Mass-Observation at the Movies

Source: Sidney Smith, quoted in Jeffrey Richards and Dorothy Sheridan (eds.), Mass-Observation at the Movies (London/New York: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1987), p. 68

Text: Sidney Smith, 30 Green Way, Hall-i-the-Wood, Bolton (aged 40), regular cinema-goer (4 times a month), preference – American films.

Comments: Our main requirement is comedy that is comedy, not the absurd stuff that we get now. If you cant [sic] give us the real thing, at least do not force on to us a poor imitation. Most supporting items, except news and cartoons, are very poor, and annoying to see. You should dispense with this obvious padding and let us have either longer main feature items or shorts of main feature quality. Cut out entirely the refreshment interval and next week’s trailers, and if you must have cinema organs and advertisements, use them only in the intervals between programmes. Even the people who are musical do not care for too much organ music and many people dislike it intensely. Do something to stop people from talking while the show is on.

Comments: 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, Lancashire. The study began in 1938, and this comment is a response to a questionnaire issued in March 1938 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 Crompton, Crompton Way.