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The Cinema and Cinema-Going in Scotland, 1896-1950

Trevor Griffiths

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What did our Scottish grandparents and great grandparents see at the cinema? What thrilled them on the silver screen?

This is the first scholarly work to document the cinema habits of early twentieth-century Scots, exploring the growth of early cinema-going and integrating the study of cinema into wider debates in social and economic history. The author draws extensively on archival resources concerning the cinema as a business, on documentation kept by cinema managers, and on the diaries and recollections of cinema-goers. He considers patterns of cinema-going and attendance levels, as well as changes in audience preferences for different genres, stars or national origins of films.

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1. From Variety Hall to Picture House: The Emergence of Scottish Cinema to 1914
2. Regulating Scottish Cinema: Censorship and the Child Audience
3. Through War and Peace: The Changing Fortunes of Scottish Silent Cinema, 1914-29
4. A Seven-Day Wonder?: Cinema and the Scottish Sabbath
5. An Essential Social Habit: Cinema-going in the early sound era, c.1927-39
6. Beyond the Dream Palace: The Role of Non-Commercial Cinema in Scotland
7. To the Summit and Beyond: Cinema-Going in the 1940s
8. A Flickering Image: Scottish Film Production

About the Author

Trevor Griffiths is Reader in Economic and Social History at the University of Edinburgh. Educated at the University of Oxford, he has carried out research on working-class society in Britain in the early twentieth century, before turning more recently to examine aspects of popular culture. He was Co-Investigator on the three-year AHRC research project, ‘Early Scottish Cinema, 1896-1927’.


This is an excellent book. It provides fascinating evidence of the peculiarities of national cinema, while revealing how cinema managers and their audiences could exert considerable agency in the leisure process. Most of all, it reveals how fruitful the localised study of cinema can be for historians.

- Robert James, University of Portsmouth, Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television
This densely researched book meets a number of pressing needs in the field of Scottish and British film studies, but it is also likely to prove a significant resource for a range of other disciplines, not least in its contribution to our understandings of Scottish popular culture in the first half of the twentieth century.
- Joe Kember, University of Exeter, Journal of Scottish Historical Studies
Cinema and Cinema-Going in Scotland is a hugely impressive, detailed piece of scholarship. It should be recommended not only to Scottish historians but also to cinema historians everywhere, to social and cultural
historians, and to those interested in national identity in twentieth century Scotland, and Britain.
- James J. Nott, University of St Andrews, International Review of Scottish Studies
Trevor Griffiths has produced an exceptional should be essential reading for academics, researchers, and students of popular culture and film studies, but the value of this book is greater than this. Historians of business, economics, and the inter-war period will find this an extremely useful text that is accessible, very well researched, and set within the political, economic, and socio-cultural context of the years 1896 to 1950.
- Annmarie Hughes, The Economic History Review Vol 67 Issue 2

The Cinema and Cinema-Going in Scotland not only takes Scottish film studies into important new territory, it also offers an invaluable contribution to our understanding of the broader historical development of cinema exhibition in Britain.

- Duncan Petrie, University of York, Journal of British Cinema and Television, Volume 11, Issue 2-3
A fascinating book.
- RICK INSTRELL, The Scotsman

‘A major contribution to the history of popular culture in Scotland.’

- John Burnett , Review of Scottish Culture

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