- NAME: Léon Gaumont
- OCCUPATION: Engineer, Filmmaker, Inventor
- BIRTH DATE: May 10, 1864
- DEATH DATE: August 09, 1946
- Did You Know?: The Gaumont Film Company is the first and oldest continuously operating film company in the world.
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Semblancay, Indre-et-Loire, France
- PLACE OF DEATH: Sainte-Maxime, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, France
- Full Name: Léon Ernest Gaumont
- AKA: Léon Gaumont
Best Known For
A pioneer in early filmmaking, Léon Gaumont saw the possibilities of what moving pictures could be and making film equipment unavailable for the masses, establishing what is now the oldest surviving film company.
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He replaced Guy-Blaché as head of production with director Louis Feuillade, who became renowned for his serial thriller films.
Gaumont was a hard worker and expected the same from his employees: He let them know if they hadn't done well, and is said to have stood sentry at the doors of his studio,
clocking the arrival of every member of his staff.
Expanding the production and distribution side of the company, Cite Elge (pronounced "L - G" for his initials), Gaumont provided his own distribution channel: In 1900, he converted the Hippodrome into the Gaumont Palace—one of the first studios to have its own movie theaters. Gaumont films included vaudeville, comedies and morality tales, as well as, often, rip-offs of others' successful films, but he went on to add documentaries; newsreels called the Gaumont Graphic, which appeared among British newsreels; and educational films.
Gaumont took the opportunity to quickly expand the retail side of the business, too, offering cinematographic equipment for amateurs, and ultimately paving the way for the "home" movie and citizen journalism.
Though the American filmmaking industry began to grow quickly, the only serious rival of Gaumont's on the continent was Pathé (or the Pathé brothers), who had invented the newsreel.
Léon Gaumont retired from movies in 1930. He had bolstered his financial position through a deal made with MGM, but the French film industry had been seriously curbed by World War I. Still, Gaumont championed independent European filmmakers against Edison Trust controls, and despite his sadness at how the American movie industry had eclipsed the French one, he avidly followed American cinema, becoming close friends with George Eastman, who manufactured raw film.
Gaumont was awarded the Exhibition Prize of France for "having contributed in greatest measure to the progress of photography." He died in Sainte-Maxime, in the Provence region of France, on August 9, 1946.
Remarkably, despite financial turmoil over the decades, the Gaumont Film Company has survived into the 21st century, standing as the first and oldest continuously operating film company in the world.
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