A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46



In the course of an inquiry made by the Wartime Social Survey for the Ministry of Information into what sections of the civilian public could be reached by various publicity media, some questions were asked about cinema going habits. The cinema is an important publicity medium in war time and it is, therefore, desirable to know what sort of people go to the cinema and how often they go.

A sample of 5639 people was interviewed. Men and women were selected in representative proportions from different regions and occupation groups, and they were asked simply how often they went to the cinema. Women who had children of elementary school age were asked how often their children went to the cinema. Details of the sample are given on page 23.

This inquiry should be regarded as only a first attempt to study cinema going habits. The data are subject to various limitations and these should be borne in mind in the interpretation of results.

(1) Only civilians were included in the sample and it is not known what proportion of cinema audiences are civilians and what proportion H.M. Forces.

(2) The inquiry was made in June - July 1943 and informants were asked only about their habits at that time. The actual question asked was: “How often do you go to the cinema at this time of year?” In general, cinemas have smaller audiences in the summer than in the winter, and also there are variations from one year to another.

The results given in this report, therefore, can be taken as true for the summer months of 1943 only.

(3) People were asked about their habits in a general way, and in most cases their replies can be regarded only as approximations to the truth. Those who went to the cinema regularly one day in every week could give an accurate answer, but those who did not go at regular intervals had to say about how often they went on an average.

The average number of visits to the cinema per month, given in Section IV are, therefore, approximations, as are the figures (given in the same section) showing the proportion of cinema attendances accounted for by different people.

Possibly more precise results could have been obtained by asking people how many times they had been to the cinema in a recent specified period, but here again some approximation would be necessary on account of the unreliability of memory.

However, it is possible to compare the habits of different groups of the population with one another.

In Section I the proportions of the sample and of different groups giving various replies are shown. Section II deals with those who went to the cinema once a week or more often. These may be described as “cinema enthusiasts” and their composition is compared with the composition of the adult civilian population. Both of these sections are concerned only with adults.

In Section III the habits of children of elementary school age are shown, as described by their mothers.

Section IV sums up the results given in the previous sections and shows the composition of the civilian part of the average cinema audiences during the summer of 1943.


Summary of results

70% of adult civilians sometimes go to the cinema and 32% go once a week or more often (June - July 1943). Younger adults go to the cinema much more than older people, and children go rather more than do adults, but not as much as young wage-earners.

The lower economic groups and those with elementary education go to the cinema more than the higher economic groups and those with higher education.

Factory workers, clerical and distributive workers go rather more than other occupation groups. Managerial and professional workers, housewives and the retired and unoccupied go rather less.

Town dwellers go to the cinema more often than people living in the country and women go rather more than men.

The cinema is able to reach large sections of the population which are less accessible by other publicity media. For instance, many of the groups with a high average cinema attendance, the younger age groups and the lower economic groups read newspapers less than do others, (See Wartime Social Survey report “Newspapers and the Public”). On the other hand some smaller groups, the higher economic groups and those with higher education, read newspapers more but go to the cinema less.

In general it may be said that the large groups of the population are relatively better represented in the cinema audience than they are in the public reached by other visual publicity media such as newspapers and books.

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