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Portico in spring

Mapping London’s Filmland

Photo of West End Cinema in 1917

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‘Motor cars, cinemas, tubes, electric light and steel-girder building methods have done their best, or worst, to impose a new character upon London, but they are not strong enough. London merely adds them to her system and remains London still: they are the lady and she is the tiger, with the lady inside.’

(E.V. Lucas, ‘The Charm of London’, 1922)

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Mapping London’s Filmland explores the growth of cinema culture in London between 1914 and 1930.


Taking a micro-historical approach, the project sets out to discover what cinema meant to local audiences across different parts of the city during this period, and how the social experience of filmgoing changed over time.

Of special interest is the cinema culture that emerged in the West End, the city’s centre of commercial entertainment. How did London’s pleasure-seekers incorporate cinema into their days and nights out? And what was life like among the cluster of film production and distribution businesses that settled in and around the streets of nearby Soho – an area that contemporary commentators came to know as London’s ‘Filmland’?

By answering these and related questions, this project seeks to contribute to the growing body of scholarship on local cinema cultures worldwide. It will also add to our understanding of metropolitan history, suggesting ways of re-examining London through what Eric Smoodin has called ‘the everyday routes of film culture’.

To help imagine these historic routes through the city, and to facilitate further research on London’s early cinema history, one outcome of this project will be an online resource providing information about film venues in London for the period 1914-1930.

For further information, please contact the project researcher, Dr Chris O’Rourke, at: christopher.o’rourke@ucl.ac.uk

Image: Exterior of the West End Cinema Theatre, 3-4 Coventry Street, in 1917. Copyright of Chris O'Rourke.

Page last modified on 15 jul 13 13:11