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Barry Norman is one of Britain's best loved film broadcasters, but for this series he is not so much interested in the films as in exploring how the experience of going to the cinema in Britain has changed over the last one hundred years. In fact, his first surprise is the discovery that people are far more likely to recall the general experience of going to the cinema than the individual films they saw.
He draws on BBC archive as well as recordings from the University of Lancaster which have never been broadcast before, and also new interviews to find out how people's experience of this most popular form of entertainment has changed over the decades.
The Silent Era, it turns out, was not all that silent, with plenty of chatting and tea-drinking going on, not to mention children reading out the titles to their illiterate parents and grandparents. Barry then moves on to hear how overwhelmed many viewers were by the sheer luxury of the cinemas built in the inter-war years and how these pleasure palaces offered a few hours of escape from lives which were harsh or sometimes simply dull. He himself recalls going to the pictures in the 1950s, which was the golden age of Saturday morning cinema for children. In the 1960s, with the advent of television, Barry finds out about the ultimately failed attempts to introduce novelties such as Cinerama and The Smellies to cinema and hears confessions about just what went on in the back row!
With contributions from film expert Annette Kuhn and architectural historian Richard Gray, this first part of Barry Norman's memoir of Going to the Flicks is a heady mix of nostalgia and surprise.
Producer : Beaty Rubens.