Mass-Observation at the Movies

Source: Beatrice Hart, quoted in Jeffrey Richards and Dorothy Sheridan (eds.), Mass-Observation at the Movies (London/New York: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1987), p. 122.

Text: Beatrice Hart, 47 Rose St, Manchester Rd. (aged 29), regular cinemagoer (12-16 times a month), preference – Both.

Comments: Dear Sirs,

The picture (Stella Dallas) was fine. It’s something you are never tired of watching, in fact I’ve been twice this week, as you have a change of news and I like the cinema, as the attendants are very pleasing and civil. The organ is another attraction. The playing simply thrills everyone. You ask how many times a month I do go. Well, it’s once a week I go to the Odeon and if there is any Picture that I enjoyed so much, go again later in the week. You see, you give a change of news. I go to other cinemas, and the total is 12 or 16 times in the month. You see I’m not a good letter writer.

P.S. I hope I’ve made it clear. I’ve just this one note.

Comment: Mass-Observation carried out a series of studies in 1930s and 1940s into how people in the UK lived, through a mixture of observation, diaries and invited comments. This comment comes from Mass-Observation’s research programme into cultural life in Bolton. The study began in 1938, and this comment is a response to a questionnaire issued in March 1928 asking Do you go to the cinema regularly? How many times a month do you go? Do you go regularly on the same day, if so which day? Do you think you see people on the screen who live like yourself? Which are the best films, British or American, or do you think both are the same? People were also asked to number the types of films they best, and to list what they would like to see more of in films. This respondee was a regular of the Odeon, Ashburner Street. Newsreels were issued twice a week. Stella Dallas, starring Barbara Stanwyck, was made in 1937. It was the second most popular film among Bolton cinemagoers, after Victoria the Great.

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