Here to Stay: Sound Becomes Inevitable in 1928-1930




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Peer reviewed



During the years of transition to sound, no-one had any real idea as to what the lasting impact of the new talking picture would be. Amidst confusion and scepticism amongst film producers and exhibitors alike about the apparatuses, systems and rental terms surrounding sound films, opinion was split about the fate of the ever-reliable silent feature. The prospective landscape for silent cinemas was decidedly dire by 1930, but even as recently as 1928, the looming demise of silent cinema was viewed as almost laughable. By September 1929, only 800 cinemas in the country had wired for sound, compared to 3,400 that had not, and despite the desire of many exhibitors to convert their halls for the talkies when the cost of doing so was more manageable, it remained accepted wisdom among many that so long as there remained a substantial number of silent halls in Britain, film producers and renters would continue to offer silent films to satisfy this demand. This was not, however, the opinion of all concerned. This paper examines the shift in perception and opinion about the fate of silent cinema during the key years of the transition to sound in Britain. It will highlight the disparate voices of concern and optimism evident during this period, as those involved throughout the film production, rental and exhibition sectors shifted their impressions of sound cinema from it being a temporary passing novelty, to it representing the complete supplantation of silent cinema. In the process, the paper will aim to highlight some new perspectives on the tensions between British and American cinema sensibilities, and the fear of Americanisation.


A presentation as part of a public colloquium called Silent to Sound, part of the British Silent Film Festival, held in Leicester, September 2017. This colloquium was a key output of the AHRC-funded research project "British Silent Cinema and the Transition to Sound".


British silent cinema and the transition to sound, silent film, sound cinema, motion pictures, film history, cinema, CEA, talkies, Americanisation


Sibanda, N. (2017) Here to Stay: Sound Becomes Inevitable in 1928-1930. British Silent Film Festival, Leicester, September 2017.


Research Institute