Within weeks of launching Pearl & Dean leading national brands including Beechams, Babycham, Gillette and Colgate signed up to advertise on the Pearl & Dean reel that would be shown at ABC cinemas, other advertisers including ice cream manufacturers and daily newspapers. Revenue from these advertisers to Pearl & Dean enabled them to pay cinemas a small revenue for running the advertisements. Cigarette companies were facing a ban on television advertising, although the pressure to ban such advertising on the small screen was considerable it took a while before it happened as legislation, cigarettes were advertised on television and on cinema screens. Once the ban on TV advertising was introduced cigarette advertising continued on cinema screens bringing hefty financial rewards for companies like Pearl & Dean. Alcohol advertising also featured heavily on cinema screens.

Within a short period of time Pearl & Dean realised the potential of local businesses near to the cinema, they were approached by local business to advertise on the cinema screen. These businesses included local restaurants, take aways, television repair and sales stores and ironmongers.  These local advertisers had no footage of their own and at first Pearl & Dean couldn’t accept local screen advertising except for a still slide type of frame.

With local business on screen advertising becoming more important Pearl & Dean introduced stock footage of restaurants, take away and electrical stores, these would promote the local business with a voice over promoting the business and a few final frames that featured the business address and telephone number. While the main corporate advertisers would provide footage of their own that would change every few months, the local business stock footage would remain in each reel, often scratched and discoloured due to wear and tear.

The business flourished and the early opening credits of Pearl & Dean screen advertising continued for a good number of years with the then familiar  Grecian white columns to the left and right of a blue sky background.

With business flourishing and many of the independent cinema exhibitors also screening the Pearl & Dean advertising reel, Pearl & Dean formed a subsidiary called RBI, Radiovision Broadcast International. RBI was formed specifically to market the ABC, American Broadcasting Company radio and television stations in Europe. That same year the newly formed company signed exclusive agreements to sell advertising time on offshore radio stations, pirate radio stations. This was not successful and became mired in controversy.

Meanwhile Pearl & Dean cinema advertising continued to boom following a successful decade where P&D controlled 52% of the market share in cinema advertising. Other cinema on screen advertisers included Faber, Presbury and the main competitor, Rank Screen advertising.

In 1969 Pearl & Dean were acquired by British Lion Films. The new owners continued with the Pearl & Dean brand although they decided that a more modern look was needed.

In 1969 a new opening and closing sequence was introduced together with a new theme tune. In 1968 the British composer, Peter Moore, composed an instrumental piece of music entitled Asteroid, Pearl and Dean acquired the music to accompany their advertising, in 1969 the new theme was used with new opening and closing credits, these are the familiar credits and sound you hear today.

Cinema audiences had been in decline for a number of years, in 1969 colour television was introduced in the UK. ITV, the British commercial TV channel had become popular and advertising on TV reached a much wider group that in the cinemas.

By the early seventies cinema advertising revenue dipped considerably. Pearl & Dean struggled but maintained a reasonable position within onscreen advertising at cinemas although there was no doubt that cinema advertising was no longer as lucrative as it had been.

Audiences hit an all-time low by 1984, many cinemas were struggling and signs of decay were becoming obvious as venues suffered due to lack of funds, many cinemas were looking uncared for as they struggled along to secure admissions.

AMC {American Multi-Cinema} arrived from the USA with a new format that had become popular in America, the multiplex offering ten or more screens under one roof.

Both EMI and Odeon, the two established British exhibitors for several decades were unconvinced on the American solution that AMC exported to Britain, they had totally misunderstood the concept and the popularity it would have with the British cinemagoers.

Pearl & Dean repositioned themselves with the multiplex operators that swamped the UK, winning valuable on screen advertising slots at these multiplexes.

As success continued Mediavision, a French cinema advertising contractor, acquired Pearl & Dean in 1993 and the well-known British brand continued to perform successfully under French ownership. STV Group {Scottish Media Group} acquired Mediavision together with Pearl & Dean in 1999.

After a short number of years as part of STV/SMG the group decided to focus on broadcasting and the decision was made to put Pearl & Dean on the market, to sell it as a separate and viable business. There was little interest in P&D from buyers and it remained on the market for some years. In April 2010 Image Ltd acquired Pearl & Dean for just £1! Image Ltd has cinema business interests.

While under the umbrella of STV/SMG, Pearl & Dean was losing in the region of £10 million annually. Image Ltd expects to inject £9.1 million to help clear the acquired debts. Pearl & Dean continues to hold onto 40% of the cinema on screen advertising market.
UK cinema advertising first began in 1899 when Dewar’s Whisky appeared on screens at cinemas around the country.

Pearl & Dean attracted many of the big producers and directors who cut their teeth in film making by making cinema advertisements.

Some memorable cinema ads featured established television and cinema stars.

Pearl & Dean brought to the screen Stanley Matthews promoting cigarettes and more recently Kylie Minogue in the sexy Agent Provocateur lingerie commercials seen on TV and cinema screens.
This story is incomplete, what happened to the Pearl brothers and Bob Dean following the sales of P&D to British Lion in 1969?

Iconic themes and opening credits can be viewed below, in addition to some cranky old P&D adverts that you might remember.
Welcome to an affectionate appraisal and tribute to the cinemas that entertained us in the South Eastern industrial valleys of Wales.
UPDATED - 2013
The now iconic brand of cinema  on screen advertising
UPDATED - 2013

For many of us, a visit to the pictures meant sitting through a 20 minute programme of advertisements, cinema hot dog promotions and trailers for future attractions, it was all part of the experience. Mention Pearl and Dean to most people in the UK and they will automatically remember the brand as that advertisement break in British cinemas with a well-known and distinctive theme tune that they introduced during the seventies. Few will know that the Pearl and Dean origins are firmly set in Wales.

Formed in 1953, by brothers Ernie and Charles Pearl, of Swansea, the two brothers sold a variety of publicity linked publications such as maps and town guides in the South Wales area. They also sold advertising stills that were shown in local theatres and cinemas, promoting local businesses in the area close to the venue.

The two Pearl brothers met with Robert Dean, during a chance meeting across the Welsh border in Bristol. Following this meeting the trio formed Pearl & Dean, successfully negotiating a contract for on screen advertising with the ABC cinema circuit, the second largest exhibitor and operator of cinemas in the United Kingdom at that time. This was the first time that the ABC circuit had accepted advertising in their cinemas.

Almost all cinemas in the South Wales Valleys screened the Pearl & Dean advertisement real during the fifties, sixties and seventies. Now we look back at the iconic brand with great affection.

A selection of familiar but rare classic big screen advertisements and cinema messages are playing to the left... with more below.