“General Cinema Corporation” - 1994 book written about it’s history

posted by ArchStanton007 on February 1, 2007 at 4:50 am

Just stumbled on the book “The Making of Harcourt General” written by an author named Pruitt who was commissioned by General Cinema Corporation to chronicle it’s history from their very beginnings through their later days, including the purchase of publisher Harcourt.

Strand Books, Broadway, NYC, has a copy for sale and it looks quite interesting. Some public libraries also have it.

Anybody know why GCC never opened theaters in Long Island? Was it already too saturated possibly?

Comments (7)

moviebuff82 on February 1, 2007 at 10:17 am

GCC had one profitable theater in the Bronx which would become the AMC Bay Plaza 13. The market for theatres in Long Island was too saturated.

BudShepard on February 3, 2007 at 2:44 am

Back in those days Redstone Theaters (currently National Amusements), and United Artist had captured Long Island and both groups had great relationships with the local projectionist union. GCC never constructed a cinema without years of research and corporate intervention. Many great opportunties for GCC were lost because of their tartiness on key projects. Other competitors would build quickly before GCC. I have fond memories working here in Boston of GCC and their corporate office.

ArchStanton007 on February 5, 2007 at 6:16 am

Mr. Shepard,

How many people worked in GCC’s Boston HQ ?

Why did they only have a scant few theaters in Connecticut?
Like Long island, was it already saturated by the competition?

During the mid 1960’s, GCC was aggressive about opening in several key areas of Westchester County, NY and all over New Jersey.

Danscr on February 5, 2007 at 8:11 am

Hello All:

I’m not sure of the number, but Paul R. Del Rossi, who became the President in the 80’s, did pare down the Home Office Staff. As I recall, all of the Regional Vice-presidents for operations, had their offices within the territories that they supervised. That may have been true of the Film Buyers as well.

Even though General Cinema had a presence in New England, the Redstone and Sack circuits seemed to dominate the area.

I found Pruitt’s book disappointing. The point of the book seemed to be that the success of General Cinema over the years, was Richard Smith’s focus on diversification and acquisition. I was suprised to learn that only 12 % of General Cinemas business was in the theatre division. The Beverage Division and those of Neiman Marcus and Harcourt publishing each had much higher percentages. I had wished the book focused more on the theatre operations, as there is no other book that has done this (and is that kind of research possible today with the bankrupcy?) since the backbone of the company was due to the effectiveness of individual Managing Directors, House Managers and Division Managers. Can you tell that I’m a former Manager?! It was surprising too, that Richard Smith and his inner circle seemed exclusively concerned with acquisitions, according to Pruitt

BudShepard on February 5, 2007 at 9:19 am


I’m not sure on the number either, but the corporate office was adjacent to the Chestnut Hill Cinemas 5. Later on another office was rented across the street for operations, real estate, bookings and legal. When they constructed the Framingham Cinema they moved booking and operations to the second floor of the cinema. Many times I walked thru the offices to get to a projection room.


I just ordered that book online. I haven’t read it but I have to agree in part to your statement about GCC. First, the bottling rights to Pepsi products was a huge cash cow for them (which they sold), but unlike Sumner Redstone, Richard Smith forgot his roots (cinemas) and deversified by taking theater profits and not reinvesting into his locations. GCC would build top notch facilities, but at a slow pace. One year we worked on six new Showcase Cinemas while only installing two GCC theatres in the greater Chicago area. Sadly, I believe that the R. Smith abandoned the business which gave him his wealth.

jimkf on February 11, 2007 at 1:43 pm

Interesting reading! From 1977 thru 1986 I was employed by GCC Theatres (General Cinema) and ran theatres in both the Cleveland/Akron, OH and Boston/Brockton, Mass markets. As a regular vistor to the Home Office, I was surprised at how few people who actually worked there. I think the staff was something less than 150. I was there during the Richard Smith/Paul DelRossi transition. I also was involved with some of the other assets that the company had (worked for a bit with Pepsi in Cleveland) so I got to see how the rest of the company ran.
It was too bad that more focus wasn’t placed on the theatre division. While film exhibition isn’t as profitable as it used to be, I think the company could have done a better job at staying in it and could still be around today.
The Regional VPs and Division Managers all worked in the field, as did film buyers. The buyers, however, didn’t start doing this until around ‘82 or '83. The company also had auditors and other support folks who had offices outside of Chestnut Hill.
I have fond memories of working in the business. The hours were, for sure, long, but the rewards were many. I still see a few of my coworkers and inevitably, the conversation usually turns to the days spent inside those blue and red walled buildings!

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on May 2, 2011 at 9:26 pm

I think GCC simply overscreened,And in often BAD locations as in Augusta,Ga with REGENCY EXCHANGE 8 Plex,Already that part of town was not where one would want to watch a movie,I can only believe they did the same thing everywhere.I Pleaded with our District Mgr, and my Manager, out of Charlotte,N.C. that South Augusta was not the place for a new cinema.What the heck who would listen to a smart ass Assistant Manager? Interesting Comments.

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