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Lunchtime seminar- Not going out. Did the rapid diffusion of television in 1950's Britain cause the demise of cinema and live commercial entertainment?

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Event information
Date 1 June 2022
Time 13:00-14:00 (Timezone: Europe/London)
Price Free
Venue Henley Business School
Event types:

You are cordially invited to attend an IBS lunchtime research seminar by Professor Peter Scott, Henley . Please join us in Room 108, HBS or follow the link in your invite email to join the Microsoft Teams Meeting. If you have not received the email invite please email Ellie Biggs.

Please note: Lunch and refreshments will be provided. It is important that you confirm if you are attending in-person to assure enough catering is supplied on the day. If you have any dietary restrictions, please let us know as soon as possible.

Date: Wednesday 1st June 2022

Time: 13.00-14.00pm

Title: Not going out. Did the rapid diffusion of television in 1950's Britain cause the demise of cinema and live commercial entertainment?

Presenter: Professor Peter Scott, IBS, Henley Business School

Room: 108, HBS


The 1950s is widely regarded as the pivotal decade for Britain’s entertainments industries, owing to the rapid diffusion of television and a consequent shift in commercial entertainment from urban venues to the home. This in turn had major social consequences, accelerating a trend away from community-orientated lifestyles to lifestyles based around the nuclear family and the home. Rapid diffusion of TV sets coincided with sharp falls in audiences for venue-based entertainments, with variety theatres and music halls almost disappearing by the end of the decade and cinemas facing catastrophic drops in attendance and venues.

While this transition has been subject to much contemporary and retrospective analysis, almost all studies focus on a single incumbent entertainment media, such as cinema or theatre, and the extent to which its downfall was the result of television. This study examines the impact of television on all major venue-based entertainments, using mainly unpublished data on admissions and revenue, compiled by Customs & Excise, in association with “Entertainment Duty” (a tax on admission prices), plus a range of other data. We find that those entertainment venues experiencing the greatest falls in admissions were “low commitment” activities, that were also strong substitutes for television. Meanwhile “high commitment activities”, such as spectator sports, fared much better. A further important factor protecting some incumbent entertainment media was their centrality to youth culture – though not even a relatively strong youth market could stop the decline of cinema.