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Star Cinema, Abbey Street, c. 1937, Bermondsey
View full size imageStar Cinema, Abbey Street, c. 1937, Bermondsey.  

Cinemas became a popular haven for dockworkers in the early 20th century. Inside opulent and comfortable interiors, cinemagoers enjoyed a cheap and full afternoon of entertainment aimed at all the family.

For the price of one ticket, they got to watch two films, a cartoon, a newsreel and possibly a live act. You even got free entry if it was your birthday! Audiences grew rapidly throughout the Second World War. In spite of bombing and explosions outside, the film shows continued.

John, Ivy and Doreen remember going to the cinema in Woolwich:

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You'd have one film and then you'd have a serial, wouldn't you…?'

'You'd have a small film and then you'd have the organ come up.'

'Yeah, sing-along adverts.'

'Happy news then.'

'Then the big film…'

'When you went to the pictures… you saw the news… Pathé news… we never had television

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but you saw it at the pictures.


Cinema today is a multi-sensory experience with large screens and surround-sound technology. The local, independent cinema has almost vanished, swallowed up by the sheer size and Hollywood appeal of the multi-screen complexes with their ever-changing selection of box office hits.

Michelle is more likely to rent films on video than go to the cinema:

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Sometimes go to Bromley cinema and I used to go to the one in Lewisham but that's
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shut down now… me and my friends usually rent a video out and stay in.


Find out more
GalleriesVideoThe 20th century port video gallery
From 1914 to the present day
StoriesThe 20th-century port
The changing fortunes of Docklands and the port
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National Maritime Museum/Royal Observatory GreenwichNew Opportunities Fund 
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