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Not going out: television’s impacts on Britain’s commercial entertainment industries and popular leisure during the 1950s

Scott, P. M. ORCID: (2023) Not going out: television’s impacts on Britain’s commercial entertainment industries and popular leisure during the 1950s. Social History, 48 (4). pp. 475-500. ISSN 1470-1200

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1080/03071022.2023.2246828


The 1950s was a pivotal decade for Britain’s entertainment industries, with the rapid diffusion of television and sharp declines for hitherto dominant urban venue entertainments. This had important social consequences, including the acceleration of the trend from community-based socialising to more sedentary, family-based, entertainment – the last essential component of the ‘industrialisation of the home’. However, the disruptive impact of television varied considerably among different incumbent urban entertainments, with variety theatre and cinema facing catastrophic declines, while spectator sports and dance halls continued to flourish. This article examines television’s differential impact on incumbent entertainments using a variety of new sources, including Customs and Excise data; unpublished government social surveys; and trade sources. The differential impact of television on incumbent entertainments can be largely explained by the degree of ‘commitment’ demanded of consumers for different leisure activities; the degree to which television was a strong substitute; the presence of addictive elements (gambling); and the extent to which the activity appealed to a youth audience. However, the rapid collapse of variety theatre and cinema can only be fully explained by television enabling strong latent preferences for commercial entertainment in the home, which were now satisfied by television.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Henley Business School > International Business and Strategy
ID Code:113660
Uncontrolled Keywords:History
Publisher:Informa UK Limited


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