The Conversion to Sound of the Kingsway and the Ideal Cinemas in King's Heath, 1929-1932




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Peer reviewed



Business records constitute a fundamental source of primary empirical evidence, which illuminate the granular details that collectively form wider regional and national trends. Their rarity has meant that each discovery offers unique perspectives on different cinemagoing communities and time periods. These records have generally been deployed to determine community preferences and attitudes, as they compare with assumptions regarding national tastes (see Poole 1987, Harper 2004 and 2006, Jeacle 2009, James 2013). The Kingsway Cinema was a super cinema constructed in the Birmingham suburb of King’s Heath to serve its local community. A minute book for the Directors’ Meetings of the cinema has survived, and contains records dating from the cinema’s opening in March 1925 through to May 1938. The record contains weekly profit statements for the Kingsway, which can serve as a substitute for admissions figures as a metric for gauging the relative popularity of films shown (when combined with programming advertising from local press), illuminating the taste community of King’s Heath. Yet the minutes also provide a rare insight into the considerations and rationale behind the business decisions made by the cinema’s directors and management. This paper aims to discuss the potential avenues of inquiry that such a record makes available, focusing on the period around the cinema’s conversion to sound, and the unique challenges this turbulent transition presented to the directors of a suburban cinema.


A presentation as part of Silent Cinema and the Transition to Sound symposium at The MacRobert Arts Centre, University of Stirling 23rd-24th May 2016. This symposium was a key output from the research project.


British silent cinema and the transition to sound, 1920s, 1930s, talkies, sound cinema, cinema, film history, CEA, Birmingham


Sibanda, N. (2016) The Conversion to Sound of the Kingsway and the Ideal Cinemas in King's Heath, 1929-1932. Silent Cinema and the Transition to Sound symposium, Stirling, May 2016.


Research Institute