To understand some of the changes in
the film industry, we also need to look at the cinema laws which, of
course, dictated the changes and
development of the film indusry.
This was the first English Act of Parliament specifically
concerned with the cinema and grew out of concern over fires in theatres
caused by the highly combustible nitrate base film stocks of the period.
The Act banned cinematograph exhibitions except in licensed premises.
It assigned the power to license cinemas for up to a year to county
and county borough councils, which had the power to set their own conditions
and to delegate. This latter provision became important as the Act was
used not only to reduce the literally inflammable risk of fire but also
the morally inflammable risk that cinemas presented to public welfare.
It meant that the licensing authorities could adopt the classifications
given to films by the British Board of Film Censors. This shift in emphasis
was implicit in the addition of the word 'regulating' to the title of
the Act in 1952.
Several types of show were exempt from licensing.
A licence was not necessary if shows were given for less than six days
a year and if at least seven days' notice was given to the chief officer
of police. One was not necessary for shows in structures of 'a moveable
character', if at least two days notice was given to the chief police
officer and if the show otherwise complied with regulations. The Act
did not apply to shows in dwelling houses, even if a charge were made.
Trade shows, etc, were not 'exhibitions'.
The Act was repealed by the Cinemas Act 1985.
In 1916, an import duty was imposed for positive
film prints at 1d (0.42p) a foot and for negative at 5d (2.1p). Imports
of blank (unexposed film stock were taxed at 0.33d (0.14p) per linear
CINEMATOGRAPH FILM ACT 1922
The 1909 Cinematograph Act had clearly failed
to prevent the dangers from fires caused by the use of films with a
nitrocellulose base. The powers of local authorities were reinforced
by requiring cinemas and other places in which cinematograph film was
handled (laboratories, distribution depots, etc) to notify the local
authority, provide fire escapes and make other safety provisions. The
Act granted powers of entry and to remove samples for testing.
The Act applied in Scotland except in 'the city
and royal burgh of Glasgow' nor in the city of Liverpool, which had
its own law in the Liverpool Corporation Act 1921.
FILMS ACT 1927
This Act introduced screen quotas that came into
force on 1 April 1928 for renters (distributors) and 1 October 1928
In that year the UK generated $165m box office
revenue and produced 44 films (4.8 per cent of films shown), against
723 US film imports (81 per cent). The UK provided 30 per cent of US
film export earnings for the year.
The Quota was based on proportion of screen time during accounting
period (i.e., days per year). It started at 7 1/2% of the films shown
had to be British made films... and rose to 20% by 1935.
The Quotas were initially set for 10 years.
The Cinematograph Act 1909 permitted Sunday shows
in England and Wales, subject to safety and employment regulations,
but this Act removed a possible anomaly by declaring that films shows
on Sundays would not create an offence under the Sunday Observance Acts
1625 to 1780.
It established a new Cinematograph Fund, under
the control of the Privy Council. Not more than five per cent of takings
nor more than the profit earned from Sunday shows were to be paid to
the fund, to be used for 'encouraging the use and development of the
cinematograph as a means of entertainment and instruction'. [In fact
it went to the British
Film Institute, which was founded the following year.]
A Schedule to the Act allowed a poll of local
electors on whether to allow Sunday cinemas.
March 25, 1936, a committee
was formed and headed by Lord Moyne that was given the task: "To
consider the position of British films, having in mind the approaching
expiry of the Cinematograph Films Act, 1927, and to advise whether,
and if so what, measures are still required in the public interest to
promote the production, renting and exhibition of such films"
The report warned of the
dangers of allowing growing foreign (ie, American) control of the British
industry, notably exhibition, and recommended that financial institutions
be encouraged to fund British film production on 'reasonable' terms.
It recommended the extension of the quota provision for a further 10
years but condemned the practice of making 'quota quickies'—cheap
and usually shoddy films made to satisfy the demand artificially created
by the need to fulfill the quota. Blame for encouraging this practice
was placed on the foreign (ie, American) distributors, who wanted to
spend as little as possible on acquiring their quota of titles. As a
deterrent it recommended a quality test—a cost of £2 per
foot of finished film was proposed—that would also apply to films
made in other parts of the Empire, which counted towards the quota.
The administration of this
test and other matters concerning the industry should be put under an
impartial Films Commission appointed by the government.
FILMS ACT 1937
An Act to prohibit the exhibition or distribution
of cinematograph films in connection with the production of which suffering
may have been caused to animals; and for purposes connected therewith.
This Act did not apply in Northern Ireland.
FILMS ACT 1938
This Act focused on the outcome of the Moyne Committee
report. It established the Cinematograph Films Council and set the British
screen quota for feature films and for short films at 15 per cent for
renters and 12½ per cent for exhibitors.
FILMS ACT 1948
This Act abolished the film quota for distributors
introduced by the 1927 Act but, while leaving the exhibitors' quota
for the supporting program at 25 per cent, almost doubled the quota
for main features from 25 per cent to a record 45 per cent.
ACTS IN 1949, 1950, 1952, and 1954
provided by http://www.terramedia.co.uk/
which is an excellent reference site.