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Gaumont British

File:Gaumont British logo.png
Company logo in the 1910s and 20s

The Gaumont-British Picture Corporation was a company that produced and distributed films and operated a cinema chain in the United Kingdom.

It was founded in 1898 as the British subsidiary of the French Gaumont Film Company. It became independent of its French parent in 1922 when Isidore Ostrer acquired control of Gaumont-British. In 1927 a leading silent film maker, the Ideal Film Company, merged with Gaumont.

The company's Lime Grove Studios made films including Alfred Hitchcock's 1935 adaptation of The 39 Steps, and its Islington Studios made Hitchcock's 1938 film The Lady Vanishes.[1] In the 1930s the company employed 16,000 people.

In the USA Gaumont-British had its own distribution operation for its films until December 1938, when it outsourced distribution to 20th Century Fox. In 1941 the Rank Organisation bought Gaumont-British and its sister company Gainsborough Pictures.


Gaumont-British developed or acquired large "super-cinemas" such as the New Victoria (later Gaumont and finally Odeon) in Bradford opened in 1930, the Gaumont in Manchester opened in 1935, and the Gaumont State Cinema in Kilburn, London, opened in 1937.

Many of its cinemas had a theatre organ for entertainment before the show, in the intervals, or after the show. The name "Gaumont" was adopted to describe the style of the flat-top organ console case (originally for the Pavilion Theatre, Shepherd's Bush[2]), for some Compton organs built from October 1931 to 1934.

File:Bournemouth, Odeon cinema - - 509128.jpg
The Odeon, Westover Road, Bournemouth was a Gaumont until 1986

Cinema exhibition in the UK was characterised by alignments between exhibitors and distributors. After the Odeon and Gaumont takeovers, Rank had access to the product of 20th Century Fox, Paramount, Walt Disney, Columbia, Universal, United Artists and its own film productions. Rivals ABC had only Warner Brothers, MGM and its own ABPC productions (both also took films from smaller distributors). With ample supply of product, Rank maintained the separate Odeon and Gaumont release pattern for many years. Some Odeon cinemas were renamed Gaumont when transferred to Gaumont release. As attendances declined during the 1950s many cinemas on all circuits were closed and eventually, the booking power of the Gaumont circuit declined. In January 1959 Rank restructured its exhibition operation and combined the best Gaumonts and the best Odeons in a new Rank release, while the rest were given a new "National" release. In 1961, Paramount objected to Rank consigning its Dean Martin comedy All in a Night's Work to the national circuit and henceforth switched its allegiance to the ABC circuit. With the continuing decline in attendances and cinema numbers, the National release died on its feet and henceforth there were two release patterns, Rank and ABC. There was no reason to perpetuate the Gaumont name and in towns that lost their Odeon, the Gaumont was usually renamed Odeon within a couple of years of the latter's closure. Even so, the Gaumont name continued to linger until, in January 1987, the last Gaumont, in Doncaster, was renamed Odeon.

See also


  1. ^ Warren, Patricia (2001). British Film Studios: An Illustrated History. London: B.T. Batsford. p. 109. 
  2. ^ Buckingham, Ivor. "Organ cases and illuminated surrounds". The Compton List. Retrieved 6 December 2008. 

External links