Associated British Picture Corporation

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Associated British Picture Corporation (ABPC), originally British International Pictures (BIP), was a British independent film production, distribution and exhibition company active from 1927 until 1970. ABPC also owned approximately 500 cinemas in Britain during 1943.[1] The studio was partly owned by Warner Bros. from about 1940 until 1969, with the American company also having a stake in ABPC's distribution arm, Warner-Pathé.


The company was founded during 1927 by Scottish solicitor John Maxwell after he had purchased British National Studios and their Elstree Studios complex and merged it with his ABC cinema circuit, renaming the company British International Pictures. He appointed Joseph Grossman, formerly manager of the Stoll Studios, as his Studio Manager. During their early years the company's most prominent work was that directed by Alfred Hitchcock, including his 1929 feature Blackmail, which is regarded commonly as being the first British all-talkie. Hitchcock left the company in 1933 to work for rival British Gaumont.

Under Maxwell's paternalistic management the company prospered and during 1937, after its acquisition of British Pathé, the company was renamed Associated British Picture Corporation and was in a position to vertically integrate production, distribution and exhibition of films. After Maxwell's death in 1940, his widow Catherine sold a large number of shares to Warner Bros., who, although the Maxwell family remained the largest shareholders, were able to exercise a measure of control.

Much of the output of the studio was routine, which restricted its success outside the UK, but after World War II, the company contracted with Warner (by now the largest shareholder, owning 40% of the studio[2]) for the distribution of its films in the United States and the company was to produce some of its best remembered work during this era, including films such as The Dam Busters (1954), Ice Cold in Alex (1958), and Summer Holiday (1963).

ABPC won a franchise contract for the new ITV television network which began to develop from 1955. Associated British Corporation, the new subsidiary, held the commercial television licence for broadcasting to both the Midlands and the North of England during weekends. This company ended when ABPC formed Thames Television with Rediffusion Television for the London weekday ITV franchise, which began broadcasting in 1968, after the ITV Midlands 7 day contract was awarded to Associated Television and the North of England 7 day contract was awarded to Granada Television and Yorkshire Television.

During the 1960s, however, the fortunes of the parent company declined, and in 1967 Seven Arts, the new owners of Warner, decided to dispose of its holdings in ABPC which was purchased in 1969 by EMI. The entire ABPC library is now owned by StudioCanal.[3]

Subsidiaries of Associated British Picture Corporation[edit]

Wholly owned[edit]

  • Associated British Productions Ltd.
  • Associated British Cinemas Ltd.
  • Associated British Pathé Ltd.
  • Associated British Film Distributors Ltd. - usually only known by its initials: ABFD
  • British and Overseas Film Sales Ltd.
  • Pathé Laboratories Ltd.
  • Associated British Cinemas (Television) Ltd.
  • Associated British Corporation Ltd.

Jointly owned[edit]

  • Warner-Pathé Distributors Ltd. (50%) from 1958[4]
  • Anglo-Amalgamated Film Distributors. (50%)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Cinemonopoly - TIME
  2. ^ Davis, Ronald L. Just Making Movies: Company Directors on the Studio System Vincent Sherman Interview 2005 University of Kentucky Press, p.96
  3. ^ Mitchell, Wendy (17 December 2012). "Network Distributing acquires rights to 450 films from StudioCanal library". Screen Daily. Retrieved 24 April 2015. 
  4. ^ Luke McKernan "Pathé", BFI screenonline; Brian McFarlane Encyclopedia of British Film, London: Methen/BFI, 2003, p.511-12

External links[edit]