We started by showing all the best of continental films
Kenneth Rive - Gala Film Distributors

 Joseph Cohen & Kenneth Rive 10th Anniversary of Gala Films

Joseph Cohen & Kenneth Rive


Kenneth Rive became a good friend of our family, I am not sure how he first met my father George, but it was because of Ken that my father decided to devote our cinema in Oxford St., London (opposite Selfridges) to the showing of the best of continental films.  This was our first Cinephone.  

There was a need to change our cinemas, that were cartoon and comedy shows, because the better cartoons were slowly being taken off the cinema market and sold to television, with the result that we were having to repeat more frequently the ones that were available to us.  There were no new good short comedy films being produced either. All this contributed to a gradual drop in our box office takings.

All the other cinema circuits were relying on American, British and Australian film productions.  They also operated a barring system with the distributors, so if they booked a film, the condition was that no other cinema within an agreed radios of their cinemas, could show the same film.  The larger the number of cinemas and better the locations, the stronger the booking power!  

As a small independent cinema company, although we had the best locations, our booking power was not that strong.  The concept of showing the finest continental films (either with subtitles, or that were dubbed) appealed to us, as there were so many really outstanding films available, that were never shown before in the UK. 

The Cinephone was a success in London so we began to change all our other cinemas, the second one was in Birmingham. 

This introduced glamour to our cinemas as we brought over film stars, for the film premieres and we loved going to the Cannes Film Festival, Ken was great fun and a very good host.  

So to begin with we played all Gala Films and had some input into the choice of films found at Cannes each year.  We also took over two more cinemas in London (owned 50/50 with Gala Films) The International Theatre and The Gala Royal.

Later on we met Anthony Balch and a number of other distributors that had continental films for us.  

But it is sad, that we are mostly remembered for sex films, although these were mostly shown by others who took over, after we had sold out, having become rather tired of the Nudist films.  


The Man Who Introduced Us to 'Continental Films' 
Alan Howden

Copied from 3rd February 2003 Obituary The Guardian Newspaper

"For British followers of European cinema, Kenneth Rive is a name etched on the subconscious." So began a recent Guardian article on a London Francois Truffaut season, and, indeed, the postwar popularity of French and other foreign films owed much to Rive, who has died aged 84. His Gala Film Distributors introduced the works of Truffaut and the nouvelle vague to audiences here.

Born in Canonbury, north London, the son of a cinematographer, Rive was a child actor, whose film appearances included Das Geheimnis Des Abbe X (Behind The Altar, 1927) and the Conrad Veidt movie Rasputin, Damon Der Frauen (Rasputin, Demon With Women, 1930).

He worked for British intelligence during the war, and afterwards became a cinema manager. Then, in 1952, he bought the leases of two cinemas in central London, which, as the Berkeley and the Continentale, became the foundations of a prestigious, national arthouse circuit. The appeal of "continental films" in the 1950s and 1960s was considerable as they often presented a more mature picture of human relationships than Hollywood, then still constrained by the notorious production code.

Rive created Gala Film Distributors in 1958 to feed his cinemas, and quickly expanded its repertoire, distributing films by Resnais, Lelouch, Chabrol, Bergman, Fellini, Bunuel and Kurosawa, among others. The relationship with Truffaut went deeper than most. It began when Rive saw Les Quatre Cent Coups (1959) just after its completion and acquired the British rights. For many years, he maintained a small office in Paris, with Truffaut a couple of floors above, the better to spot the best new French films.

Even after the major studios began to acquire world rights in the increasingly popular "art movies", MGM and Columbia still preferred to hand over to Rive the UK rights to such films as Sophia Loren's Oscar-winning Two Women (1960) and Fellini's La Dolce Vita (also 1960). Gala held sway with its cinemas in most major cities playing subtitled films, and Rive was president of the Cinema Exhibitors Association from 1970-72.

As film-going declined during the 1970s, and Hollywood espoused more adult themes, Rive decided to link his fortunes with the BBC. By mid-decade, he had established a relationship which ensured that Gala's increasingly risky acquisition costs were covered by a television pre-sale; in return, the corporation got the films for screening less than a year after their release, instead of the three-year holdback then decreed by the film trade. 

In the late 1970s, depressed by increasing problems of vandalism, Rive sold his cinemas in order to concentrate on distribution. When Cannon's Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus took over EMI's film division, he became a director, and was head of UK distribution for Cannon from 1984-89. Gala became Cannon-Gala, and Cannon funding made possible more ambitious acquisitions, among them Claude Berri's Jean De Florette (1986) and Kieslowski's A Short Film About Killing (1988).

After Cannon fell under the control of Gian Carlo Paretti, however, Gala regained its independence; its later releases included The Double Life Of Veronique (1991), and the charming Take Care of My Cat, its last acquisition, with the BBC, which is currently on release.

Rive also dabbled in production, including During One Night (1961) with the young Susan Hampshire and, for a while, owned the Arts Theatre. A dapper, urbane and unruffled presence at all the major film festivals, he notably lacked either pretension or snobbery, and, a diligent fundraiser to the end, was chief barker of the Variety Club in 1962.

He is survived by his two sons and two daughters.

Kenneth Rive, film distributor, Born July 26 1918; died December 30 2002


3rd February 2003 Obituary The Guardian Newspaper

Article in Variety about Kenneth-Rive 

One of  Ken Rive's best films (that he produced) included Aisha and our cinema in Picadilly, for more information have a look at the following link: -

The Boys (1962, Sidney J. Furie, UK: Galaworldfilm Productions) By Adrian Smith








Asian antiques, Limited edition prints, photography, Jacey Cinema history, Jensen CV8 – 541S, Postage Stamp Album, Netsuke, Snuff Bottles, Jade

Kenneth Rive, Gala Films, Film distributor, Truffaut, Resnais, Lelouch, Chabrol,  Bergman, Fellini, Bunuel, Kurosawa,  Sophia Loren


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