Article

Cinemagoing in Portsmouth during the 1930s

Cinema Journal 09/2006; 46(1):52-84. DOI: 10.1353/cj.2007.0005

ABSTRACT Abstract: This paper uses the recently discovered box-office ledger of the first-run cinema the Regent in Portsmouth, U.K.. to test the POPSTAT methodology for measuring film popularity in the general absence of such data. In order to do this a dataset of the film programs of all twenty-one cinemas screening films in the city in 1934 has been constructed from which a clear picture of film distribution and popularity emerges.

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    ABSTRACT: Purpose – Since its emergence in the early twentieth century, cinema has acquired a cultural identity. As purveyor of light entertainment, the local movie palace sold escapism at a cheap price. It also acted as an important social apparatus that regulated everyday mannerisms and appearance. The purpose of this paper is to investigate the box office ledger of a UK picture house and to consider the role of the accounting document as a medium through which both local and broader social and historical norms can be reflected. Design/methodology/approach – The paper primarily employs archival sources. It examines the box office ledger of the Edinburgh Playhouse cinema for the period 1929-1973. This ledger is held within the National Archive of Scotland. Secondary sources are also drawn upon to provide a social and historical context to the study. Findings – The analysis of the box office ledger illustrates the potential value of an accounting document as a source of social history. Not only does this single ledger mirror the defining moments in British cinema history, it also helps inform the conception of what constitutes accounting, shapes the perception of contemporary strategic management accounting rhetoric, and further an appreciation of the relationship between accounting and everyday life. Originality/value – The entertainment industry has been largely ignored within accounting scholarship. Such neglect is lamentable given both the scale of the industry and its impact on contemporary culture. This paper is an attempt to redress this neglect by examining one component of the entertainment business, cinema, through the medium of an accounting document.
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