How John Arthur Rank Found Fame and Fortune in the Film Industry

On this day, December 22 in the year 1888, the man who dedicated his life and fortune to the development of the British film industry was born in Kingston upon Hull, England. His name was John Arthur Rank, the founder of the Rank Organization, an entertainment group of companies.

John Arthur Rank
John Arthur Rank (Credit:

John Rank was the youngest of seven children born to a millionaire who built the largest flour mill business in the United Kingdom. He attended The Leys School in Cambridge. Later, he started his own flour business and when it failed, he returned to the family business. He belonged to the Methodist Church and taught at Sunday school. Being a very religious man, he detested the kind of films shown to the British people. He endeavored to produce his own films and began to show them to his students. He wanted to show to general public but he was met with distribution problems.

In 1934, John Rank formed the British National Films Company with partners Lady Annie Henrietta Yule and John Corfield. Starting with the production of religious films, it moved up to the release of family-friendly movies and later graduated to the making of commercial films. The following year, he set up Pinewood Film Studios in direct competition with Hollywood. He also founded General Cinema Finance Corporation. To solve the distribution problem, he formed General Film Distributors in 1936. In 1939, he established the Rank Organization as a holding company for all his interest in the film industry. Then he began buying cinemas in succession: the Odeon cinema chain; the Gaumont cinema chain; Denham studios and Lime Grove studios. By 1942, the Rank Organization owned 619 cinemas.

John Arthur Rank died in 1972 at the age of 83. He had two daughters with his wife Nell. After his death, Rank Organization diversified into gambling. Subsequently, it sold its entertainment properties and renamed itself as The Rank group.


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