Film Distributors in Leeds, 1927 and 1940

In a comment on The Bioscope I mentioned that I had some information on film distributors in Leeds from the first half of the twentieth century. This post follows up that comment with maps of the location of film hirers/renters listed in Kelly’s directory for Leeds in 1940 and 1927. This information is much needed I think due to the lack of studies of the film rental business in the UK, where I think that exhibition and the cultural geography of exhibition is now recognised as an important topic. Nicholas Hiley, Stuart Hanson, and Mark Jancovich have made substantial contributions in this area, although there is still much to do. Distribution is rather overlooked in film studies in general, lacking the excitement of production or the experience of exhibition –  an unfortunate state of affairs for a distribution-led industry.

The maps used here are from the Lonely Planet online guide to Leeds, which has a good interactive guide to the city. The maps show modern Leeds, and the location identified are approximate to their position in the year shown.

Figure 1 shows the location of film hirers/renters in Leeds in 1940, and the clustering around the railway station is very clear. In the 1940s there were numerous railway yards in Leeds and so this area would have a much greater density of lines and stations than can be seen today, particularly running alongside Wellington Street where the concentration of distributors is greatest. It would be worth comparing the clustering of distributors in Leeds around the railway station with distributors in other cities to see if the same pattern is observed: what role the railways played in the distribution of films in the UK is a question worth pursuing.

On this map I have also included two other items of notice indicated by the red numbers: 1 is the location from which Louis le Prince shot his footage of Leeds traffic in 1888, and 2 is the location of Claude Hamilton Verity’s workshop at which he developed synchronised sound for motion pictures in 1917. Verity was brought up in Roundhay, where le Prince lived during his time in Leeds and although I’ve never seen any evidence that the two would have met (Verity was born in 1880 in any case) it is possible that an inventor and engineer like le Prince would have known the Veritys, owners of a large iron working factory in Leeds and who lived nearby. Read the abstract of Verity’s 1917 patent here. These two major events in the history of cinema occur 29 years and just 200 metres apart. In fact, le Prince’s footage of the traffic on Leeds Bridge faces towards the end of Briggate and just cuts off the railway bridge next to which Verity’s workshop was located.


Figure 1 Film hirers/renters in Leeds in 1940


A. Associated British Film Distributors, Ltd: 58 Wellington Street.

B. Associated British Picture Corporation, Ltd: 17 Wellington Street.

C. General film Distributors, Ltd: 15 Wellington Street.

D. LH Beahan & Co.; Empire Cinemas (Leeds) Ltd.: 14 Wellington Chambers, City Square. RKO Radio Pictures, Ltd.: Wellington Chambers, City Square.

E. Columbia Pictures Corporation, Ltd.: 9 Mill Hill; John Briggs (Films), Ltd.; Pathé Pictures, Ltd.; Wellington Film Service, Ltd.: 10 Mill Hill.

F. British Lion Film Corporation, Ltd.: King Street Chambers, 1 King Street.

G. Clifford Kemp: 15 Cavendish Chambers, 91 The Headrow (the G on the right), and 28 Park Cross Street.

H. Paramount Film Service, Ltd.: 48 Wellington Street.

I. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures, Ltd.: 34 Wellington Street.

J. Charles Thompson: 93A Albion Street.

K. Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation, Ltd.: 54 Aire Street.

L. (not on map, but only approx. 1/2 mile down Whitehall Road from railway station) Electrocord Ltd (equipment manufacturers): Domestic Street, Holbeck. Although separate from the other locations mentioned here, this location would still have been very well served by the railways.

M. Warner Bros. Pictures, Ltd.: 3 Cabinet Chambers, 20A Lower Basinghall Street.

N. White’s Sound Film Service (distributors), 23 York Place.

O. (not on map) First National Distributors, Ltd.: 3 Alfred Street (I can’t find Alfred Street on modern maps of Leeds or the 1906 map of the city centre so this one’s a mystery).

If we compare the 1940 with the 1927 map (Figure 2) we can see that as well as being located around the railway yards, there are a number of distributors based in the city centre around Queen’s Arcade and Briggate. These clusters have disappeared by the 1940s, while the overall number of distributors has fallen from 29 in 1927 to 24 in 1940. Interestingly, by 1940 these distributors are sharing more offices and so how the different companies interacted is worth investgating further.


Figure 2 Film hirers/renters in Leeds in 1927


A. Three distributors are based next door to one another in Queen’s Arcade: Allied Artists’ Corporation, Ltd.: 20A, Balcony; Mercury (Booth Grange) Film Service, Ltd,: 22A, 24A, 26A, Balcony; H.A. Whincup, Ltd.: 16A, 18A, Balcony.

B. Astra Films (Yorkshire), Ltd.: 15 & 17 King Charles Croft; Charles P. Metcalfe, 21 King Charles Croft.

C. Beahan Film Service, Ltd.: 7 New Station Street.

D. Buthcher’s Film Service, Ltd.: 66 New Briggate.

E. Famous-Lasky Film Service, Ltd.: 48 Wellington Street.

F. Jury Metro Goldwyn, Ltd; New Century Pictures, Ltd.: 34 Wellington Street.

G. The European Motion Picture Company, Ltd.; Universal Films European Motion Picture Co, Ltd.: 17 Wellington Street.

H. Wardour Films, Ltd.: 11 Wellington Street.

J. First National Pictures, Ltd: Bardon Chambers, King Street.

K. Fox Film Co. , Ltd.: Trinity House, Trinity Street.

L. The Gaumont Co. Ltd., (Albert Bayley, Manager): 12 Lands Lane & 12 Albion Place.

M. Ideal Films, Ltd.: 22 New Briggate.

N. William Leverton; Wellington Film Service, Ltd.: 10 Mill Hill.

O. Pathé Frères Cinema, Ltd.: Wellington Chambers, City Square.

P. Phillips Film Co., Ltd.: 10 Cabinet Chambers, 20A, Lower Basinghall Street.

Q. Producers’ Distrbuting Co., Ltd.: Post Office House, Wine Street.

R. The Rose Film Co, Ltd.: Greek Street Chambers.

S. Stoll Picture Productions, Ltd.: 121 Vicar Lane.

T. Charles Thompson, 97 Albion Street.

U. Warner Bros. Pictures, Ltd.: 4 Cross Belgrave Street.

V. Western Import Co, Ltd.: 39 Albion Street.

W. (not on map) W & F Film Service (Yorkshire), Ltd.: 1 Upperhead row (Having checked the 1908 map of Leeds city centre this now part of what is simply The Headrow, but as the road configuration has changed completely where Eastgate is now there is no way to mark it a contemporay map).

Note that of the four companies based around New Briggate/Vicar Lane in 1927, only Warner Bros. survives to 1940, by which time they have moved across twon to be near City Square.


About Nick Redfern

I graduated from the University of Kent in 1998 with a degree in Film Studies and History, and was awarded an MA by the same institution in 2002. I received my Ph.D. from Manchester Metropolitan University in 2006 for a thesis title 'Regionalism and the Cinema in the United Kingdom, 1992 to 2002.' I have taught at Manchester Metropolitan University and the University of Central Lancashire. My research interests include regional film cultures and industries in the United Kingdom; cognition and communication in the cinema; anxiety in contemporary Hollywood cinema; cinemetrics; and film style and film form. My work has been published in Entertext, the International Journal of Regional and Local Studies, the New Review of Film and Television Studies, Cyfrwng: Media Wales Journal, and the Journal of British Cinema and Television.

Posted on July 23, 2009, in British Cinema, Film History, Film Industry, Film Studies, Motion Picture Distribution and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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