The Early Cinema Queuing Nuisance

The Queen’s Theatre, Manchester in 1891. Source:

Snippets 193.  Looking at old newspaper articles, one thing that is often quite striking is how much resistance can be found to an idea that we now consider commonplace, but was unusual at the time.  One such example comes from the 4th February 1909 issue of The Bioscope, in which the journalist pours scorn on the practicalities of introducing ticket booking systems in cinemas, instead of just making people queue in the street on a first-come-first-served basis:

There is an association in Manchester which calls itself the Theatre Reform League. We offer no apology for calling our readers’ attention to this organisation because it is seeking to effect a series of fatuous reforms by means of injunctions against managers, and other legal means. The first theatrical institution to be attacked is the theatre queue, and although the action in question is directed against an ordinary dramatic house, the bioscope theatre manager will obviously be affected should Mr. John Hart, of the Queen’s Theatre, be injuncted for permitting the so-called nuisance. We fail to see how the queue can be a nuisance to any member of the Theatre Reform League unless he happens to be a tradesman in front of whose shop the people waiting for the theatre stand. And the number of theatres in the country where the queues impede the entrance to adjoining shops is very small, so that the action of the league seems to be a gratuitous piece of interference organised by some busybody in search of notoriety. The queue system is absolutely imperative in the case of most bioscope theatres, for the introduction of the booking system would entail considerable extra expense, and for 3d. and 6d. seats it is extremely unlikely that people would take the trouble to book seats in advance.

An early name for a film camera was a “bioscope”, and the name was chosen for a film journal during the silent era of film, published in London. It ran from 1908 to 1932. The Bioscope was aimed at the trade rather than the general public, but it still carried a range of articles that are absolutely fascinating from an historical perspective.

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About Roger Pocock

Co-writer on Author of Editor of
This entry was posted in 20th Century, Britain, History, Law, Magazines, News, Newspapers, Snippets and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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