Gaumont Preps its 120th Anniversary

Plans include a Paris exhibition and increased theatrical distribution of classic films

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Gaumont, the world’s oldest film company is as old as the medium itself. The company’s founder, Leon Gaumont, was a close friend of Auguste and Louis Lumière and founded his company in Lyon in 1895 a few months after the brothers invented the cinematograph.

As Gaumont currently expands its international activities, including production operations on both sides of the Atlantic, it also aims to maximize its brand image as a key player in world cinema.

The company plans to celebrate its 120th anniversary next year in style, in synergy with other activities planned to mark cinema’s 120th anniversary.

Over April-June 2015, Paris will host two major exhibitions: the “Lumière Exhibition” in the Grand Palais, organized by the Institut Lumière and curated by Thierry Fremaux, director of the Institut Lumière. The Lumiere Festival and head of the Cannes Festival); and a separate Gaumont 120th anniversary exhibition, followed by a touring exhibition in countries such as Italy and Spain.

The Gaumont exhibition will be held in the art centre Le 104, in La Villette. It will include images, posters, film cameras, props, set design and other elements from the company’s private collection.

Some of these items will be taken from the private museum inside Gaumont’s head office and will include the recreation of a film set allowing visitors to walk through a set used for a classic film room.Classic titles from Gaumont’s extensive film library will also be screened.

Gaumont is also planning a even stronger commitment to distributing classic film titles, both in France and abroad.

Gaumont’s library comprises over 900 titles and ranks as Gaul’s second biggest, after Studiocanal’s. It has been restoring key titles from its catalogue to maximize media interest and market potential.

Recent examples include restoration of Louis Feuillade’s classic silent film, “Fantomas” and also the Louis Malle collection.

Communications director, Ariane Toscan du Plantier explained that Gaumont restores seven films a month, making it one of the most active companies in film restoration in France, alongside Studiocanal and Pathé.

To date, Gaumont has restored 290 films, 120 within the public support system specifically created for this purpose, the others via direct investment.

The company now plans to take greater advantage of its restored titles, including direct theatrical distribution.

“Until now, in the case of classic films, we’ve focused our attention on video, TV and digital, rather than theatrical,” explains Toscan du Plantier. “Now we aim to release around five-to-six classic titles per year.”

The market for classic films is growing in France, including new venues such as the five-screen Les Fauvettes, which will open in Spring 2015.

But Toscan du Plantier emphasizes that the total market is very wide, including around 100 screens in Paris and a growing number of venues in the rest of France and abroad.

As part of its 120th anniversary plans, Gaumont also plans to use its restored classic films to reinforce its presence in foreign markets.

“Our classic titles are selling throughout the world,” said Toscan du Plantier. “We’re now doing much more business outside France than domestically.”

Gaumont titles that sell well abroad include films by Luc Besson, such as “Nikita” and “The Big Blue” and Louis de Funes comedies, which are popular in Germany, Russia and Eastern Europe.

Toscan du Plantier stated that other titles in demand include films directed by Jacques Becker, and those starring Jean Paul Belmondo and Pierre Richard.

She added that some territories, such as Japan, are particular interested in French culture and cinema – where Gaumont is able to sell mainstream titles as well as auteur films by Godard, Bresson and Renoir.

Gaumont’s classic film catalogue includes historic co-productions, some shepherded by the late Daniel Toscan du Plantier, Gaumont’s CEO between 1975 and 1985.

Key international classic titles take in Fellini’s “8 ½”, “City of Women” and “And The Ship Sales On,” Antonioni’s “Identification of a Woman” and Bergman’s “Fanny & Alexander”.

Such titles will be used to reinforce the company’s brand image as a key player in world cinema. The detailed official plans for Gaumont’s 120th anniversary will be unveiled in January 2015.