|Fate||Folded into EMI-Elstree|
England, United Kingdom
Associated British Picture Corporation (ABPC), originally British International Pictures (BIP), was a British film production, distribution and exhibition company active from 1927 until 1970 when it was absorbed into EMI. ABPC also owned approximately 500 cinemas in Britain by 1943,as well as a station on the ITV television network. The studio was partly owned by Warner Bros. from about 1940 until 1969; the American company also owned a stake in ABPC's distribution arm, Warner-Pathé, from 1958. It formed one half of a vertically integrated film industry duopoly in Britain with the Rank Organisation.
The company was founded during 1927 by Scottish solicitor John Maxwell after he had purchased British National Studios and its Elstree Studios complex and merged it with his ABC Cinemas circuit, renaming the company British International Pictures. The Wardour Film Company, with Maxwell as chairman, was the distributor of BIP films.He appointed Joseph Grossman, formerly manager of the Stoll Studios, his Studio Manager. During its early years the company's most prominent work was that directed by Alfred Hitchcock, including the film Blackmail (1929), usually regarded as the first British all-talkie. Hitchcock left the company in 1933 to work for the rival British Gaumont.
Under Maxwell's paternalistic management the company prospered and during 1933 it acquired British Pathé, which as Associated British Pathé now functioned as the distribution division.The company was renamed Associated British Picture Corporation in 1933 and was now in a position to vertically integrate production, distribution and exhibition of films.
After Maxwell's death in October 1940,his widow Catherine sold a large number of shares to Warner Bros., who, although the Maxwell family remained the largest shareholders, were able to exercise a measure of control. The studio at Elstree was taken over by the government for the duration of the war, and film production was restricted to B-Pictures made at the company's smaller studio in Welwyn Garden City. This studio complex closed in 1950.
Much of the output of the studio was routine, which restricted its success outside the UK, but after World War II, the company contracted with Warner (by now the largest shareholder, owning 40% of the studio)for the distribution of its films in the United States.
Robert Clark was head of production for the company between 1949 and 1958, and insisted on tight budgeting and the use of pre-existing properties such as books or plays as these already had a demonstrated "public value". Of the 21 films made by ABPC during the 1950s, only two were derived from original screenplays.German-born Frederick Gotfurt was Clark's scenario editor in this period, but his command of English was imperfect and the contracted actor Richard Todd doubted Gotfurt's ability to access the quality of the dialogue in a script. "It was a dreadful place", said Richard Attenborough when remembering ABPC's Elstree facility. "It created nothing in terms of a feeling of commitment." During this period though, the company produced its best remembered titles such as The Dam Busters (Michael Anderson, 1954), and Ice Cold in Alex (1958), whose director J. Lee Thompson was ABPC's most productive during the 1950s.
In 1955, the Independent Television Authority (ITA) awarded one of the four initial contracts for commercial television in the UK to ABPC (after original awardee Kemsley-Winnick Television collapsed). The contract was to provide programming on the new ITV network in the Midlands and northern England on Saturdays and Sundays. The board of ABPC had been unconvinced by the merits of entering the television market, but were eventually convinced by the ITA who believed they were the only acceptable option to take the contract. Former head of British Pathé Howard Thomas was appointed as the station's managing director.
Under the name ABC Television, the company came on the air in stages between February and November 1956. Among many television series ABC produced were Opportunity Knocks , The Avengers , Redcap , and the long-running Armchair Theatre drama anthology series.
Following a reallocation of the ITV franchises, ABC Television ceased to exist in 1968; however, unwilling to eject ABPC from the system, the ITA awarded the contract for weekdays in London to a new company that would be joint-owned by ABPC and British Electric Traction (parent company of outgoing franchisee Rediffusion), with ABPC holding a 51% controlling stake. Both companies were initially reluctant to this "shotgun merger", but eventually the new station, christened Thames Television, took to the air in July 1968 (two days after ABC's last broadcast). The 51% controlling stake passed to EMI upon its acquisition of ABPC the following year.
Policies changed after Clark left in January 1958. New projects from the company were limited to those using contracted television comedy performers, and investment in independent productions. The use of Elstree for television production increased.Later successful features from ABPC itself included several films built around the pop singer Cliff Richard, such as The Young Ones (1961) and Summer Holiday (1963).
In 1962, the company acquired 50% of the shares of Anglo-Amalgamated, and made an arrangement with the Grade Organisation to support the production of films by independent producers.During the 1960s, however, the fortunes of the company declined, and in 1967 Seven Arts, the new owners of Warner, decided to dispose of its holdings in ABPC which was purchased in 1968 by EMI, who acquired the remaining stock the following year. (For the subsequent history, see EMI Films.) The entire ABPC library is now owned by StudioCanal.
The United Kingdom has had a significant film industry for over a century. While film production reached an all-time high in 1936, the "golden age" of British cinema is usually thought to have occurred in the 1940s, during which the directors David Lean, Michael Powell, and Carol Reed produced their most critically acclaimed works. Many British actors have accrued critical success and worldwide recognition, such as Maggie Smith, Roger Moore, Michael Caine, Sean Connery, Daniel Day-Lewis, Judi Dench, Gary Oldman, Emma Thompson, and Kate Winslet. Some of the films with the largest ever box office returns have been made in the United Kingdom, including the third and fourth highest-grossing film franchises.
ABC Weekend TV was one of a number of commercial television companies established in the United Kingdom during the 1950s by cinema chain companies, in an attempt to safeguard their business by becoming involved with television, which was taking away their cinema audiences. In this case, the parent company was the Associated British Picture Corporation (ABPC), which initially did not wish to become involved with the new broadcasting system, but was persuaded to do so by the Independent Television Authority (ITA) and the manager of its Pathé News subsidiary Howard Thomas, who became the new company's managing director.
The Rank Organisation was a British entertainment conglomerate founded by industrialist J. Arthur Rank in April 1937. It quickly became the largest and most vertically integrated film company in the United Kingdom, owning production, distribution and exhibition facilities. It also diversified into the manufacture of radios, TVs and photocopiers. The company name lasted until February 1996, when the name and some of the remaining assets were absorbed into the newly structured The Rank Group Plc. The company itself became a wholly owned subsidiary of Xerox and was renamed XRO Limited in 1997.
Elstree Studios is a generic term which can refer to several current and defunct British film studios and television studios based in or around the towns of Borehamwood and Elstree in Hertfordshire. Studios have been located there since film production began in the area during 1914.
Pathé or Pathé Frères is the name of various French businesses that were founded and originally run by the Pathé Brothers of France starting in 1896. In the early 1900s, Pathé became the world's largest film equipment and production company, as well as a major producer of phonograph records. In 1908, Pathé invented the newsreel that was shown in cinemas before a feature film.
The Incorporated Television Company (ITC), or ITC Entertainment as it was referred to in the United States, was a British company involved in production and distribution of television programmes.
EMI Films was a British film studio and distributor. A subsidiary of the EMI conglomerate, the corporate name was not used throughout the entire period of EMI's involvement in the film industry, from 1969 to 1986, but the company's brief connection with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Anglo-EMI, the division under Nat Cohen, and the later company as part of the Thorn EMI conglomerate are outlined here.
Howard Thomas CBE was a Welsh radio producer and television executive.
Anglo-Amalgamated Productions was a British film production company, run by Nat Cohen and Stuart Levy, which operated from 1945 until roughly 1971. Low-budget and second features, often produced at Merton Park Studios, formed much of its output. It was the UK distributor of many films produced by American International Pictures (AIP), who distributed AA's films in the United States.
ABC Cinemas was a cinema chain in the United Kingdom. Originally a wholly owned subsidiary of Associated British Picture Corporation (ABPC), it operated between the 1930s and the 1980s. The brand name was reused in the 1990s until 2000.
Pathé News was a producer of newsreels and documentaries from 1910 to 1970 in the United Kingdom. Its founder, Charles Pathé, was a pioneer of moving pictures in the silent era. The Pathé News archive is known today as British Pathé. Its collection of news film and movies is fully digitised and available online.
The Gaumont-British Picture Corporation produced and distributed films and operated a cinema chain in the United Kingdom. It was established as an offshoot of the Gaumont Film Company of France.
The Moonraker is a British swashbuckler film made in 1957 and released in 1958 and set in the English Civil War. It was directed by David MacDonald and starred George Baker, Sylvia Syms, Marius Goring, Gary Raymond, Peter Arne, John Le Mesurier and Patrick Troughton.
BBC Elstree Centre, sometimes referred to as BBC Elstree Studios, is a television production facility, currently owned by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). Geographically located in Southern Hertfordshire, the complex is specifically located on Eldon Avenue in Borehamwood, in the WD postcode area of England.
Hollywood and the United Kingdom are connected via the American industry's use of British source material, an exchange of talent, and Hollywood's financial investment in British facilities and productions. The American studios have had their own bases in the UK in the past, such as MGM-British, and Warner Bros. owned shares in the now long disestablished British distributor Warner-Pathé, once part of the Associated British Pictures Corporation. Conversely, the U.K. has major production studio’s in the United States such as Pinewood Studio’s Atlanta.
John Maxwell (1879–1940) was a British film producer. Maxwell was the co-owner of British International Pictures, which emerged as the largest British studio following the Film Act of 1927. Maxwell was a Scottish lawyer who first came into contact with the film industry in 1912. In 1927 he took over the newly-constructed British National Studios in Elstree after its founders ran into financial problems. Maxwell built a vertically integrated company incorporating film production, film distribution, initially through Wardour Films, and a large network of cinemas that enabled the company to compete with the leading German and Hollywood firms. Along with the facilities in Elstree, the company also acquired Welwyn Studios in Welwyn Garden City.
Elstree Studios on Shenley Road, Borehamwood, Hertfordshire is a British film and television production centre operated by Elstree Film Studios Limited. One of several facilities historically referred to as Elstree Studios, the Shenley Road studios first opened in 1925.
Robert Clark (1905–1984) was a Scottish film executive best known for being head of production at Associated British Picture Corporation in the late 1940s and 1950s. It was a successful time for the company, films including The Dam Busters (1955).
C.J. Latta was a British film executive best known for being managing director of Associated British Picture Corporation and Warner Bros cinemas. He helped establish the Variety Club. He was awarded with a CBE in 1964.