The Allen Family
The brothers Jule and Jay J. Allen were not yet twenty years old when they opened their first theatorium in Brantford, Ontario in 1906. However, their lack of experience was not a significant handicap in the nascent film industry. Within a few years, the Allen brothers found themselves at the head of the most important movie theatre chain in Canada. At its peak in the early 1920s, their company controlled several theatres, including some of the most luxurious in the country, such as the New Grand, the Allen’s Westmount (1918) and the Allen (1921, the future Palace) in Montreal and the Auditorium (the future Capitol) and the Allen theatres in Quebec City. Jule and Jay J., whose ambitions knew no bounds, also built two huge palaces during the same period in the United States, in Cleveland and Detroit. In addition, they planned to build in the heart of London one of the most prestigious movie theatres in the world.
The success of the two brothers largely rested on their distribution activities. They were nonetheless beaten to the distribution of the popular Famous Players-Lasky films by one of their acquaintances, Nathan L. Nathanson. This move allowed Nathanson to establish the well-known Famous Players chain, which was the first real competitor to the Allens. The two chains quickly enter into fierce competition; within weeks of each other, Famous Players and the Allens inaugurated the two most luxurious Montreal palaces in the spring of 1921.
However, the stiff competition quickly depleted the Allens, whose financial footing was not as strong as that of Famous Players. The two brothers were forced to declare bankruptcy in 1923 and relinquish most of their chain to Famous Players. Nonetheless, Jule and Jay J. did not abandon the film industry altogether. Despite their inability to compete with Famous Players, the Allens continued to distribute and exhibit films long after the arrival of talking pictures in the early 1930s.
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Bioscope en l'an 1900
More info
Cox, Kirwan, 2000. “The Rise and Fall of the Allens: The War for Canada’s Movie Theatres.” Lonergan Review, no. 6, p. 44-81.