For many people, cinema was fast becoming a primary source of entertainment during the Great War. With 3000 cinemas already open around the country in 1914, this number escalated throughout the next four years until in 1921, there were over 4000. As an entertainment that took place in the dark, there were however, concerns that it might damage the moral fabric of the nation, and a Council for Public Morals lobbied for stricter censorship, while supervisors were installed in picture houses to ensure no indecent behaviour took place in the cheap seats.
This puritanical zeal was short-sighted and failed to acknowledge the morale-boosting benefits of this new form of entertainment. It was affordable, accessible and, in general, the films offered escapism as a relief from the daily grind and stresses of war not only to those on the home front, but to soldiers fighting in France and beyond. Stars of the screen - Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, and the inimitable Charlie Chaplin - became popular icons of the era and everyone wanted to see the latest movies (which were, at this stage, still silent).
For some though, the simple pleasures of the cinema, were difficult to come by. Particularly bedridden wounded soldiers who missed out on screenings enjoyed by their comrades staged in huts and converted barns near the Front. This problem was ingeniously solved by medical staff at several American base hospitals who projected films onto the ceilings of wards so that those lying prone were saved from hours of boredom. The picture, drawn by ILN staff artist, Samuel Begg, appeared on the front cover of The Illustrated London News on August 10th, 1918.