Moviemaking, an industry that first appeared in the late 19th century, required substantial investments from the outset. Though few commercial banks chose to be involved with this emerging business, the Banque Nationale de Crédit (BNC), forerunner of BNP Paribas, played an active role in financing the world of cinema between 1917 and 1932.
From the 1930s crisis to France’s cinematic renaissance
In the early 1930s, the aftershocks of the 1929 American stock-market crash were felt in France. The BNC was destabilized and filed for bankruptcy in 1932. Once freed of its bad debts, it reappeared the same year under a new name: Banque Nationale pour le Commerce et l’Industrie (BNCI).
After the BNC was liquidated, the State became the majority creditor of the GFFA. Many companies in the movie business were also facing serious difficulties following the Wall Street crisis, and the GFFA had not paid its shareholders since 1930. It filed for bankruptcy in 1934.
Protecting France’s film industry became a matter of national concern following the GFFA bankruptcy. This cinematic casualty triggered development of new concepts in financing for that industry and greater State intervention in the sector. In 1936, the State commissioned financial titans Lazard and Paribas to study the restructuring of the GFFA. Pursuant to an agreement forged with the oversight of the venerable French news agency Havas, the Société Nouvelle des Établissements Gaumont was born in 1938.
In the 1950s, French cinema was saw a full renaissance, thanks, in part, to the country’s Centre National du Cinéma (CNC), created in 1946. The Banque de Paris et des Pays-Bas, a Franco-Dutch banking conglomerate and another ancestor of the Group, was actively involved, as well, spurred by its visionary president, Jean Reyre. During this period of surging innovation, the bank provided support for secondary equity offerings for Pathé, one of the world’s oldest and largest film production companies, and financed the CTM and Technicolor laboratories. It was a new dawn for the Group’s relationship with the world of the silver screen.
The BNC’s keen interest in a budding industry, when the bank was relatively new itself, was the first chapter of a long story shared by BNP Paribas and cinema. In Italy, the Banca Nazionale del Lavoro, which joined the Group in 2006, played a major role in the advent of the golden age of Italian cinema from 1935 onwards.