Tuesday, October 18, 2005


Ran across this website recently, found some interest there. It's a website basically devoted to movies geared towards children made before 1985. Check it out, click on the image to be directed to the website itself.

From the website's introduction page:

kiddiematinee.com is a website devoted to the golden age of world children's cinema. We will try to cover feature films and short subjects shown theatrically, in the U.S. and elsewhere, between appx. 1930 and 1985.

As you can see, this project is a work-in-progress. Our goal is to eventually have a database of over 1001 fantasies, fairy tales and adventures from the golden age of children's cinema!

We will not attempt to cover, for the time being at least, the following film categories:

silent films (ALICE IN WONDERLAND, 1914, etc.)
made-for-TV movies (THE NIGHT THEY SAVED CHRISTMAS, etc.)
made-for-TV specials (RUDOLPH, THE RED-NOSED REINDEER, etc.)
made-for-TV series (FAERIE TALE THEATRE, etc.)
comedy series (ABBOTT & COSTELLO, BOWERY BOYS, etc.)
adventure series (TARZAN, BOMBA, etc.)
films produced after 1985
We realize this grouping is very subjective, and we apologize if your favorite film is not listed here. We decided to start with the core group of films which could be considered the true children's cinema of yore.

As for not discussing productions made after 1985, there are two reasons for this apparently arbitrary cutoff point. Firstly, we saw a radical decline in the quality of world cinema after 1985. Secondly, the large group of films produced in the past twenty years is covered extensively elsewhere. We are trying to focus on older, better (?), and certainly more obscure films.

If you have a favorite film (or films) listed on this website, please consider submitting a guest review for posting. We love to read guest reviews! It can be nothing more than your memories of seeing a film in the theatre, your opinion of the film's charms, or anything else which the film evoked in you. Contact us!

The history of children's cinema is wide and diverse. From the earliest days of the medium, films intended for the younger citizens were produced. And as film stumbled awkwardly into the sound era, when it truly became the great art form of the 20th century, films made by and large for children became an ever-growing category.

The "Kiddie Matinee" is a phenomenon primarily of the 1960's and 1970's. Weekend matinees, however, have existed since the birth of the movies. From the silent era on, kids and grownups would gather at their neighborhood theatre on Saturday or Sunday afternoon to watch their favorite cliffhanger serials, newsreels, westerns, comedies and gangster films.

Weekend matinees continued through two World Wars and into the 1950s, as adventure series such as Tarzan, Jungle Jim and Bomba. as well as comedy series like the Three Stooges, the Bowery Boys, and Abbott & Costello took over the matinees.

Of course, Walt Disney changed the face of children's cinema forever. From the first sound cartoon, STEAMBOAT WILLIE, to the first full-length animated feature film, SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS (1937), Disney and Co. created and fueled a market for children's product for the rest of the 20th century, and beyond.

Ironically, it was a low-budget imitator of Disney, the Florida producer K. Gordon Murray, who actually created the peculiarly 60's phenomenon known as the "Kiddie Matinee". Starting with the bizarre Mexican fantasy SANTA CLAUS, Murray began a trend wherein a film specifically designed for weekend matinees would be shown ONLY on Friday, Saturday and Sunday afternoons. All tickets would be sold for a fixed price, adults and children alike.

In addition, rental fees for Murray's films were a flat 50%, which was very generous at the time, and proved lucrative for theatre owners and distributors alike.

Murray's idea took off like wildfire, and before long, Disney, and other quick-buck outfits such as Childhood Productions, were releasing product designed especially for this new market.

Of course, it helped that the demographic of the United States had changed radically since end of World War II. An unusually large population of young people, tagged "the Baby Boomers" and born after 1946, were just coming to movie-going age in the late 1950's and early 1960's. Murray, Disney and company were quick to tap into this ever-expanding kiddie market.

The proliferation of fairy tale cinema worldwide after the end of World War II can be seen as culture's attempt to recapture the innocence shattered by the horrors of the global conflict, just as the postwar Baby Boom is often seen as the species' desperate attempt to persist through massive propagation, after glimpsing its plausible annihilation in the dark mirrors of the Holocaust and Hiroshima.

Whatever the stimulus, The Kiddie Matinee grew like wildfire, and by the mid-1960's was a force to be dealt with. For many kids in the U.S., the Kiddie Matinee was their first exposure to world cinema, as many exotic and bizarre foreign fantasies from countries such as Mexico, Germany, Russia and Japan were released. As such, the Kiddie Matinee was truly a melting pot of world culture, and one of its everlasting gifts to all.

The Kiddie Matinee market dwindled as the Baby Boomers matured and went to college. In addition, in the early 1970's, the major studios conspired with the big exhibition chains, and created contract clauses whereby exclusive "Weekends Only" product was no longer allowed. This bold move dealt a death blow to the largely-independent Kiddie market, and although Kiddie Matinees limped through the 1970's, by the early 1980's it was dead. It was no help that home video came in at this time, and created a ready-made babysitter.

Dead, but not forgotten! Browse our A-Z files, our people pages, our overview of Kiddie Matinee studios and distributors, and take a trip back to a magical time we will surely never see again!

We hope you enjoy your trip the through world of kiddiematinee.com! Check back often, or better yet, write a review of your favorite film and send it to us!)

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