The British Fairground

Hancock’s Gigantic Carnival first introduced motion pictures into its traveling exhibition as “Edison’s Electric Biograph” in 1898, but by 1907, at Barnstaple Fair, the name of the attraction had been changed to “Hancock’s Electrical biograph of ‘living pictures.’” Although the cinema was also popular at urban music halls, traveling fairground shows brought it to the attention of much larger numbers of people (and at cheaper prices). Like music-hall exhibitors, however, fairground showmen responded to waning audience interest in the novelty of “Living Pictures” by incorporating movies as one among several “turns” in broader entertainment programs. And of course, the fairground itself provided a highly competitive environment: at Exeter in 1898, for instance, the cinematograph was billed among the “competitions in washing, cooking, and doll dressing and demonstrations of cookery and laundry.”

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