Saturday Morning Picture Clubs were one of the most prolific pastimes for children growing up in post war Britain.
Right up till the ’80s it was common for children to visit the ‘pictures’ at least once a week and sometimes 3 or 4 times.
Even with the onset of mass television their popularity remained, offering children the escapism that only a darkened art deco building could offer. Be it The Ritz , the ABC, the Odeon, the Tivoli or Gaumont they all knew the value of the childhood audience.
As after all, these were the teenagers and adults of the future.
The Saturday Morning Picture clubs, be it the ABC Minors or the Odeon National Cinema Club for Boys and Girls, were often more that just a single movie. Often consisting of a couple of cartoons, an info film, a cliff hanger and the main attraction.
The ‘cliffhangers’ were particularly important, guaranteeing you would come back week after week. Buster Crabbe’s Flash Gordon or Buck Rogers were a prime point in case, you could not miss the fortunes of Flash and Ming The Merciless or what would you talk about all week at school? it was that important.
The tactic was even continued by TV in the ’70s on Saturday morning television showing the likes of Zorro , Champion the Wonder Horse, The Lone Ranger etc etc in order to try and recreate the picture club loyalty that had grown throughout previous decades.
The ‘pictures’ were all about escapism, be it swashbuckling with Errol Flynn or a shootout with John Wayne, the audiences didn’t seem to mind which, providing the ice cream was cold and the entertainment was plenty.
They fuelled the creative imagination that allowed children to play in the bombsites of the ’40s and ’50s pretending to be Robin Hood or The Black Arrow.
The Saturday morning pilgrimage was a must for post war children and continued for decades until the picture houses became multiplexes and children’s entertainment options became much, much more diverse. But for many the sign of Z for Zorro on a Saturday morning will always mark the beginning of a great journey into the unknown..
Were you a Saturday morning picture goer?