Lehman Brothers Collection - Contemporary Business Archives

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Lehman Brothers Collection

Twentieth-Century Business Archives

GC Computer Corporation - Lehman Brothers Collection

GC Computer Corporation

List of Deals

The origins of GC Companies can be traced to Philip Smith's 1922 purchase of the National Theater in Boston. He immediately dropped ticket prices from 25 cents to 10 cents and then developed an exhibition schedule that featured a variety of movies with several show times. These moves helped to restore the theater's profitability. Smith named his new project Philip Smith Theatrical Enterprises. He went on to purchase eleven more theaters in the Boston area by 1925. Smith had created and was operating the Boston area's first independent exhibition circuit. During the Depression years, however, Smith was forced to sell nine of his theaters.

Smith was once again ready to expand by 1935. He took advantage of the boom in automobile ownership by opening drive-in theaters in Detroit and Cleveland. These ventures were described as the first successful drive-ins in the United States. Smith called his new business Midwest, and the drive-ins were dubbed Midwest Drive-In Theaters. By the 1940s the circuit of theaters expanded into Illinois and other neighboring states. By the 1950s the company had built fifty-three drive-in theaters throughout the United States, all of which were modestly profitable.

The increasing popularity of television led to a decline in box office sales, as suburbanites became less willing to travel to the city for entertainment. In 1951 Smith decided to open a theater in a newly constructed suburban shopping center—the suburban equivalent of "downtown." As the first shopping-center-based movie theater in the nation, the new Massachusetts theater benefited from the free mall parking. Other theater businesses soon caught on to this idea, and of the approximately 180 indoor theaters built in 1961 and 1962, one-third were in shopping malls. In 1964 the company was renamed General Cinema Corporation, and by 1970 it was the largest shopping center theater chain in the country. Smith branched out in the 1950s to protect the company from a potential downturn in the cinema industry. He opened a chain of restaurants called Richard's Drive-Ins and a series of coffee shops called Amy Joe's Pancake Houses. General Cinema also opened several bowling alleys later in the decade. In 1960 the company went public on the New York Stock Exchange, and it began acquiring bottling franchises, including a Pepsi bottling operation, later in the 60s.

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