Cinematograph Films Act 1927

The Cinematograph Films Act of 1927 (17 & 18 Geo. V) was an act of the United Kingdom Parliament designed to stimulate the declining British film industry. It received Royal Assent on 20 December 1927, and came into force on 1 April 1928.[1]


It introduced a requirement for British cinemas to show a quota of British films, for a duration of 10 years. The Act's supporters believed that this would promote the emergence of a vertically integrated film industry, in which production, distribution and exhibition infrastructure are controlled by the same companies. The vertically integrated American film industry had rapid growth in the years immediately following the end of World War I. The idea, then, was to try to counter Hollywood's perceived economic and cultural dominance by promoting similar business practices among British studios, distributors, and cinema chains. By creating an artificial market for British films, the increased economic activity in the production sector was hoped to eventually lead to the growth of a self-sustaining industry. The quota was initially set at 7.5% for exhibitors, which was raised to 20% in 1935. These films included ones shot in British dominions such as Canada and Australia.

With regards to what was and what was not considered a British film, the act approved by Parliament specified:

Results and the quota quickie

The act is generally not considered a success. On the one hand, it was held responsible for a wave of speculative investment in lavishly budgeted features which could never hope to recoup their production costs on the domestic market (e.g. the output of Alexander Korda's London Films, a boom-and-bust which was satirised in Jeffrey Dell's 1939 novel Nobody Ordered Wolves). At the other end of the spectrum, it was blamed for the emergence of the "quota quickie".

The quota quickies were mostly low-cost, poorer-quality, quickly accomplished films commissioned by American distributors active in the UK or British cinema owners purely to satisfy the quota requirements. In recent years, however, an alternative view has arisen among film historians such as Lawrence Napper, who have argued that the quota quickie has been too casually dismissed, and is of particular cultural and historical value because it recorded performances unique to British popular culture (e.g. music hall and variety acts), which under normal economic circumstances would not have been filmed.

The act was modified by the Cinematograph Films Act 1938, removing films shot by nations in the British Empire from the quota and further acts, and was eventually repealed by the Films Act 1960.


  1. Hansard
  2. Jill Nelmes, An Introduction to Film Studies (Routledge, 2003), p. 325
  3. Summary of film-related legislation on the UK parliament's website

External links

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