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MGM Cinemas – An Outline History


Created out of a flawed merger between the financially-strapped Pathé Communications Corporation and the remnants of Kirk Kerkorian’s fabled Hollywood studios in 1990, the launch of Britain’s premier exhibitor – MGM Cinemas(UK) Ltd – by Italian investor, Giancarlo Parretti, would occur amid a series of deals blighted by corruption, scandal and double-dealing at international level. Beset by financial problems and a highly controversial transatlantic power struggle at boardroom level, the “purchase” of MGM would result in an uncertain scramble lasting almost two years, while at the same time managing to read more like a real-life Hollywood drama than any fact-based account. Forced into receivership during 1991, both the then-recent Anglo-European exhibitor and Hollywood studio shortly lapsed into the hands of their principal backer, Crédit Lyonnais, prior to being separated and auctioned off during 1995 and 1996, respectively. While several, selective accounts of MGM’s studio history already abound, little is ever mentioned of its original, or indeed later, connections with cinema exhibition. MGM Cinemas – An Outline History, published as a companion to its Cannon Cinemas predecessor, makes good this shortfall and, for the very first time, brings together an outline of the original California studio – the later international circuit’s heritage better known, perhaps, for its Ben Hur; Goodbye, Mr Chips; The Wizard of Oz, and Gone With the Wind productions – founded in 1924 by the Russian-born Louis B. Mayer, along with a highly illustrated account of the ‘nineties UK flagship circuit also to bear the prestigious name. Highlighted here are several of the [numerous] changes to affect the UK circuit modus operandi following the radical innovations introduced by industry outsider and MGM Cinemas’ most recent MD, Mike Sommers; While included, too, is an overview of the MGM developed multiplexes, together with some of the more prestigious refurbished Cannon cinemas deemed worthy of trading as MGMs. These include the disparate Hammersmith, Ealing, Shaftesbury Avenue [and Luton] cinemas, as well as a brace of multiplex takeovers intended for the short–lived Gallery circuit: the Brighton Marina eightscreen and the London Piccadilly Trocadero flagship. Amply demonstrated throughout is the premier exhibitor’s decidely eclectic identity following a selective treatment of its cinemas’ frontages, façades, and auditorium and foyer layouts, and will appeal to a whole diversity of cineastes; employees past and present, and to connoisseurs of architecture alike. Written by BFI/National Film Theatre and CTA member, Philip Turner with help from a cast of former MGM management including MGM head Mike Sommers; ex-booking directors Stuart Hall and Joe Nunes, and former-Gallery Cinemas chief, Anthony Williams; together with input from MGM Cinemas’ principal architects: Unick and McFarlane Latter, MGM CINEMAS is a limited edition of just 3,000 copies worldwide, comprising the third in the Brantwood “Outline History” series which includes also Cannon and Warner Cinemas.