Rank Organisation 1937 - 1996

England, United Kingdom

Established by J. Arthur Rank in 1937. J. Arthur Rank had inherited his father's flour milling business, but his interests laid elsewhere. He was a man of strong Methodist belief and taught in a Sunday school where he would regularly show religious films. However, he believed there were not enough good quality religious films, and so began to make his own. He distributed these to other churches and schools and eventually formed the Religious Film Society.

The Methodist Times newspaper began producing articles surrounding the negative impact of British and American films on British families and the London Evening News suggested that the newspaper do something about it. Rank decided to take on this challenge with the film producer, John Corfield, and Lady Henrietta Yule of Bricket Wood. They formed the British National Films Company and began producing films, with the first, 'Turn of the Tide', released in 1935. This film was moderately successful and provided the partners with an introduction into the challenges of creating films.

Following the release of this first film, the partners began to establish partnerships and acquisitions to develop the company and their skills. They became owner-operators of Pinewood Film Studios in 1935 which was seen as a potential competitor to Hollywood at the time. Another issue facing the company concerned distribution of their films. Rank found that the middlemen who controlled the majority of the British film industry clogged the theatrical pipeline with American films. To combat this, Rank created the General Cinema Finance Corporation with the filmmaker, C. M. Woolf, which they used to buy out General Film Distributors, the British arm of Universal Pictures. This freed up space to introduce more British-made films.

In 1937, following further partnerships and acquisitions, including Denham Film Studios, the Rank Organisation was formed. The campaign of partnerships and acquisitions continued so that, over the following few years, the company acquired the Odeon cinema chain and the UK sites of Paramount Cinemas. By the late 1940s, the Rank Organisation owned five major film studio complexes and 650 UK cinemas.

The Rank Organisation produced many successful films and became one of the world's biggest film companies.

However, following financial problems by the end of the 1940s, the company began to diversify and expanded into radio manufacture after acquiring Bush Radio and Murphy Radio, creating the Bush Murphy Radio Group, and established Rank Records.

In 1952, J. Arthur Rank stepped down as Managing Director, but continued as the Chairman until 1962. During the late 1970s and early 1980s, the Rank films did not perform well which led to a move away from filmmaking. In 1996, the Rank Organisation was absorbed by The Rank Group plc which ended the motion picture business. The Rank Group plc continues today as a leading European gaming business.