Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Born Léon Ernest Gaumont in Paris, France, he was gifted with a mechanical mind that as an adult led to his working for a company that manufactured precision instruments. However, he had been fascinated by photography as far back as early childhood and when offered a job at the Comptoir géneral de photographie in 1893, he jumped at the opportunity. His decision proved fortunate when two years later he was given the opportunity to acquire the business. In August of 1895, he partnered with the astronomer Joseph Vallot , the famous engineer Gustave Eiffel , and the financier Alfred Besnier to purchase the business. Their entity, called L. Gaumont et Cie is today the world's oldest surviving film company.
Léon Gaumont's company sold camera equipment and film, but in 1897 inaugurated a motion picture production business with a young company secretary named Alice Guy. Initially, they made films for the picture arcade business such as that operated by the Lumière brothers but Alice Guy began making short films based on scripts. Gaumont rapidly expanded the business into cinematographic equipment for amateurs and within a few years his company ranked second only to Pathé Frères in the field. In 1903, Gaumont was granted patents for his Chronophone and loudspeaker system designed to work with his sound on disc talking films. The Etablissements Gaumont was founded in 1906 to handle film production and distribution plus to build a chain of movie theaters including the giant Gaumont Palace in Paris. By 1910 Léon Gaumont had improved his sound invention to the point where he was able to provide enough volume for up to 4000 people in a theater. In 1912, Gaumont developed a color process for film.
One of the two dominant forces in film in all of Europe, World War I profoundly affected Leon Gaumont's business fortunes, nevertheless, before retiring in 1930, he had built one of the most important film companies in history. On his retirement, a restructuring of ownership took place through financing provided by the Banque Nationale de Crédit and with a capital stock issue the new company called Gaumont-Franco-Film-Aubert (GFFA) came into existence. Four years later, a scandal erupted following the collapse of the Banque Nationale de Crédit and GFFA was forced to file for bankruptcy protection.
Léon Gaumont died in 1946 in Sainte-Maxime , in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region of France and was buried in the Cimetière de Belleville in Paris. In 1995, on the 100th anniversary of French film, a 100 Franc coin was issued with Léon Gaumont's image.
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