BB Pictures Ltd

The company was floated to raise capital for expanding Bennell\'s circuit of cinemas, coupled with his film renting business. At the time of flotation, Bennell controlled eight venues. The directors were J Urquhart (Dundee), R Wilson (Glasgow), P Spence (Airdrie), Alexander Williamson (Greenock), and JJ Bennell, who gets £500 a year as managing director. The prospectus for the flotation, issued in October that year, transcribed a letter from T. J. West (previously mentioned as the manager of the Modern Marvel Company), who had been called in to value the assets and thought the film library was worth £7629 1s 9d. He also celebrated the finding that Bennell had ‘over 100 customers on your Hire List’. The B. B. Pictures’ rental side was so successful that, in the first half of 1910, it had made a net profit of £2820, which was even greater than the pre-tax profit of the eight exhibition venues for the same period. The company attracted investors of all kinds, from the coalminer-turned-founder of the Labour party, James Keir Hardie MP, to several fellow exhibitors and an array of cabinetmakers, printers, and typists. Months later, the company opened a branch office in Manchester to secure more bookings, as the clientele included venues in that city as well as Wolverhampton, Sutton Coldfield, and South Wales. By 1911, the B. B. Pictures were offering a film service (a regular mixed programme) at prices from ten shillings to five pounds per 1000 ft. The company’s profits for that year reached £4738. The exhibition side continued to thrive, and the B. B. Pictures became one of the first recognised ‘brands’ in Scottish film culture. It had managed to create a brand image combining working-class appeal and respectability, encapsulating the ideals of ‘rational entertainment’. By the end of 1912, the BB Pictures was the largest renting concern north of the border, claiming to buy over 40,000 feet of film a week. Ritson Bennell (J.J.\'s son) join the trade in 1911, and was later elected to the executive of the Buyers\' Section of te Incorporated Association of Film Renters. Without ever really being intent on complete vertical integration, the B. B. Pictures had a stab at production. The production department was put under the direction of Frank Storm Mottershaw, son of Frank W., the pioneer filmmaker with the Sheffield Photo Co. A topical film of the funeral of a famous illusionist, Sigmund Neuberger (‘the Great Lafayette’) has also been attributed to the company, with Albert Bryant behind the camera. In 1912, the BB Pictures hired cameraman Danvers Yates and produced “Tam O’Shanter’s Ride” (amateur dramatics) and “Land of Burns” (scenic), which were shown at Ayr Picture Palace. They also produced some topicals. In 1914 the company ran into trouble, as the open market model they had attached themselves to started to collapse. While they entered the exclusives market, they did not regain their previous levels of success. In September 1917 J. J. Bennell retired from renting and sold all his stock and list of customers to a new company, Argosy Films. The exhibition side of the B. B. Pictures continued to operate and indeed to thrive; although J. J. Bennell died in 1922, the company was only dissolved in 1971.

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