What are Quota Quickies: Britian’s Ambitious Goal to Boost the UK’s Film Industry (1927)

Lydia Carrick Lydia-The Cinema History Blog

What are quota quickies?

Quota Quickies were the solution to a problem.

Hollywood films dominate the cinema schedules, even here in the UK. In fact, American films are so common here that many UK cinema-goers don’t even think of them as “foreign films”.

Before WW1, that wasn’t necessarily the case. British films dominated the cinema, with a majority of them filmed in London.

Then WW1 happened, and our filmmaking industry was decimated almost to the point of no return. In 1927, the British government bought in the Cinematograph Films Act, and with it came “Quota Quickies”.

Table of Contents

  • The Cinematograph Films Act of 1927
  • The Beginning of Quota Quickies
  • Did It Work?
  • What happened next?

The Cinematograph Films Act of 1927

In January 1927, two cinemas in Birmingham were bought out by Paramount. UK branches of American Studios already dominated Britain’s film distribution industry. Many feared this purchase was the start of a larger movement.

A few weeks later, Sir Philip Cunliffe-Lister, President of the Board of Trade, presented a bill to parliament. The bill outlined ways to help boost the industry. The legislation wiggled its way through the British parliament, and a close eye was kept on the financial state of the film industry.

By December, The Cinematograph Films Act received the Royal Assent. The Bill focused mainly on the following:

  • Any film theatrically released had to be registered with the Board of Trade.
  • Both distributors and exhibitors were required to show a proportion of British films (7.5% and 5% respectively)
  • By 1936, 20% of all films shown in any cinema had to be British.

The board defined a British film as having the following qualities:

  • Has a British person or company as the producer
  • Studio sequences had to be shot in a British Studio
  • A high majority of cast and crew had to be British or from the British Empire (75% of wages paid)

The bill came into effect in April 1928.

The Beginning of Quota Quickies

The British film industry suddenly found themselves with an issue. With American film companies ramping up production, as well as films coming from Europe, hitting the quota was going to prove tricky. There were not enough studios and filming space in the UK to create the level of high quality of films needed.

So, in came the Quota Quickies.

These were films that raced through production in order to hit the quota.

Films were churned out in a matter of days. Budgets were tiny.

And… most of them weren’t that great. Surprisingly.

In fact, many of them were screened to empty cinemas while the cleaners cleaned up.

Unfortunately, 60% of these Quota Quickies are lost films.

Did It Work?

To everyone’s surprise, it did. Sort of.

The Quota put a lot of money into the film industry. Directors like Alexander Korda came to the UK because of the stability the quota offered. Films needed making, and they needed staff to do it.

Out of the production machine came Gracie Fields, Errol Flynn and Vivien Leigh.

While many of the films were shockingly made, there was something uniquely British about them. Many of the films featured stage shows that were quickly rearranged for film.

Except, Britain is REALLY good at theatre. We have incredible writers, and the actors did their best to carry over the same feelings onto the big screen. What came out is a typically British view of middle-class British culture at the time.

When the bill came up for renewal in the 1930s, it was extended. This time, though, with the rule that films with bigger budgets counted as double or triple towards the quota, which meant that less Quota Quickies were needed.

It paved the way for some classic films such as The 39 Steps and The Private Life of Henry VIII, two of the greatest British films ever made.

What happened next?

While the Quota Quickie seemed like a quick fix to a big problem, it actually saved the industry. It gave a huge injection into an industry that would have died. It meant that by the time World War II rolled around, Britain had a stable industry. The UK’s movie production went on to become a defining part of WWII, with propaganda films keeping heads up and spirits lifted when bombings got worse and worse.

List of movies from wikipedia


Above Rubies

The Academy Decides

The Admiral's Secret

Adventure Ltd.

After Dark (1932 film)

Alibi Inn

All at Sea (1935 film)

Anne One Hundred

Annie, Leave the Room!

Anything Might Happen

As Good as New (film)

Ask Beccles

The Avenging Hand


The Bad Companions

Badger's Green (1934 film)

The Barton Mystery (1932 film)

Bedtime Story (1938 film)

The Beggar Student (1931 British film)

Behind Your Back

Beware of Women

Beyond the Cities

Big Business (1934 film)

The Big Splash

Bill's Legacy

Birds of a Feather (1936 film)

The Black Abbot (1934 film)

The Black Hand Gang

Blind Folly

Blind Justice (1934 film)

Blind Man's Bluff (1936 film)

The Body Vanished

Boomerang (1934 film)

Borrow a Million

Borrowed Clothes

Breakers Ahead (1935 film)

Brides to Be

Brown Sugar (1931 film)


Call Me Mame

The Callbox Mystery

Called Back (1933 film)

Calling All Ma's


The Case for the Crown

Caste (1930 film)

Castle Sinister

Checkmate (1935 film)

Chelsea Life

Chin Chin Chinaman

Cinematograph Films Act 1927

The Claydon Treasure Mystery

Cleaning Up (1933 film)

Come Into My Parlour

Commissionaire (film)

Contraband Love

Crazy People (1934 film)

The Crimson Candle

Cross Roads (film)

Crown v. Stevens

The Crucifix


Dangerous Ground (1934 film)

Dangerous Seas

Darts Are Trumps

Death Drives Through

Department Store (1935 film)

The Deputy Drummer

Dial 999 (1938 film)

The Diplomatic Lover

Dora (1933 film)

Doss House

Double Dealing (1932 film)

Double Exposures

Double or Quits (1938 film)

Double Wedding (1933 film)

Down Our Alley

Down River (1931 film)

The Dream Doctor


East of Ludgate Hill

Easy Money (1934 film)

Easy Riches

Ebb Tide (1932 film)

Enemy of the Police

Enter the Queen

Excess Baggage (1933 film)

Expert's Opinion


The Face at the Window (1932 film)

Faithful (1936 film)

False Evidence (1937 film)

Father and Son (1934 film)

Father O'Nine

Find the Lady (1936 film)

First Night (film)

The First Offence

The Five Pound Man

Flame in the Heather

Flat Number Three

The Flaw (1933 film)

Forging Ahead (film)

The Fortunate Fool

Full Circle (1935 film)

Full Speed Ahead (1940 film)


The Gables Mystery

Gaol Break

Gay Old Dog

General John Regan (1933 film)

The Girl in the Night

Glamour Girl (1938 film)

A Glimpse of Paradise

Going Straight (1933 film)

Great Stuff

Guilt (1931 film)


Handle with Care (1935 film)

Head of the Family (1933 film)

Henry Steps Out

Her Imaginary Lover

Her Last Affaire

Her Reputation (1931 film)

Here's George

Heroes of the Mine (1932 film)

High Finance (film)

High Society (1932 film)

His Grace Gives Notice (1933 film)

His Lordship (1932 film)

His Majesty and Company

Holiday's End

Home, Sweet Home (1933 film)

Hot News (1936 film)

House Broken (1936 film)

The House of the Arrow (1930 film)

The House of Unrest

The Howard Case

Hundred to One


I'll Stick to You

I'm an Explosive

If I Were Boss

Illegal (1932 film)

Immortal Gentleman

The Impassive Footman

In a Lotus Garden

Incident in Shanghai

Inquest (1939 film)

Inside the Room

The Iron Stair (1933 film)

It's Never Too Late to Mend

It's Not Cricket (1937 film)


Jealousy (1931 film)

Jennifer Hale (film)

John Halifax (film)


Keep It Quiet

Kentucky Minstrels (film)

Kiss Me Sergeant


The Lash (1934 film)

The Last Barricade

The Last Curtain

The Last Rose of Summer (1937 film)

Late Extra

The Laughter of Fools

Leave It to Me (1930 film)

Lend Me Your Husband (1935 film)

Lend Me Your Wife

Lest We Forget (1934 film)

Life Goes On (1932 film)

The Life of the Party (1934 film)

Little Fella

Little Miss Nobody (1933 film)

Little Stranger (film)

Little Waitress

Lord of the Manor (film)

The Love Wager

The Luck of the Irish (1936 film)

Lucky Blaze

Lucky Days (film)

Lucky Jade

Lucky Loser (1934 film)

A Lucky Sweep

The Lure (1933 film)


Make It Three

The Man Behind the Mask

The Man I Want

The Man Outside (1933 film)

The Man Without a Face (1935 film)

Mannequin (1933 film)

Many Tanks Mr. Atkins

Marooned (1933 film)

Matinee Idol (film)

Mayfair Girl

The Medicine Man (1933 film)

Meet My Sister

The Melody-Maker

Men of Steel (1932 film)

Men Without Honour

Miracles Do Happen

Missing, Believed Married

Mr. Quincey of Monte Carlo

Mixed Doubles (1933 film)

Money for Speed

Mrs. Dane's Defence (1933 film)

Murder at Monte Carlo

Murder at the Inn

Murder by Rope

Murder in the Family

Murder Tomorrow

Music Hall (film)

My Lucky Star (1933 film)

The Mysterious Mr. Davis


Naughty Cinderella

The Night Porter (1930 film)

Night Ride (1937 film)

Nine Forty-Five

No Escape (1934 film)

No Exit (1930 film)

No Lady

Not So Quiet on the Western Front (film)

Nothing Like Publicity

Number, Please (film)


An Obvious Situation

The Office Wife (1934 film)

The Officers' Mess

Oh No Doctor!

Oh, What a Night (1935 film)

Old Faithful (film)

Old Soldiers Never Die

On Thin Ice (1933 film)

On Velvet

Once Bitten (1932 film)

Once in a New Moon

One Precious Year

Open All Night (1934 film)

The Other Woman (1931 film)

Out of the Past (1933 film)


Paris Plane

Partners Please

Passenger to London

Passing Shadows

The Path of Glory

Patricia Gets Her Man

Pay Box Adventure

The Peterville Diamond

The Phantom Light

The Pointing Finger (1933 film)

The Poisoned Diamond

The Price of a Song

The Price of Wisdom

The Professional Guest

Puppets of Fate (1933 film)

Purse Strings

Pyjamas Preferred


Racing Romance (1937 film)

A Real Bloke

Reasonable Doubt (1936 film)

A Reckless Gamble

Red Ensign (film)

Rhythm in the Air

The Right Age to Marry

The Right to Live (1933 film)

The River House Ghost

The Riverside Murder

The Road to Fortune

Rolling in Money

Romany Love

The Roof (1933 film)

A Royal Demand



A Safe Affair

A Safe Proposition

Sam Small Leaves Town

Say It with Diamonds (1935 film)

The School for Scandal (1930 film)

School for Stars

The Schooner Gang

Second Thoughts (1938 film)

Secret Journey (1939 film)

Seeing Is Believing (film)

Self Made Lady

Send 'em Back Half Dead

Sexton Blake and the Mademoiselle

The Shadow of Mike Emerald

Shadowed Eyes

She Was Only a Village Maiden

Ship's Concert

A Shot in the Dark (1933 film)

Should a Doctor Tell? (1930 film)

Side Streets (1933 film)

The Silver Greyhound (1932 film)

The Silver Spoon

Silver Top

Sing as You Swing

A Sister to Assist 'Er (1938 film)

Smithy (1933 film)

Something Always Happens (1934 film)

Song of the Plough

The Spare Room (film)

Special Edition (film)

The Star Reporter

Stepping Stones (film)

The Stickpin

The Stolen Necklace

Strange Adventures of Mr. Smith

Strange Experiment

Stranglehold (1931 film)

Strictly Business (1931 film)

Strike It Rich (1933 film)

Sunshine Ahead


Taxi to Paradise

Tea Leaves in the Wind

That's My Uncle

That's My Wife (1933 film)

There Was a Young Man

They Didn't Know

They Drive by Night (1938 film)

The Third Clue

This Acting Business

This Green Hell

This Man Is News

Three Witnesses (film)

Ticket of Leave (film)

A Tight Corner

Tin Gods (1932 film)

To Brighton with Gladys

To Oblige a Lady

Too Many Crooks (1930 film)

Too Many Wives (1933 film)

A Touch of the Moon

Troubled Waters (1936 film)

Trunk Crime

Twelve Good Men

Twice Branded

Two Crowded Hours

Two for Danger

Two Smart Men

Two Wives for Henry


The Umbrella (film)

Under a Cloud (film)

The Unholy Quest


The Vandergilt Diamond Mystery

Variety Hour

The Veteran of Waterloo

The Village Squire

A Voice Said Goodnight



The Water Gipsies (film)

The Way of Youth

Wedding Group

What a Night! (1931 film)

The White Lilac

Who Killed Doc Robin?

A Wife or Two

Wings Over Africa

The Wishbone

Without You (film)

The Woman from China

The World, the Flesh, the Devil


Yes, Madam (1933 film)

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