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UK media laws: Cinema and films

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THE CINEMATOGRAPH ACT 1909
9 Edw.7 c.30
An Act to make better provision for [regulating]* cinematograph and other exhibitions.

*word in square brackets added by Cinematograph Act 1952

This was the first English Act of Parliament specifically concerned with the cinema and grew out of concern over fires in theatres caused by the highly combustible nitrate base film stocks of the period.
       The Act banned cinematograph exhibitions except in licensed premises. It assigned the power to license cinemas for up to a year to county and county borough councils, which had the power to set their own conditions and to delegate. This latter provision became important as the Act was used not only to reduce the literally inflammable risk of fire but also the morally inflammable risk that cinemas presented to public welfare. It meant that the licensing authorities could adopt the classifications given to films by the British Board of Film Censors. This shift in emphasis was implicit in the addition of the word 'regulating' to the title of the Act in 1952. 
       Several types of show were exempt from licensing. A licence was not necessary if shows were given for less than six days a year and if at least seven days' notice was given to the chief officer of police. One was not necessary for shows in structures of 'a moveable character', if at least two days notice was given to the chief police officer and if the show otherwise complied with regulations. The Act did not apply to shows in dwelling houses, even if a charge were made. Trade shows, etc, were not 'exhibitions'.
       The Act was repealed by the Cinemas Act 1985.
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THE LIVERPOOL CORPORATION ACT 1921
11 & 12 Geo. 5 c. lxxiv
 See Celluloid and Cinematograph Film Act 1922 11.

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THE CELLULOID AND CINEMATOGRAPH FILM ACT 1922
12&13 Geo.5 c.35
An Act to make better provision for the prevention of fires in premises where raw celluloid or cinematograph film is stored or used.

The 1909 Cinematograph Act had clearly failed to prevent the dangers from fires caused by the use of films with a nitrocellulose base. The powers of local authorities were reinforced by requiring cinemas and other places in which cinematograph film was handled (laboratories, distribution depots, etc) to notify the local authority, provide fire escapes and make other safety provisions. The Act granted powers of entry and to remove samples for testing.
       The Act applied in Scotland except in 'the city and royal burgh of Glasgow' nor in the city of Liverpool, which had its own law in the Liverpool Corporation Act 1921.
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THE CINEMATOGRAPH FILMS ACT 1927
17&l8 Geo.5 c.29
This Act introduced screen quotas that came into force on 1 April 1928 for renters (distributors) and 1 October 1928 for exhibitors. It also made blind booking of films illegal. This was the practice whereby a distributor would require an exhibitor to take as much as a whole year's output unseen (indeed, some of the films might not even have been made yet). Films could no longer be sold until they had been shown to the trade.
       The Act was repealed by the Cinematograph Films Act 1948.
Details of the screen quota system.

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THE SUNDAY ENTERTAINMENTS ACT 1932
22 & 23 Geo. 5 c. 51
An Act to permit and regulate the opening and use of places on Sundays for certain entertainments and for debates, and for purposes connected with the matters aforesaid.

The Cinematograph Act 1909 permitted Sunday shows in England and Wales, subject to safety and employment regulations, but this Act removed a possible anomaly by declaring that films shows on Sundays would not create an offence under the Sunday Observance Acts 1625 to 1780.
       It established a new Cinematograph Fund, under the control of the Privy Council. Not more than five per cent of takings nor more than the profit earned from Sunday shows were to be paid to the fund, to be used for 'encouraging the use and development of the cinematograph as a means of entertainment and instruction'. [In fact it went to the British Film Institute, founded the following year.]
       A Schedule to the Act allows a poll of local electors on whether to allow Sunday cinemas.
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>THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT ACT 1933
23 & 24 Geo. 5 c. 51

Permitted electors to vote in referendums on Sunday cinema opening.
Repealed by Local Government Act 1972.

 

THE PUBLIC HEALTH ACT 1936
26 Geo. 5 & 1 Edw. 8 c. 49
226(3) allows local authorities to close baths and washhouses in winter and to use them for other purposes but allows no exemption from the requirement to obtain a licence for film shows, etc.

 

THE CINEMATOGRAPH FILMS (ANIMALS) ACT 1937
1 Edw.8 & 1 Geo.6 c.59
An Act to prohibit the exhibition or distribution of cinematograph films in connection with the production of which suffering may have been caused to animals; and for purposes connected therewith.

Act does not apply in Northern Ireland.

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THE CINEMATOGRAPH FILMS ACT 1938
1 & 2 Geo. 6 c. 17
The outcome of the Moyne Committee report. It established the Cinematograph Films Council (which was abolished in 1985) and set the British screen quota for feature films and for short films at 15 per cent for renters and 12 for exhibitors. This was to encourage bigger budget films that could compete better internationally, although producers were concerned that it would lead to more American production in the UK—a policy approved by the Board of Trade.
Repealed by and consolidated in Films Act 1960.
Moyne Committee report


THE CINEMATOGRAPH FILMS ACT 1948
11&12 Geo.6 c.23

This Act abolished the film quota for distributors introduced by the 1927 Act but, while leaving the exhibitors' quota for the supporting programme at 25 per cent, almost doubled the quota for main features from 25 per cent to a record 45 per cent. 
Repealed by and consolidated in Films Act 1960.

SI
1948/1687 Cinematograph Films (Quotas) Order.
1950/531 Cinematograph Films (Quotas) (Amendment) Order.

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THE CINEMATOGRAPH FILM PRODUCTION (SPECIAL LOANS) ACT 1949
12, 13 & 14 Geo.6 c.20
An Act to make temporary provision for the lending of money to be employed in financing the production or distribution of cinematograph films; to provide for the taking over by a national corporation established for the purpose aforesaid of the assets and liabilities of National Film Finance Company Limited; and for purposes connected with the matters aforesaid.
[March 1949]

See also Cinematograph Film Production (Special Loans) Acts 1950 to 1954 and Films Acts 1966 and 1970.

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THE BRITISH FILM INSTITUTE ACT 1949 12; 13 & 14 Geo.6 c.35
An Act to provide for the payment to the British Film Institute of grants out of moneys provided by Parliament

1.—Payment of grants to British Film Institute. Allows BFI to receive money from the Treasury as well as from the Privy Council's allocations from the Cinematograph Fund under the Sunday Entertainment Act 1932.

SI
1965/603   Transfer of Functions (Cultural Institutions) Order transfers responsibility for the BFI to the Department of Education and Science.

Repealed in part by Sunday Cinema Act 1972

THE CINEMATOGRAPH FILM PRODUCTION (SPECIAL LOANS) ACT 1950
14 Geo.6 c.l8

Repealed by Films Act 1970.

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THE CINEMATOGRAPH FILM PRODUCTION (SPECIAL LOANS) ACT 1952
15&16 Geo.6 & 1 Eliz.2 c.20
An Act to empower the National Film Finance Corporation to borrow otherwise than from the Board of Trade

The upper limit of borrowing by the National Film Finance Corporation was set at 2m.

Repealed in part by Films Act 1970.

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THE CUSTOMS AND EXCISE ACT 1952
15&16 Geo.6 & Eliz.2 c.44

Allows exemption from duty on temporary imports 

SI

1958/1975   Import Duty Reliefs (No.3) Order
1958/1979   Import Duty Reliefs (No.7) Order
1958/2141   Films (Temporary Importation) Regulations
1962/918      Temporary Importation (Process and Films) (Amendment) Regulations

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THE CINEMATOGRAPH ACT 1952
15&16 Geo.6 & 1 Eliz.2 c.68
An Act to extend and amend the Cinematograph Act 1909, and, as respects cinematograph entertainments, to modify the enactments relating to music and dancing licences

This Act was repealed by the Cinemas Act 1985.
Click for details

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THE CINEMATOGRAPH FILM PRODUCTION (SPECIAL LOANS) ACT 1954
2&3 Eliz..2 c.15
An Act to extend the period during which loans and advances may be made under the Cinematograph Film Production (Special Loans) Acts 1949 to 1952; to authorise the National Film Finance Corporation to enter into special arrangements with respect to certain loans; and for purposes connected therewith.

2.—Power to enter into arrangements with respect to certain loans. Allows NFFC to defer demand for repayment if it would be hazardous to the production; allows acceptance of shares or debentures in a company in or towards repayment of the amount of the loan.

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BRITISH FILM INSTITUTE ACT 1957

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THE CINEMATOGRAPH FILMS ACT 1957
5&6 Eliz.2 c.21
An Act to provide for the imposition of a levy on exhibitors of cinema to graph films and for the making from the proceeds thereof of payments to, or for the benefit of, makers of British cinematograph films and to the Children's Film Foundation Limited; to amend the law relating to the functions and finances of the National Film Finance Corporation; to extend the period during which, under section one of the Cinematograph Films Act, 1948, the inclusion of British cinematograph films amongst registered films exhibited to the public in theatres in Great Britain is obligatory and increase the maximum amount of certain fees payable under the Cinematograph Films Act, 1938; and for purposes connected with the matters aforesaid.

PART I: Provisions Relating to the Exhibitors' Levy

PART II: Amendment of Law Relating to Functions and Finance of National Film Finance Corporation

Click for details.

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THE ENTERTAINMENT DUTY ACT 1958
6&7 Eliz.2 c.9

Repealed by Finance Act 1960.

 

THE CINEMATOGRAPH ACT (NORTHERN IRELAND) 1959
8&9 Eliz.2 c.14

Repealed by and consolidated in Films Act 1960.


THE CINEMATOGRAPH FILMS ACT 1960
8&9 Eliz.2 c.14

Repealed by and consolidated in Films Act 1960.


THE FILMS ACT 1960
8&9 Eliz.2 c.57
An Act to consolidate the Cinematograph Films Acts 1938 to 1960

This Act was repealed by Films Act 1985.
Click for details

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THE FINANCE ACT 1960
8&9 Eliz.2 c.44

Repealed Entertainments Duty Act 1958.

 

THE PUBLIC HEALTH ACT 1961
9 & 10 Eliz. 2 c. 64

PART III: Prevention and notification of disease.

40  Exclusion of children from places of entertainment or assembly. 'Including a cinematograph theatre'.

 

THE SOUTH AFRICA ACT 1962
10&11 Eliz.2 c.23

2(3) and Sch.5 exclude South Africa from the Commonwealth qualification for British quota film registration.

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THE FILMS ACT 1964
1964 c.52

Repealed by Films Act 1985
An Act to amend the Films Act 1960 in its application to Newsreels

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THE GREATER LONDON COUNCIL (GENERAL POWERS) ACT 1966
1966 c. 28

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THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT ACT 1966
1966 c. 42

SI
1968/170      Miscellaneous Fees (Variation) 0.
1978/1387    Fees for Cinematograph Licences (Variation) 0.

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THE FILMS ACT 1966
1966 c. 48
An Act to extend the periods under which loans, advances and orders may be made under the Cinematograph Film Production (Special Loans) Acts 1949 to 1957, a levy is to be imposed under the Cinematograph Films Act 1957 and a quota of British films is to be maintained under the Films Acts 1960 and 1964; to raise the limit of exemptions from the quota; to increase the maximum fee payable on an application for the registration of a co-production film; and for connected purposes

Repealed by Films Act 1985


1, 3, 4 and 6 repealed by Films Act 1970
2 amends Cinematograph Films Act 1957 12(1) and Cinematograph Film Production (Special Loans) Act 1949
5 amends Films Act 1960 4(3), (4)
7 repeals Cinematograph Films Act 1957 10(2)

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THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE ACT 1967
1967 c.80

92, 106(2)(e) and Sch.3 Part I increase fine for contravention of Cinematograph Act 1909 3 from 20 plus 5 for each day of the offence to 200.

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THE FILMS ACT 1970
1970 c.26
An Act to amend the enactments relating to the financing and exhibition of films


1.—Extended functions of National Film Finance Corporation. Allows loans to acquire rights or to repay other loans. Time limit of 1980 is imposed on all loan arrangements. [cf Cinematograph Films Act 1957 2.]
3.—Remission of further interest on certain advances.

Sch.
Repeals Cinematograph Film Production (Special Loans) Act 1949 l(l)(b), 2(3);
Cinematograph Film Production (Special Loans) Act 1950;
Cinematograph Films Act 1957 10;
Films Act 1960 27,31(3), Sch.2, Sch.3 paras 4 and S;
Films Act 1966 1,3,4,6.

SI
1975/1884 Cinematograph Films (Limits of Levy) Order

Repealed by Films Act 1985

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THE COURTS ACT 1971
1971 c. 23

56(2)(4), Sch.9 Part I, Sch.II Part IV puts jurisdiction for hearings brought under Cinematograph Act 1952 under Quarter Sessions rather than Crown Court

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THE FIRE PRECAUTIONS ACT 1971
1971 c. 40

12(12)(a),(b) takes on responsibility for fire prevention in cinemas. Existing regulations under Cinematograph Acts 1909 to 1952 are to be construed as if under this Act but no new regulations are to be made under the Cinematograph Act 1952

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THE SUNDAY CINEMA ACT 1972
1972 c.19
An Act to amend the Sunday Entertainments Act 1932

Allows unconditional licensing of cinema exhibitions on Sundays in England and Wales and winds up the Cinematograph Fund, from which the British Film Institute benefited.
Click for details

Repealed by Cinemas Act 1985

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THE EUROPEAN COMMUNITIES ACT 1972
1972 c.68
PART II: Amendment of law

B.—Cinematograph films. Community films are not to be classed as foreign films but as quota films under the terms of the Films Acts 1960 to 1970.

SI
1974/2131 Films (Registration) (Amendment)Regs [revokes 1972/1925, revoked by 1975/1657—see under Films Act 1960]

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THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT ACT 1972
1972 c. 70
PART IX: Functions

204.—Licensing: licensed premises, cinemas, theatres and refreshment houses.
       (5) Outside Greater London, licences under the Cinematograph Act 1909 and Sunday Entertainment Act 1932 1 shall be granted by district councils.

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FILMS ACT 1979
Repealed by Films Act 1985

 

FILMS ACT 1980
Repealed by Films Act 1985

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FILM LEVY FINANCE ACT 1981

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NATIONAL FILM FINANCE CORPORATION ACT 1981

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INDECENT DISPLAYS (CONTROL) ACT 1981
c. 42

FINANCE ACT 1982
section 72

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CINEMATOGRAPH (AMENDMENT) ACT 1982
Repealed by Cinemas Act 1985
This Act was re-drafted following a letter to The Times.

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CINEMAS ACT 1985
1985 c.13
An Act to consolidate the Cinematograph Acts 1909 to 1982 and certain related enactments, with an amendment to give effect to a recommendation of the Law Commission.

This Act pulled together legislation spread through a number of Acts concerning cinema licensing, including compliance with health and safety regulations, allowing the repeal of four whole Acts.
Click for details

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FILMS ACT 1985
1985 c.21
An Act to repeal the Films Acts 1960 to 1980; to make further provision with respect to the financing of films; and for connected purposes. Click for details

THE CINEMAS (NORTHERN IRELAND) ORDER 1991

This Order re-enacts with amendments the Cinematograph Act (Northern Ireland) 1909 and 1959, concernignt he licensing of presmises for film exhibitions.
The Order can be read on the OPSI website (click to access).

 

See also Quotas and levies
Alphabetical list of statutes.

 

Page updated 7 April 2006
David Fisher