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August 1897: Urban Takes Charge

Charles Urban

Business should have been good for Franck Maguire and Joseph Baucus, joint owners of the Continental Commerce Company, in 1897: in addition to being agents for Edisonís films and projectors, they had won the rights to distribute Lumiere films in Europe and America.   However, despite having brought the first moving pictures to London in 1894, the British arm of their organisation was not performing as well as the two entrepreneurs desired due to stiff competition from R.W. Paul and John Wrench & Son, manufacturers of cheap but efficient cinematographs.

In an attempt to shake things up a little, Maguire and Baucus hired Charles Urban, and sent him to London in August 1897.   Urban was an American of German descent, born in Cincinnati on the 15th April 1867.   He moved to Detroit in the 1890s and started a stationary business with a partner, John Doan.   In November 1894, Urban opened a Phonograph and Kinetoscope Parlour, and in 1896 obtained the rights to the Edison Vitascope in Michigan.   It was this transaction that brought him into contact with Maguire and Baucus.

When Urban arrived in London, the British arm of the CCC was heavily in debt to its parent company in New York, a situation that was harming both sides of the business.   Upon taking up the reins, Urbanís first decision was to move premises: The CCCís offices were situated in Dashwood House, Broad Street, near Liverpool Street railway station, while the other major players in the industry were situated around the High Holborn and Grayís Inn Road area.   Urban selected premises at Warwick Court, just off Chancery Lane and right in the middle of the burgeoning movie industry.   Fearing the companyís transatlantic name could be damaging trade, Urban also took the opportunity to rename it as The Warwick Trading Company.

Urban was quick to revitalise the ailing organisation, and would soon prove to be one of the significant figures in the early British film industry. {ADD]

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Gt. Britain: 1897



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