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Bioscope en l'an 1900
Famous Players Canadian Corporation
Founded by Nathan L. Nathanson in 1920, the Famous Players Canadian Corporation became in just a few years the largest movie theatre chain in Canada. Using its strong position in the market as leverage, Famous Players was able to dictate conditions to film distributors and thereby control the film industry. Nathanson and Famous Players called the shots in the Canadian film industry during the 1920s.
Famous Players’ control depended largely on American Paramount’s support, whose founder, Adolph Zukor, sat on Canadian company’s board of directors. This enabled Famous Players to beat its main Canadian rival, the Allen movie theatre chain, in obtaining the premiere rights to a highly coveted franchise, Famous Players-Lasky/Paramount productions. The studio employed several of the most popular stars of the 1920s, including Gloria Swanson, Rudolph Valentino, Clara Bow and Pola Negri.
With his film supply assured, Nathanson went on to build many movie palaces across Canada in the 1920s. In June 1923, he acquired thirty-five of Allen’s most luxurious cinemas for the paltry sum of $650,000. By the time talking pictures arrived, Famous Players already owned most of the main movie palaces in downtown Montreal, including the Capitol, Loew’s, Palace, Princess, Orpheum and His Majesty’s. Famous Players also had substantial shares in the United Amusement chain headed by George Ganetakos, which was well established in the city’s suburbs. In Quebec City, Famous Players obtained the Auditorium and renamed it the Capitol. In Sherbrooke, Nathanson and Ganetakos built the Granada.
However, Famous Players’ expansion slowed down in the early 1930s, following the 1929 krach and Nathanson’s departure from the company. In addition, the chain was forced to open their books to a Royal Commission in 1931, leading some to conclude that their business model qualified as a monopoly. It was nevertheless the arrival of talking pictures that produced the first cracks in the monopoly of Famous Players. Other entrepreneurs, such as Montrealer Joseph-Alexandre DeSève, were better positioned in Quebec by the early 1930s to meet the strong demand for French-language talking pictures.