience.