The Children's Film Foundation: an investigation into the decline and fall of a unique British institution

Peppiatt, A.S., 2021. The Children's Film Foundation: an investigation into the decline and fall of a unique British institution. PhD, Nottingham Trent University.

phd thesis submission (corrected) - Google Docs.pdf - Published version

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The Children's Film Foundation (the CFF) was a unique institution in British cinema history, created in 1952 to provide content solely for the Saturday matinee film shows and junior cinema clubs that were provided by cinema chains right up to the middle of the 1980s. It was non-profitmaking and funded by an annual grant from the industry, raised by a cinema seat tax - the Eady Levy.

The Foundation, which was the second largest producer of films in Britain, behind only Hammer Films, has had scant coverage by film historians. Only two titles have been published on the Foundation's history, and neither centred on the fight for survival and eventual demise of the CFF as the matinee market collapsed when the television stations targeted their traditional Saturday morning slots, and the British film industry floundered in the late 1970s.

This thesis builds on the previous works by Terry Staples and Robert Shail by utilising the unpublished CFF archive at the British Film Institute. I was lucky enough to be the only researcher to be allowed access to the archive for over thirty years, since the archive was donated to the BFI, and this research is the basis of this new history and analysis of this underreported area of British film history. I have ordered this thesis chronologically, foregrounding the story and development of the British children's film, to trace the trends that the CFF had to adapt to, as the mainstream cinema audience and in particular, the matinee audience on which the Foundation depended, shrank in the face of television domination. The early chapters deal with the history of the children's film and the forerunner to the CFF, Lord Rank's CEF. The research is then ordered by decade - tracing the development of the Foundation, with specific and relevant productions subject to close scrutiny. Use of film reviews, CFF documents from the archives and close inspection of the texts and storylines, along with detailed analysis of the personnel of the films, build to give more than a basic synopsis of the important films and serials. The final chapters are a detailed investigation into the efforts of the CFF board to ensure survival, again with previously unpublished documents from the archive giving a more complete picture of the intense pressures and the supreme efforts of the board to try to remain a producer of children's content, for cinema, or more pertinently, television.

The main research question is "could the CFF have been saved as a production entity as its main audience disappeared" and is addressed in the final chapters, centring on the board's reaction and their concerted efforts to remain in business, and an analysis of their 'co-production' deals with terrestrial television stations, which proved less than satisfactory and only served to hasten the Foundation’s demise.

Item Type: Thesis
Creators: Peppiatt, A.S.
Date: October 2021
Divisions: Schools > School of Arts and Humanities
Record created by: Linda Sullivan
Date Added: 08 Nov 2022 14:38
Last Modified: 08 Nov 2022 14:38

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