On this day in 1953, theatre owners and cinema houses all across Dublin unanimously decided against showing the Queen of England’s coronation film. It was not illegal to show it – in fact, there were at least a few places other than the theatres that quietly held secret viewing parties, but the mainstream movie houses were more concerned with staying in business and staying upright than they were with viewing or celebrating Queen Elizabeth’s pomp.
In this day of instant media saturation and overload, it is hard to imagine being unable to watch such a major event – in fact, it was the first to be televised internationally. However, 62 years ago almost no one had a television to watch the broadcast on, and the general population of the world still relied heavily on propaganda films in the theatres, newspapers, and radio commentary of the day in order to stay informed on current affairs. When the owners refused to show the film, Dubliners were cut off from one of the biggest news events of the year.
There were some theatre owners and employees who would likely have refused to show the coronation purely on principle to be sure, but the unanimous decision to ban the film was largely based in fear. The Anti-Partition League had not been quiet on the subject and they threatened every house or theatre that had been planning to roll out the film with bombs and other violence. Those threats combined with the ongoing political troubles that Ireland has always had with its neighbor made the decision to ban the film easy an easy one for all of the cinemas. The majority of the population lived without the film, whether they liked it or not
Some churches and other social groups found a way to show the Coronation film themselves, but most of these gatherings were under the radar, secretive, and small. Some of these viewers may also have gone north to Belfast just a few weeks later to see her in person as she toured her realm but today, in 1953, she was not welcome in Dublin – on the screen or in person.
(Oh, how the times have changed.)