|Industry||Film and media industry|
|Founded||23 April 1937 as J. Arthur Rank|
|Founder||J. Arthur Rank|
|Defunct||7 February 1996|
|Headquarters||London, England, United Kingdom|
|Products||Film production, distribution and exhibition|
(diversified: radio, television and photocopying manufacturing, record label)
The Rank Organisation (founded as J. Arthur Rank), was a British entertainment conglomerate founded by industrialist J. Arthur Rank in April 1937, Rank also served as the company chairman. It quickly became the largest and most vertically integrated film company in the United Kingdom, owning production, distribution and exhibition facilities as well as manufacturing projection equipment and chairs.It also diversified into the manufacture of radios, TVs and photocopiers (as one of the owners of Rank Xerox). The company name lasted until February 1996, when the name and some of the remaining assets were absorbed into the newly structured Rank Group plc. The company itself became a wholly owned subsidiary of Xerox and was renamed XRO Limited in 1997.
The company logo, the Gongman, first used in 1935 by the group's distribution company General Film Distributorsand seen in the opening titles of the films, became a celebrated and enduring film emblem.
The company founder J. Arthur Rank, born in Kingston upon Hull, UK, was already a wealthy industrialist through his father's flour milling business, Joseph Rank Ltd, before making his start in filmmaking by financing short religious subjects in line with his Methodist beliefs. As Rank was a Methodist Sunday School Teacher, he wished to introduce these beliefs to a wider audience.
The Rank Organisation was established, as a means for Rank to consolidate his filmmaking interests, in 1937.
A loose collective of filmmakers was established by Rank under the banner of Independent Producers Ltd. including The Archers, consisting of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, Cineguild Productions, consisting of David Lean, Ronald Neame, John Bryan, and Anthony Havelock-Allan, the filmmaking duo of Frank Launder and Sidney Gilliat, and the directors Ken Annakin and Muriel Box.
The Company of Youth, the Rank Organisation's associated acting school often referred to as "The Charm School", was founded in 1945. It launched several careers including those of Donald Sinden, Dirk Bogarde, Diana Dors and Christopher Lee.
Although she was not a member of the school, Petula Clark was under contract to Rank for a period of time and starred in a number of films released by the studio, including London Town (1946), one of the costliest flops in British film history. Also under contract to Rank was the Canadian actor Philip Gilbert.
The company grew quickly, largely through acquisition. Significant developments included:
By the late 1940s J. Arthur Rank (or the Rank Organisation as it was now called), owned:
Despite funding films which were both popular and critically acclaimed, Rank was in crisis by 1949, having built up a debt of £16 million,and reported an annual loss of £3.5 million. Managing Director John Davis cut staff, reduced budgets and concentrated film production at Pinewood. Other studio facilities (in Islington) were closed, sold (Lime Grove Studios) or leased (Denham). The Rank Organisation closed Independent Producers Ltd. The policies of Davis alienated many in the industry; in particular they led film director David Lean, responsible for some of Rank's most critically and financially successful films, to look elsewhere for backing. J. Arthur Rank stepped down as managing director of the Rank Organisation in 1952, but remained as chairman until 1962.
In October 1955 the company reported its film production was "satifactory".
In 1945, the company bought the Bush Radio manufacturing facility and began to diversify its interests. In the early 1960s Rank took over Murphy Radio to form the Rank Bush Murphy Group (which was eventually sold to Great Universal Stores in 1978). In 1956 Rank began a partnership with the Haloid Corporation to form Rank Xerox, to manufacture and promote its range of plain paper photocopying equipment. In later years, the waning film company assets were hastily converted and pressed into 'Rank Xerox' service. This venture was a huge gamble but ultimately the company's saving grace, until, once more in financial difficulties, it signed off increasing percentages of its holdings, to the parent company, finally becoming fully integrated into Xerox in the late 1990s.Rank was also a significant shareholder in the consortium which became Southern Television, the first ITV television contract holder for the south of England.
In the late 1950s, The Rank Organization set up Rank Records Ltd., the record label division was named Top Rank Records and Jaro Records (a US subsidiary).
In 1960, Top Rank Records was taken over by EMI, and in 1962 they replaced it with Stateside Records. Top Rank Records artists included Gary U.S. Bonds, the Shirelles, B. Bumble and the Stingers, Wilbert Harrison, Skip & Flip, Andy Stewart, Craig Douglas and John Leyton. A US branch operated from 1959 to 1961; its artists included Jack Scott, Dorothy Collins, and The Fireballs.
Rank Audio Visual was created in 1960, bringing together Rank's acquisitions in multimedia, including Bell & Howell (acquired with Gaumont British in 1941), Andrew Smith Harkness Ltd (1952) and Wharfedale Ltd (1958). Subsequent acquisitions included Strand Electric Holdings (1968) and H.J. Leak & Co. (1969). In the mid and late 1970s, Rank Audio Visual made a 3-in-1 stereo music centre, as well as TV sets in conjunction with NEC of Japan. The production of the "classic" Rank TV ran in the mid to late 70s, some interim models appeared and the "modern" Rank TV appeared in the early 1980s. The NEC badge did not appear in the PAL/220/240 volt countries until the mid-1980s.
Top Rank was one of the early operators of motorway service areas in the UK, opening its first services at Farthing Corner on the M2 in Kent in 1963.Top Rank operated a portfolio of 10 service areas until the takeover of Mecca Leisure Group by the Rank Group in 1991, when they were spun off to ex-Mecca CEO Michael Guthrie under the name Pavilion (later acquired by Granada and now forming part of Moto Hospitality). There were other small specialised groups, including Rank Taylor Hobson who made inspection equipment, Rank Cintel who made telecine (television film scanners) machines, and Gaumont Kalee who made audio analysis equipment.
During this period, Rank started focussing on primarily solidly commercial ventures, largely aimed at the family market. These include the popular Norman Wisdom comedies, the Doctor films series and, later, Rank took on the Carry On film series from Anglo-Amalgamated. Films of note were produced during this era including Carve Her Name with Pride , Sapphire , A Night to Remember and Victim , as well as a clutch of prestige topics such as the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II and filmed performances by the Royal Ballet.
In February 1956 Davis announced Rank would make 20 films at over £3 million. He said "great care will be taken to ensure that, while retaining essentially British characteristics the films will have the widest international appeal. This is part of an intensified drive to secure ever widening showing in overseas markets which already return more than half the revenue earned by Pinewood films."That year, Rank announced it would set up distribution in the US. In October Davis listed the Rank actors he thought could become international stars: Dirk Bogarde, Peter Finch, Kay Kendall, Jeannie Carson, Virginia McKenna, Belinda Lee, Michael Craig, Tony Wright, Maureen Swanson and Kenneth More.
In October 1957, at the 21st birthday for Pinewood Studios, Davis said Rank would make 18 films this year and 20 the next, with the latter costing £5 million.
However cinema attendances fell. In September 1958 the company had lost £1,264,000 on films causing the group's profit to drop from £5 million to £1.8 million. John Davis wound up several long term contracts Rank had with talent. "The trouble with some of them is they won't work," he said. "They lose their sense of proportion."To recoup some of their losses, Rank sold Ealing Studios and its library to Associated British Picture Corporation.
In the late 1950s Sydney Box became head of production although he retired from the industry in 1959.
In January 1960, John Davis announced that Rank would concentrate on bigger budgeted, internationally focused productions.
In 1961 they announced a production slate of a dozen films worth £7 million.
In October 1962 Lord Rank resigned as chairman of the company and was replaced by managing director Davis. That year to company made a group profit of over £6 million and stated 41% of its film production income came from overseas.
In October 1964 Davis reported profits of £4.6 million.
From 1959 to 1969, the company made over 500 weekly short cinema films in a series entitled Look At Life , each film depicting an area of British life. From 1971 to 1976, Rank only invested around £1.5 million a year in film production. According to executive Tony Williams "the two main streams that they were down to was Carry On pictures and horror films made by Kevin Francis".However, in 1976, Rank enjoyed much success with Bugsy Malone (which they co-produced with Paramount Pictures, who held its American rights). This encouraged them to re-enter film production.
In 1977, Rank appointed Tony Williams head of productionand over two years Rank made eight films worth £10 million, including Eagle's Wing , The Shout , The Thirty Nine Steps , Riddle of the Sands and Silver Dream Racer . Many of these stories were set in the past. "You have to go back in time to tell a story that doesn't have to face seventies problems", said Williams in 1978. "What people are nostalgic for isn't necessarily any particular period, but the happier values that are missing today." Few of these new Rank films performed well at the box office, losing £1.6 million overall.
At the Cannes Film Festival in 1980, Ed Chilton of Rank announced a £12 million slate of projects. However, by June, they withdrew from production once again."The decision was made to plunge on in and then it was pulled back", said Williams. The Rank films that had been announced for production – including an adaptation of HMS Ulysses , The Rocking Horse Winner and a film version of To the Manor Born – were cancelled. "It now takes too long to recoup money on films," said a spokesman for Rank.
The following year, Rank reported a record pre-tax profit of £102 million.According to Tony Williams:
After a time Rank Film Distributors was in trouble because they hadn't got any new product. So Rank Film Distributors was then given chunks of money to go and buy into pictures because they made a blunder. And they carried on, on that basis, not directly making them and they had no direct control over what they made at all, no influence. They just bought into pictures. They did an output deal with Orion and that carried on until they sold the shooting match. Then the decision was made to get out of (the) film (industry), so RFD was closed down, Rank Film Advertising was sold off, eventually, the laboratories went. Cinemas was the last one to go.
In 1986, Rank Film Distributors, and archrival Cannon Screen Entertainment had inked a deal with the BBC to gain access to Rank's nineteen feature offerings.In 1987, the Rank Film Distributors group received a $100 million fund for film financing, and the Rank Film and Television division had invested in $32 million that they would take the budget against non-U.S. rights. In 1995, the Rank Group acquired all the outstanding shares of the Rank Organisation. In spring 1997, the Rank Group sold Rank Film Distributors, including its library of 749 films, to Carlton Communications for £65 million and immediately became known as Carlton/RFD Ltd. Pinewood Studios and Odeon Cinemas were both sold off in 2000. The company finally severed its remaining connections with the film industry in 2005 when it sold its DVD distribution business and Deluxe technical support unit.
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 Audrey Hepburn, Olivia de Havilland, Vivien Leigh, Glynis Johns, Maggie Smith, Laurence Olivier, Michael Caine, Sean Connery, Ian Mckellen, Joan Collins, Judi Dench, Julie Andrews, Daniel Day-Lewis, Gary Oldman, Emma Thompson, Anthony Hopkins 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 sixth highest-grossing film franchises.
Pinewood Studios is a British film and television studio located in the village of Iver Heath, England. It is approximately 18 miles (29 km) west of central London.
Joseph Arthur Rank, 1st Baron Rank was a British industrialist who was head and founder of the Rank Organisation.
Cineplex Odeon Corporation was one of North America's largest movie theatre operators and live theatre, with theatres in its home country of Canada and the United States. The Cineplex Odeon brand is still being used by Cineplex Entertainment at some theatres that were once owned by the Cineplex Odeon Corporation, with newer theatres using the Cineplex Cinemas brand. The company was the result of Cineplex Corporation in 1984 purchasing and merging with Canadian Odeon Theatres, which itself was the result of a merger between Canadian Theatres and Odeon Theatres of Canada in 1978.
Gainsborough Pictures was a British film studio based on the south bank of the Regent's Canal, in Poole Street, Hoxton in the former Metropolitan Borough of Shoreditch, north London. Gainsborough Studios was active between 1924 and 1951. The company was initially based at Islington Studios, which were built as a power station for the Great Northern & City Railway and later converted to studios.
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 Rank Group is a gambling company based in the United Kingdom. Rank was involved in the cinema and motion picture industry until 2006, and continues to use the Gongman logo originally used by the Rank Organisation's film distribution subsidiary General Film Distributors. Its brands now include Mecca Bingo, and Grosvenor Casinos, the UK's largest casino operator.
Odeon, stylised as ODEON, is a cinema brand name operating in the United Kingdom, Ireland and Norway, which along with UCI Cinemas and Nordic Cinema Group is part of the Odeon Cinemas Group subsidiary of AMC Theatres. It uses the famous name of the Odeon cinema circuit first introduced in Great Britain in 1930. As of 2016, Odeon is the largest cinema chain in the United Kingdom by market share.
Sir John Henry Harris Davis was an English businessman and accountant. He was the managing director, later chairman, of the Rank Organisation.
MGM-British was a subsidiary of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer initially established at Denham Film Studios in 1936. It was in limbo during the Second World War; however, following the end of hostilities, a facility was acquired in Borehamwood, which remained in use until it was closed in 1970.
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, and in the 1950s and 60s owned 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.
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 1920s and the 1980s. The brand name was reused in the 1990s until 2000.
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.
Edward Black was a British film producer, best known for being head of production at Gainsborough Studios in the late 1930s and early 1940s, during which time he oversaw production of the Gainsborough melodramas. He also produced such classic films as The Lady Vanishes (1938). Black has been called "one of the unsung heroes of the British film industry" and "one of the greatest figures in British film history, the maker of stars like Margaret Lockwood, James Mason, John Mills and Stewart Granger. He was also one of the very few producers whose films, over a considerable period, made money." In 1946 Mason called Black "the one good production executive" that J. Arthur Rank had. Frank Launder called Black "a great showman and yet he had a great feeling for scripts and spent more time on them than anyone I have ever known. His experimental films used to come off as successful as his others."
Sir Robert James Kerridge was a New Zealand businessman, cinema proprietor, film distributor, tourism promoter and entrepreneur.
Bradford Odeon is the name applied to two different cinemas in central Bradford, West Yorkshire, England. One, in Godwin Street, was built in 1930 and survives; the other, in Manchester Road, was built in 1938 and demolished in 1969.
Islington Studios, often known as Gainsborough Studios, were a British film studio located on the south bank of the Regent's Canal, in Poole Street, Hoxton in the former Metropolitan Borough of Shoreditch, London between 1919 and 1949. The studios are closely associated with Gainsborough Pictures which was based there for most of the studio's history. During its existence Islington worked closely with its sister Lime Grove Studios in Shepherd's Bush and many films were made partly at one studio and partly at the other. Amongst the films made at the studios were Alfred Hitchcock thrillers, Will Hay comedies and Gainsborough Melodramas.
Imperial Studios were the studios of the British and Dominions Film Corporation, a short-lived British film production company located at Imperial Place, Elstree Way, Borehamwood, Hertfordshire. The studios were active from 1929 to 1936, when they were destroyed by fire.