chapter  9
17 Pages

RANK AND THE 1950s The Xerox years

At the time of writing, in mid-1992, the Rank Organization has a stock market value of £1.8 billion and a workforce of 45,000. The company formed back in the 1930s to provide religious films for Sunday schools and Methodist halls has come full circle, and now garners a sizeable proportion of its profits through its gambling interests - Top Rank and Mecca bingo halls earned the group £40 million in 1991.1 (Lest it be thought that Rank's memory has 'gone to the devil' as his successors plough money into casinos and dance halls, it should be pointed out that the Rank Foundation, established in 1953 to ensure that the group could never be taken over by non-British interests, continues to support a myriad different charities: between 1986 and 1989, it gave away £13,171,268, sponsoring everything from culture and education to animal conservation and medicine. The Rank Prize Fund awards grants for research in nutrition and optoelectronics. (After all, flour and film made the Ranks rich.) And the sterling work of the Religious Film Society is carried on by its spiritual and small-screen successor, the Christian Television Centre (CTVC): set up in Tooting in 1959 simply to teach the clergy how to appear on television without making asses of themselves, CTVC has mushroomed, and now boasts a state-of-the-art television studio at Bushey in Watford. Hundreds of hours of CTVC programmes are broadcast on British network television every year, and are watched by millions. Rank's cinema chain and distribution outfit are still going strong, netting the company more than £10 million in 1991. The organization maintains links with its old ally, Universal. Together with the American outfit, it has invested in a Florida theme park. Film production, in abeyance since the late 1960s, when Betty Box and Hugh Stewart were the last two Rank producers to leave Pinewood, has been more or less abandoned, and profits accruing from film and video alike are but a flea-bite in comparison with the money generated by what has become the mainstay of the group, namely Rank Xerox.