James Joseph Bennell
Bennell had been a lecturer with Temperance organisations in the North of England, and had started touring with a hired bioscope in 1897 with modest success, before he associated with the Bradford-based company, New Century Pictures, to tour as a manager and lecturer. Working for that company, he visited Glasgow twice a year for public-hall engagements that grew steadily longer, until in 1907 he decided to rent the Wellington Palace, in the South side of Glasgow, from the Good Templars through the assistance of his friend Walter Freer, the curator of Glasgow Corporation halls. He called his cinema circuit 'BB Pictures' (for Bright and Beautiful, or the initials of his wife, Blanche), and took a cautious approach to expansion. Realising he could offset the cost of film hire by becoming a renter, he set up the BB Film Service, one of the first independent Scottish film renters. As a renter, he was a very important figure in the Glasgow trade, and had close friendships with many of the pioneers. He was very active in the defense and legitimation of the cinema trade, frequently writing and speaking about its potential for good, and encouraging children's matinees; in 1916 he published a pamphlet for exhibitors entitled "The cinema: A Christian recreation". He was twice chairman of the Cinematograph Exhibitor's Association Scottish Branch, a founding member of the Film Renters' Association, member of the Rotary Club, and connected to Temperance organisations. Weeks before his death in 1922 he gave a farewell address to the Edinburgh branch of the CEA. His contemporaries remembered him as a kind, charitable man, and his interventions in the rowdy business of the Renters’ Association reveal him as a measured and diplomatic professional. It's not the man who laughs the most That's burdened least with care. It's not the man who's always glum That makes the world so fair. It's he, when cares oppress him most, Has still a smile to give, For he sees the B.B. Pictures, And thinks it's good to live.
Source: The Story of the B.B. Pictures, booklet, SSA 5/7/135
"The B.B. Film Hire Service", The Bioscope, 13 May, 1915
“The B.B. Film Service: From Start to Finish” The Bioscope 20 Sep 1917, pp.xvi-xvii
Jack Kissell, “Cinema in the By-ways”, Educational Film Bulletin No 33, Sep 1946, pp. 22-31.
Ritson Bennell, “The Film Industry Settles Down”, Educational Film Bulletin No 33, Sep 1946, pp. 34-39.
Scottish Screen Archive biography (Julie McCrone): http://movingimage.nls.uk/biography/10003
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