Our Family Business Over 50 Years and Three Generations

Joseph Cohen, Mr JC, Jacey, Joe.

Joseph Cohen

The Jacey Group of Companies and Jacey Cinemas Ltd

Joseph Cohen generous benefactor for many charities

See Joseph Cohen on Wikipedia


This oral history interview for The Birmingham Museums Trust by Felicity McWilliams, Curator of Science and Industry, was recorded with John Neville Cohen for the Wonderland Project, all about his experiences with Jacey Cinemas. There is a PDF document that can be downloaded of The Transcript.pdf


My dear Grandpa Joe (Joseph Cohen) was a prominent Birmingham solicitor, an important property developer, entrepreneur and a cinema proprietor.  From the early 1930's he created a number of limited companies, that all became part of the Jacey Group of companies.  He was extremely successful and his generosity was well known and much appreciated in so many circles. 

He owned the Lissiter's Royal restaurant and started in property with Jack Cotton, as his partner, in the early days and the first development undertaken together, was the creation of King Edward House in New Street, Birmingham. They continued with a few successful joint projects that included the building of the Kenilworth Court apartments  and Somerset House in Birmingham.  

(Note: Jack Cotton went on to continue, as chairman, to create 'City Centre' the biggest property development company in the world, with a valuation in 1961, on the stock market of 65 million pounds!) 

Joe continued to develop large blocks of apartments, mainly within the Calthorpe estates area.  These included Calthorpe Mansions at five Ways, Norfolk Court at Hagley Road and Moorland Court in Melville Road.  He also built houses and had two roads named after him, Jacey Road in Edgbaston and Jacey Road in Shirley.  

He built 72 Woodbourne Road, Edgbaston, Birmingham as his own family home and was involved in Bournemouth with the Jacey House offices in the centre and Tollard Court at West Cliff where he had a ground floor apartment.  

72, Woodbourne Road, Edgbaston, Birmingham UK

72 Woodbourne road, Edgbaston


He continued with his property development interests with the formation of the Jacey Gillis Properties Ltd in Scotland with Harold Gillis.

Grandpa was fascinated with cinemas and film.  He began in 1915 (aged 26) together with Sol Levy, when they acquired the screen rights of Ethel M. Dell a popular novelist, but their film company was bought out 2 years later. 

During his career he was involved with over 50 cinemas and he built The Wylde Green and the Stirchley Pavilion in Birmingham. 

He was also a pioneer of the News Theatres and he built up a chain of cinemas, having bought out the Monseigneur group.  

Jacey Cinemas then controlled the largest group of specialised city centre cinemas in the UK, ranging from Edinburgh to Brighton with several in London's West End. 

My father George Cohen (also a solicitor) joined Grandpa and ran the company with more cartoons, comedy and short travel/general interest films, later, introducing continental feature films, as TV took over providing the news.  Also our Baker St, London cinema was changed to Jaceyland for the best of Walt Disney films.  

The Company diversified by also running cigarette, ice cream and confectionery Kiosks, Restaurants and Coffee Bars. Later a specialised shopping Art and Antique Gallery at Marble Arch London, a Riding School Centre and Farm at Pathlow, near Stratford upon Avon.  The last venture was for modern postage stamp collectors, by Dealing in Modern UK Stamps with printing errors.  

I too joined the company in 1957 starting off as a projectionist and learning about cinema management under our general manager Mr Tonks.


Later, I started my own department, that was to design and control the front of house publicity, as well as the marketing and advertising.  This was when we decided on a new look and logo to publicise the Jacey name.  

I employed, a graphic designer and a PR lady to assist and we really enjoyed a number of our special promotions.  This was when Aisha, who worked for us as an usherette, came to our attention, she had been chosen for the University front cover (and had done well in a beauty queen competition) just at the time when we needed someone to promote the Jacey name.

When we first met her, we were all dazzled by her smile and so 'Miss Jacey' was created. Grandpa was often fondly referred to simply as Mr. JC and it was from this, that the business name was created.

My publicity department ended up designing the film publicity for some of the film distributors too.  So often the film promotion used abroad would not have appealed to the UK public. 


My Uncle Stanley (George's younger brother) started manufacturing jersey ladies fashion with Kurt Rosenburg as his partner under the name 'Lerose'. This company traded from the late 1940's to the early 1970's.  

He then joined Grandpa in the Jacey property department managing the various properties.  

Later as a keen postage stamp collector, he controlled the Jacey Stamp Centre (formerly the Jacey in the Strand cinema) which was converted to provide small units for various postage stamp dealers.  I was asked to help him run a new business based on selling modern postage stamps, with printing faults, to collectors from our offices in Temple Street, Birmingham.   


Just over a year after Grandpa had passed away on his birthday in 1980, aged 91, (various cinema leases were running out and the proposed new rentals were far too high for our cinemas to continue), so we all decided the time had come to sell them on. 

Also Dad and I were disenchanted with the films that provided the best box office results.  In addition both Dad and Uncle Stanley wanted to retire, so we agreed to sell out.  

The Saville Gordon Group bought all the remaining properties and our cinemas had gradually been sold to various others.  

So the Jacey Group of Companies went into voluntary liquidation at the end of 1981. 

Reference Documents









  Below a published report about the type of films we were unhappy to be involved in by Pearson Phillips

It is, said one critic, "the nastiest film I have ever seen" Said another "It's a long time since a film disgusted me as much as Peeping Tom ... beastly picture."

These quotations are proudly displayed in the advertising for the Gala Royal Cinema, Marble Arch (which is showing Peeping Tom at the moment).

I don't know whether the critics were justified. But the fact that their verdicts of nastiness, disgust and beastliness are being exploited to draw customers seemed to me to be one of the most unwholesome gimmicks in film advertising.

Doesn't approve
Yesterday the joint boss of the Gala Royal bought seven more cinemas.  

He is Mr Joseph Cohen, Birmingham solicitor and head of Jacey Cinemas Ltd. which has just taken over the Monseigneur group for a reported £500,000.

Three men and Peeping Tom

Does this mean that the seamy policy is going to spread?

"Oh, dear" said Mr Cohen, on holiday in Bournemouth, "did the critics say that?  Well, I certainly didn't approve of exploiting that kind of thing.

"I am afraid I am old-fashioned. I have asked my son not to associate me with anything like that.........I don't actually deal with any of the advertising."

Over to Mr Cohen Jun., Mr George Cohen, speaking from his home in Birmingham: "Sordid? I think there is something in what you say, this is certainly not a thing we would advocate. But at least it shows people what to expect.

Didn't know
"Let's face up to it. Our business is really a kind of showmanship. We have got to attract the public. This is just one way of doing it. Psychologically, this is quite a good way of exciting their curiosity ........ though I suppose you could say it is rather an unwholesome kind of curiosity.

"We only share the running of this cinema with Gala Films. They do the publicity and select the films. I didn't even know this was in the paper"

Over to Gala Films, London. To Mr. Frank Hazell, who looks after publicity.

"I am afraid you are putting me on a spot here. I was partly responsible for this.

"My line in using these quotations was simply to ask people 'Do you believe this? Come and see' And, incidentally, they are coming.

"Does the fact that they are coming justify my using this kind of draw? Well, let's face it. this is what we are in the business for, to get people to come and see the films."

Three embarrassed men profiting from something they should be ashamed of.

Fred Majdalany called this film "thoroughly nasty." In my view, that goes for this method of advertising it as well.



We spent quite a lot on National press advertising and on the front of house displays, about the poor quality cheaply produced nudist films that had proved so popular.  Our campaign was based on an increased number of performances, greatly reduced ticket prices all with the slogan "Why pay more?" 

My website has been used as a reference source for

'The Routledge Companion To British Cinema History'



'The Routledge Companion To British Cinema History'

About Jack Cotton

About the Early Properties

About Peeping Tom









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John Neville Cohen's Other Interests


To John Neville Cohen's dedicated site for Painting with Light Limited Edition (only 8 of each picture), fine art prints for sale.

Articles for New Collectors

(Author John Neville Cohen)
 Invaluable help for collectors of Asian antiques. How to buy and avoid the most common mistakes, when buying antiques, particularly netsuke, inro, snuff bottles and jade.

The Cohen Collection  
Asian antiques (645 colour photos of fine Japanese and Chinese antique; netsuke, inro, ojime, snuff bottles, pendants & jade carvings) all fully described by renowned experts Neil K. Davey + Robert Hall. An essential reference work for the serious collector that is beautiful and very easy to use.

Joseph Cohen & The History of Jacey Cinemas Ltd 
Information on our family business created by my Grandfather Joseph Cohen.

British Classic Jensen Cars  
(Author John Neville Cohen) Very informative about the rare Jensen 541S & CV8 sports cars, particularly about the little known superb Jensen 541S manual drive, a classic car with lots of photos.

Copyright Free or Royalty Free Stock Photographs  
These are exceptional value 18MB photographs that will not date!

A 'Special Effects' Course  
(Author John Neville Cohen)
 Amazing to see what can be done in pure  photography without any expensive equipment, computer, or darkroom.  All is achieved with a projector - the magical 'Magic Lantern'.  All details of this extraordinary technique is clearly explained and all for free!

Poetic Portfolio  
Fascinating photographic exhibition of 'The Magic Lantern' award winning 'special effect' photographs by John Neville Cohen.

La Alcazaba Apartment in Puerto Banus For Sale 
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Postage Stamps For Little People  
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The Planning & Paintings for The Album  
Shows the first sketches and paintings and an amusing letter.

Marilyn Monroe, Sir Michael Balcon, Arthur Miller, Cecil Day-Lewis & Daniel Day- Lewis 
The not so distant famous relatives of the Bind side of John's family.

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