Towards the 120th Anniversary of “Gaumont”

With its production facilities, distribution and cinema halls networks and a catalogue of the most prestigious films in the world “Gaumon” is at present one of the most influential players in the world of film business. Its history is inseparable from that of the 7th art and the 114 years of its existence ensure its unique status based on experience and the ability to change.
 
In 1895 when Leon Gaumont, who was then 31, took the reins of “Comptoir Général de la Photographie”, nobody suspected that it would give rise to the only company in the world which is as old as cinema itself. The company was engaged in selling optics and photo materials. Leon Gaumont was very enthusiastic about the works of Edison and the Lumiere brothers, firmly believed in the future of cinema and starting from 1900 decided to produce projection equipment. Then he turned his attention to sound (chronophone) and color (chronochrome). In 1903 his mother’s first name Marguerite gave him the idea for the company’s famous logo. His secretary Alice Guy suggested that they should sell the equipment that they produced together with short filmed sketches. Leon Gaumont agreed but on condition that the filming should be done outside the working hours. That is how in 1896 Alice Guy became the world first female director and the first producer. All in all she directed about 300 films and even experimented with sound, making 110 phonoscenes. The productions tackled all cinema genres – comedies, dramas, police movies, science-fiction, Westerns and even cartoons, which were invented by Emile Kohl, who also worked in the company. Later Louis Feuillade became artistic director of “Gaumont” and directed such famous movies as “Judex”, “Fantômas” and “The Vampires”.
 
In 1897 “Gaumont” started filming chronicles. The famous “Actualités Gaumont” were screened every week before the film.
 
In 1910 Leon Gaumont bought the hippodrome in the Clichy square in Paris and turned it into an enormous cinema hall with 3400 seats. It was the Gaumont-Palace, the greatest film theatre in the world. Since that time the company has bought and managed cinema halls throughout France, thus ensuring its control over the entire chain from the production of the projection equipment to the public screenings.
 
In 1925 Leon Gaumont signed a distribution agreement with “Metro Goldwyn Mayer” and created a new company GMG, “Gaumont Metro Goldwyn”, which operated for three years.
 
Leon Gaumont retired in 1930 with the advent of the talkies. His company became “Gaumont Franco Film Aubert” (GFFA). It pursued the increase in the number of cinema halls and produced some masterpieces like the immortal “Atalante” by Jean Vigo.
 
In 1938 GFFA became “Société Nouvelle des Etablissements Gaumont” (SNEG) and Alain Poiré became its general secretary and later production and distribution director. Over the course of his career this charismatic person produced and co-produced more than 150 features, many of them became cult movies. 
 
In 1975 Nicolas Seydoux became President of “Gaumont”. He acquired more cinema halls and chose an even more ambitious production policy.
 
The arrival of Daniel Toscan du Plantier meant a more flamboyant style and European productions aimed at the wide audience as well as avant-gardist masterpieces. He invented the notion of film-opera exemplified by “Carmen” by Francesco Rosi and “Don Giovanni” by Joseph Losey.
 
In the mid-80s Patrice Ledoux produced “The Big Blue” and “The Fifth Element” by Luc Besson, as well as “The Visitors” by Jean-Marie Poiré.
 
Today the company is headed by Nicolas Seydoux as president with Sidonie Dumas as director general and Christophe Riandee as her deputy. It runs a huge number of cinema halls jointly with “Europalaces”. It owns hundreds of masterpieces which are the dream of film lovers throughout the world. Among them are “Tontons Flingueurs”, “Oss 117”, “Cent Mille Dollars”, “Soleil”, “Diner De Cons”, “La Folie Des Grandeurs”, “La Boum”, “La Chevre”, “La Nuit De Varennes”, “Fantômas” and “Nikita”. The remarkable actors and directors who worked at those films, wrote some beautiful pages in the history of cinema.
 
In recent years “Gaumont” has been actively producing, financing and distributing films in English and French at once. A notable example is a box-office hit “The Intouchables”, which it co-produced, distributed in France and sold worldwide.
 
In addition to French films it co-produces English-language movies such as “Perfect Mothers” (Anne Fontaine), “The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet” (Jean-Pierre Jeunet) or “Only God Forgives” (Nicolas Winding Refn).
 
“Gaumont” boasts the second richest film catalogue in France, which includes more than 900 titles with works by prestigious directors like Luc Besson, Matthieu Kassovitz, Francis Veber, Jean-Jacques Beineix, Federico Fellini, Maurice Pialat or Jean-Luc Godard.
 
In addition to its production and distribution activities, “Gaumont” in collaboration with “Pathé” operates the largest cinema halls network in Europe “Cinémas Gaumont Pathé”.
 
“Gaumont” tries to ensure its presence in all sectors of audiovisual media. With the assistance of its American branch “Gaumont International Television” it released the series “Hannibal” which was aired by NBC, and “Hemlock Grove” which could be seen over Netflix.
 
“Gaumont” has turned its gaze towards the future, its artistic interests are diverse as always, all the subdivisions are attuned to the evolution of the art which the company has always promoted.