1. Films made specifically for young people.
2. Films exhibited to audiences composed of young people.
3. Films as they relate to or affect the lives of children and young people. In the West, the 1910s and 1920s saw widespread debate and concern about the negative effects of cinemagoing on children’s moral and physical wellbeing, with consequent calls for censoring films and regulating children’s cinemagoing (see censorship; rating system). A significant shift in attitudes took place in the 1930s, however, when social scientists in Britain, the US, and elsewhere advocated a positive and research-based policy of promoting films suitable for children. This could be implemented in several ways: choosing, from films made for adults, ones regarded as suitable also for children; making films that appeal to adult and child viewers alike (see family film); separate children-only screenings (such as the Saturday matinees of mixed feature, serial, and news programming that flourished in commercial cinemas between the 1930s and the 1950s and continued into the 1980s); and making films especially for young people.
After World War II, governments and public institutions in a number of countries took an active interest in films for children, as part of promoting the national cinema, and/or as an aspect of civic education. In Britain, the Children’s Film Foundation (CFF) was founded in 1950 and, with funds from a tax on UK cinema admissions, sponsored the production of children’s films until the abolition of the tax in 1987: the theme of one of the CFF’s most successful features, The Glitter Ball (Harley Cokliss, 1977), foreshadowed that of E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (Steven Spielberg, US, 1982). In East Germany in 1953, the nationalized studio DEFA set up a separate section for children’s feature films (the body responsible for the much-loved Das singende, klingende Bäumchen/The Singing, Ringing Tree (Francesco Stefani, 1957)); and in 1959 a children’s film group was formed within the studio’s documentary and newsreel section, with at least 10 per cent of total production capacity devoted to films for children. Other countries providing sustained state support for children’s films have included the USSR (at the Maxim Gorki Central Studio for Children and Youth) from 1919; Japan from around 1934; Poland from 1950; and Czechoslovakia from 1954 (see Czech Republic, film in the). In Scandinavia, public funding for children’s films has been sporadically available. In Iran, films made at the Institute for Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults (including Khaneh-ye doost kojast?/Where is the Friend’s Home? (Abbas Kiarostami, 1987)) have been funded by the country’s Ministry of Education.
Film studies scholars inquire into the history of children’s films, children’s cinemagoing, and children in films. There is a significant body of work on child stars, and a growing interest in childhood and cinema in relation to questions of spectatorship and film aesthetics. The effects of films and cinemagoing on children became an important area of research for social scientists in the 1930s and 1940s (see audience; sociology and film); while current research on children’s cultures and children’s use of digital and screen media sometimes references films and cinema (see digital cinema).