Going To The Pictures

“We come along on a Saturday morning, greeting everybody with a smile…”

Through researching and collecting memories for this project, a theme which is common and holds fond memories for people growing up between the 1930’s and 1960’s, is the Children’s Saturday Cinema Matinees.

It was the highlight of many children’s week growing up and a place where they learnt and saw new views on the world. It is estimated that over 1 million children a week enjoyed the Saturday matinees at the cinema, { source media statistics website} each week the same children would return to see their friends and find out what had happened to their hero’s from the serial, and get carried away and lost in the land of cinema and make believe.

Children’s cinema matinees have been around since the early days of cinema. One of the first recorded children’s film screenings took place in Derbyshire in 1900 in a schoolroom in Mickemore. Posters released by London Gaumont in 1906 referred to special children’s matinee screenings . {source The Powell and Pressburger Pages website}

The latest animated or film performances would often be screened for children on a Saturday morning or afternoon. As cinema and the popularity of films grew, a program formula was adopted in many cinemas, usually taking the form of a cartoon, a main feature film and a serialization. Popular serials would range from the singing cowboy Gene Autry to the perils of Batman and Flash Gordon.

Each week the episode would be left with a cliff hanger – the hero left in peril – would he be captured by the evil villain? Would he be saved? To be continued. To find out return next week only at your local cinema – this would have the children in wonderment all week and see the children flock back the next week to see what had happened to the star – was he safe- course he was, what relief!

I say he because most of the hero’s in the serials and films shown at the matinees were male, with the odd exception such as Dale Evans who featured in several films starring Roy Rogers such as ‘Twilight in the Sierras’ and ‘Apache Rose’. She would be seen as an idol to the young girls watching the cinema shows.

In the earlier days of the Children’s Cinema Matinees the main film would often be a cowboy or gangster film, generally of American origin. Stars such as Gene Autry, Hop Along Cassidy, Roy Rogers and Buster Crabb became household names.

Children would get absorbed into the films and get excited banging their feet and cheering the goodies and booing the baddies.

Involvement at the cinema was encouraged through things such as cinema club songs and badges and members of the cinema club would often get a birthday card on their birthday.