I hope you have all enjoyed a good week and have not been too panicked about this damned virus. I know the cinema business is concerned should it take a serious hold as the public will be reluctant to attend screenings. However, I hope we all keep things in proportion.

I know some of my readers like to read occasional statistics regarding cinema attendances these days. Cinemagoing reached its peak in the late 1940s, with huge numbers going each week and sometimes twice a week. Most households did not have that new fangled thing called television and it made a break from listening to the radio. You got a lot for your money with a supporting feature, main film, a cartoon and a newsreel. In some larger picture palaces you might even be treated to the sight of a chap playing his organ. Now, please - no smutty jokes. You are awful but I like you. That is a reference that only older readers will understand if you remember Dick Emery. It was that age of those cheeky seaside postcards and the Carry On film sense of humour which we are not supposed to enjoy in our enlightened age.

2018 saw the highest box office attendance in the UK for 50 years with 177 million attendances. A fraction of the 1940s but that was a different era. Last year the most popular British film was Downton Abbey, making more than £28 million. The overall number one of 2019 was Avengers: Endgame generating nearly £90 million.

Looking back over the top 50 UK grossing films of recent years, the Star Wars: The Force Awakens, released in 2015, takes the number one spot with £123 million and the Elstree-made 2011 film The King's Speech took 48th place with nearly £46 million.

However, I guess that league table is not adjusted for the value of the money at the time, so statistics can be misleading. For instance how do those figures compare with say Gone With The Wind, released in 1939, or Star Wars in 1977? Plus how do we match up the number of bums on seats when there were so many more cinemas in the 1940s?

It is encouraging that nearly 30 per cent of UK cinemagoers in 2019 were over 45 . As our population age I hope producers realise the value in attracting older audiences. Finally we must also realise the cinema release today is not the beginning and end of the revenue stream. It is almost like a showcase, with huge potential afterwards without even including merchandising. It seems a long time since the day I sneaked in to our local cinema to watch Saturday matinees and went up into the balcony and pelt the kids below with orange peel. I now wonder why my Mum armed me in such an anti-social way but it was a family tradition.

Lastly, if you have a computer or access to one, why not visit Hertsmere Borough Council's website to see the plans for the new Sky Studios Elstree? There are many detailed documents for the film buffs amongst us. When I watched MGM being demolished and nearly 20 years later part of Elstree Studios I would never have guessed that I would hopefully see the first studio built in Borehamwood since 1936. As that old adage goes, live long enough and everything comes round again. Until next time, remember that 1940s slogan 'coughs and sneezes spread diseases so catch them in your handkerchiefs'.

  • Paul Welsh MBE is a Borehamwood writer and historian of Elstree Studios