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1920s Television, Theatre & Cinema Experience

1920s London West End Theatre A thruppenny bit for a night at the cinema, no Christmas Day TV specials, and a evening out at the theatre could mean anything from Panto to Opera – We take a look at the ways people of the  roaring twenties entertained themselves on the run up to Christmas.

Nowadays television plays a huge part in family entertainment on the build up to Christmas, shows such as X Factor, Strictly Come Dancing and of course a Buble festive special are all part of the fun, however in the 1920’s TV wasn’t even invented (yes, we can hear your shock!) with John Logie Baird creating the first in 1926 but not available to the public until 1940 – meaning no Eastenders Christmas special!

Just like today, cinema’s were really popular in the 20’s however it was mostly dominated by silent movies (yes! silent, no noise, no nothing!) with well known actors and directors such as Buster Keaton who produced classic’s such as The Three Ages (1923) and Sherlock, Jr. (1924)Charlie Chaplin one of the leading actors of all time also dominated the cinema scene with movies such as The Gold Rush (1925) being one of today’s iconic film’s.

Buster Keaton in Sherlock Jr silent movie 1924

Once synchronized sound was the “in thing”, slap-stick comedy shows became hugely succesful, with actors such as well know double act Laurel and Hardy appearing on the scene.

It’s hard to imagine a time when cinema’s wasn’t all about how many screens it has, what movies are bing shown, and more importantly is it now in 3D? However in the twenties, cinemas were only just getting started with the Kings Cross Cinema opening in April 1920 seating 1000 people – we couldn’t think of one cinema room holding that many, imagine 1000 kids in one room watching a 3d Christmas Carol – this could be your worst nightmare.  By the end of the era more than 500 were opened in Scotland with England and Wales having much more.

Aladsin Hippodrome 1920-21“The Theatre, the Theatre, what’s happened to the Theatre?” we can hear you ask! Well those in the twenties loved to go out to concerts, dance shows and of course even some fun panto’s.

At Christmas children were were treated to free performances where they were given free toys, sweets and cakes.  Much like today’s pantomime’s but on a grander scheme.  Children flocked to the theatre with their families which in turn encouraged families of all ages to visit the theatre for other performances.

Putting on lavish shows played a huge part in entertainement during the 1920’s and not just in London’s West End but New York’s broadway too.  One of the biggest groups in Britain was the Moss Empire who built six huge 2000 seater venues across the country including:  Southampton, Edinburgh, Liverpool, Oxford and The Dominion in London, as well  as the Empire Theatre Glasgow, which sadly no longer survives.

The theatre was much more affordable in the 20’s than it is today, mainly because people who took part in the theatre did it for fun whereas today, people are striving to make a living from it.

At Christmas time, Britain is filled full of panto’s everything from Jack in the Beanstalk to Cinderella and it seems even in the 1920’s pantomime’s were very popular too – we wonder if they shouted “Look out he’s behind you!”

2013 panto with Louis Spence

Cinema at Christmas has changed quite a bit since the twenties with a much broader choice of films and actually having sound, though it seems even both eras still have one thing in common – the UK still love to head out on a big lavish night out on the run up to Christmas.

How do you celebrate the run up to the big day? Do you think you could sit through a silent movie with your children? Why not take part in UnderTheChristmasTree Bygone Christmasses by commenting below.

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