contemporary films

Contemporary Films, 8 Dickenson Road, London, N8 9EN
Tel: + 44 (0)20 7482 6204

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Contemporary Films was established in 1951 by Charles Cooper (1910-2001). The company started out in Soho from where it made a significant contribution to film culture in the UK. From 1989 to 2008, the company operated out of offices in Highgate, north London and from 2009 until the middle of 2014 it was based in north-west London, on the edge of Hampstead Heath. In July 2014 the company moved to its current premises in Crouch End, north London.

Contemporary Films is the oldest independent film distribution company in the UK. In creating Contemporary Films, Charles Cooper conceived his company as the means by which arthouse films, shorts and documentaries from all over the world would be made available to British audiences.

Thus the company was instrumental in introducing British filmgoers to some of the key works of major directors such as Andrzej Wajda, Milos Forman, Ingmar Bergman, Mike Leigh, Jean Renoir, Robert Bresson, Sergei Eisenstein, Andrei Tarkovsky, Werner Herzog, Satyajit Ray, Yasujiro Ozu, Nagisa Oshima, Bernardo Bertolucci, Luis Bunuel and many others. It built up a unique film catalogue, comprising some of the finest films of world cinema, and many film enthusiasts born in the forties and fifties cite Contemporary Films as an important element in their film education.

The Coopers' independence of mind and left-wing political views were often reflected in the films the company acquired - such as Frederic Rossif's definitive film on the Spanish Civil War, To Die in Madrid. The company also had a hand in the making of March to Aldermaston, a documentary about the first march from London to the Atomic Weapons Establishment in Aldermaston, in the county of Berkshire. It also still retains rights to the seminal Felix Greene documentaries of the 1960s and 70s, shot in China and Vietnam. In 1967 Contemporary branched out into exhibition and acquired its first cinema, the Paris Pullman in London's South Kensington, and later the Phoenix cinemas – one in East Finchley, north London, and the other in Oxford.

In 1976 the National Film Theatre in London mounted a retrospective of films introduced to the UK by Contemporary Films, in celebration of the company’s 25th anniversary. A second retrospective was held in 1991 to mark its 40th anniversary.

Charles Cooper died in 2001 and in 2008 his widow, Kitty, took the decision to retire. The company was acquired by Eric Liknaitzky, its longest-serving employee, in December of that year.






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