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Glossary
1900 - 19491950 - 19591960 - 19691970 - 19791980 - 19891990 - 19992000 - PRESENT
Introduction
1925

The Film Society is formed, London

"From the beginning, the London Film Society offered members programs of remarkable breadth, combining avant-garde films, scientific films and other types of documentaries, classic shorts and features, and commercial films of distinction from around the world." John Ezard

Britain's first Film Society was founded on October 25th 1925 at the New Gallery Kinema in Regent Street, London. Its original members include the playwright George Bernard Shaw, H.G Wells, Maynard Keynes, Anthony Asquith, Sidney Bernstein, Ivor Montagu, and Augustus John, all of whom were determined that the restrictive Cinematograph censorship laws of 1909 (in which 'inflammable films' were banned), would not effect or impact upon the selection of films that were screened.

As a result, the primary objective of the Film Society was to screen avant-garde works that had either been banned by the censors or could not be seen anywhere else in Britain, alongside more mainstream films. Some of the first programs included screenings of Paul Leni's The Waxworks (1924), Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin (1928) and the Charlie Chaplin short The Champion (1915). As the Film Society developed and gained more members, screenings evolved into events in which art exhibitions, lectures and group discussions situated the films shown within a historical and critical framework.

After positioning avant-garde film as a credible and serious alternative to mainstream cinema, the Film Society in London was disrupted by the outbreak of World War II. The last screening in its original format occurred on April 23rd 1939. Over the years, the Film Society influenced hundreds of other film societies and clubs around the country, and its aims and objectives were instrumental in the creation and ethos of the British Federation of Film Societies.

Lara Thompson

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Some of the first films shown at the Film Society (l-r); Battleship Potemkin, The Champion and The Waxworks.

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