Combining production, distribution, and one of the most prestigious film catalogues in the world, Gaumont has always been a major force in Cinema. Gaumont’s history begins in 1895, when 31-year-old Léon Gaumont established himself as the Chief of Photography. Though the creation of this company was monumental, at that time, he did not realize that he would bring to life the only company in the world that is as old as cinema itself.
IN THE BEGINNING
Inspired by the innovative Thomas Edison and the Lumière brothers, Léon Gaumont believed in the future of cinematography and invented projection equipment as early as 1900. He then worked on creating a sound system and color system for his films: the chronophone and the chronochrome. These notorious inventions allowed Gaumont to envision his future and establish himself and his company as a prominent factor in Cinema.
Though Léon Gaumont was the light that sparked Gaumont, his friends and family frequently contributed to the progression of the company.
In 1903, his mother’s first name – Marguerite – influenced the company’s famous logo, a delicate daisy. In 1905, His secretary, Alice Guy recommended enlivening the presentation of his film apparatus by selling them through the film sketches presented by the company. With that, Alice Guy became the first female director and producer in the world. She filmed approximately 300 films and even experimented with sound within her films, eventually using a total of 100 phono-scenes. Her productions covered all cinematographic genres: comedy, drama, thriller, science fiction, Westerns, and even cartoons invented by filmmaker Emile Kohl. Later, Louis Feuillade became the artistic director of Gaumont and directed notorious films such as Judex, Fantômas, and the classic trilogy, Les Vampires.
In 1910, the infamous “Gaumont News” appeared, and was shown weekly in theaters before each film screening. Inspired by the popularity of “Gaumont News” in the theaters, that year, Léon Gaumont bought the Place Clichy racetrack in Paris and transformed it into a monumental cinema theater populated with 3,400 seats, making it the largest in the world. That day, the Gaumont Palace was born. From then on, the company bought and built theaters throughout France, forming and ensuring an unprecedented mastery of the cinematographic network, from the manufacturing of projection instruments to the distribution of films to the grand public.
In 1925, Léon Gaumont revolutionized the French company and signed a distribution agreement with Metro Goldwyn Mayer – a transatlantic first– and created a new firm, GMG, Gaumont Metro Goldwyn. Five years later, at the brink of expressive cinema, Léon Gaumont retired, and witnessed the first change leading to the beginning of Gaumont Franco Film Aubert (GFFA). The firm pursued the extension of Gaumont theaters and produced numerous chefs-d’œuvre, such as the infamous L'Atalante by Jean Vigo.
In 1938, the GFFA became the Société Nouvelle des Etablissements Gaumont (SNEG) where Alain Poiré started as the general secretary and then became the director of production and distribution. Across his career, this charismatic man with an unmatched flair would produce or coproduce more than 150 feature films, including many cult films.
In 1975, Nicolas Seydoux became the president of Gaumont and gave a new impetus to the development of the company by considerably increasing the number of theaters and introducing an increasingly ambitious production policy.
On his arrival, Daniel Toscan du Plantier imposed an eccentric style and initiated a European production policy combining popular successes and avant-garde works. He also launched the concept of film-opera, specifically with Carmen by Francesco Rosi and Don Giovanni by Joseph Losey.
During the mid-80s, Patrice Ledoux produced Le Grand Bleu (The Big Blue) and The Fifth Element directed by Luc Besson, as well as Les Visiteurs byJean-Marie Poiré.
The firm today is headed by President Nicolas Seydoux, CEO Sidonie Dumas, and Vice CEO Christophe Riandee.
Gaumont associated itself with Pathé to build the Cinémas Gaumont Pathé, creating and developing the biggest source of theaters in Europe. With new theaters and a fleet of chefs-d’œuvre, from Tontons Flinguers to OSS 117, from Cent Mille Dollars au Soleil to Dîner de Cons, from La Folie des Grandeurs to La Boum, from La Chèvre to La Nuit de Varennes, from Fantômas to Nikita, hundreds of millions of viewers around the world have been inspired by Gaumont's prominent role in the cinematic industry. Though each presentation is unique, they all overflow with celebrated actors, outstanding directors, and the screenwriting of some of the most beautiful films in the industry.
These last few years, Gaumont intensified its activity by producing, financing, and distributing films in both French and English. The firm notoriously coproduced, distributed in France, and sold worldwide the box office record breaking film INTOUCHABLES. Alongside a solid French line-up, the oldest French production company also finances and co-produces English-language films such as Anne Fontaine’s Perfect Mothers, Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s The Young and Prestigious T.S. Spivet, and Nicolas Winding Refn’s Only God Forgives.
Today, Gaumont represents the second richest catalogue of French films, with more than 900 films, of which are notably works of prestigious and famous directors such as Luc Besson, Matthiey Kassovitz, Francis Veber, Jean-Jaxques Beineix as well as award-winning directors such as Federico Fellini, Maurice Pialat and Jean-Luc Godard.
For several years, with the creation of Gaumont Télévision in France and internationally, and the acquisition of Gaumont Animation, Gaumont reinforced its desire and goals to be present in all sectors of the entertainment industry.
Gaumont is now looking to the future: pursuing the eclectic artistic investment that will make its mark. All the teams in the company are working on the evolution of the cinematic arts, reinforcing what Gaumont has always been: one of the most prestigious and prominent production company.
Formed in 1895, Gaumont is the first and oldest film company in the world, with offices in Paris and Los Angeles. In the past few years, the company’s release schedule has continued to increase across film and television production, in both the French and English languages.
The film library now encompasses over 1100 titles including films from such prestigious directors as Luc Besson, Matthieu Kassovitz, Francis Veber, Jean-Jacques Beineix, Federico Fellini, Maurice Pialat and Jean-Luc Godard, and more recently Toledano and Nakache for The Intouchables, the highest-grossing French language movie ever with over $450 million in revenue to date.
Gaumont produces and distributes high-quality TV programming worldwide. Key drama series include the award-winning Narcos for Netflix; the critically acclaimed Hannibal; the winner of “Best Series” (Festival of Fiction TV) The Frozen Dead and The Art of Crime, amongst many others.
The animated catalog comprises over 800 half-hours, broadcast in over 130 countries. Current productions include Noddy (season two) co-produced with Dreamworks, Trulli Tales, Belle & Sebastian, Furiki Wheels, and F is For Family (season three) for Netflix. In development is the series Do, Re & Mi with the multi-talented Kristen Bell.