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How Many Times Do You Visit The Cinema? UK Cinema Attendance 1935 - 2018...

How many times did you visit the cinema in 2019? We averaged a couple of times a month. Given what we do I imagine that's not a surprise.

What about the average cinema goer? How has that changed over the past few years? 

With the help of the excellent UK Cinema Association we decided to do a little research. What we found was both surprising and fascinating...

Our story begins in 1935. Cinema chains such as Gaumont, ABC and Odeon are expanding rapidly to show the latest Hollywood films to an ever expanding audience. Annual cinema attendance grows from a little over 900 million to exceed a billion by 1940.

Given the 1940 U.K. population of around 46 million, that averages 22 cinema visits per year, by every living person in the country.

With the onset of war, cinemas were often seen as a relatively safe place to hold out during air raids. Whilst the expansion of cinema chains was halted and a significant portion of the adult population was fighting abroad, cinema attendance grew - perhaps the movies provided some level of escapism from the trials of war. 

In 1946, cinema attendance hit an all time high of 1635 million. While the post War baby boom increased the UK population to nearly 49 million, this still averages an amazing 33 trips to the cinema each year!

 

A graph showing UK cinema attendance 1925 to 2018 

 

From it's 1946 peak, the movies' decline was a rapid one. The introduction of television to an increasing number of UK homes providing a ready alternative to the cinema. In the space of ten years, attendance dropped 70%. In 1965 the U.K.'s population had grown to 54.3 million, but the average attendance was now a woeful 6 times per year.

Despite the 1970's rise of the Blockbuster (Jaws, Star Wars etc.), cinema attendance continued to decline. In 1984, average attendance dropped to less than once a year (and this is against the backdrop of 1984 releases such as "Ghostbusters", "Gremlins", "The Karate Kid" and "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom").

It would take the introduction of the out of town multiplex to turn a trip to the cinema back in to a movie going experience. Since 1985, despite the proliferation of multi-media alternatives, cinema going has continued to rise organically.

It is clear from the statistics that, despite the rise of home cinemas and streaming services (Netflix, Amazon Prime, Apple TV to name but a few), the cinema going experience does have a place in twenty-first century life. 

Alongside the multiplexes, mega IMAX screens and 4DX experiences that serve a family after the latest blockbuster, sit local cinemas (such as our local, The Odyssey), operated with passion and providing a very special and luxurious service.

Long may they both continue as we start another decade of cinema.

 

Adam and the Art of the Movies team. 

 

 

Credits

Our thanks again to the UK Cinema Association for the statistics that underpin this post and to 'The British Cinema Book' (by Robert Murphy) for some of the historic cultural references.

The fantastic photo that introduces this post is by Ron Hunt and is described as 'Cinemagoers, queue to watch the double horror films, Dracula, and Frankenstein, at the Princess Cinema, in the late 1940s'. (The original can be found here.)

 

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