George Ganetakos (George Nicholas) (c. 1877-1955)

George Ganetakos was born in Greece, where he worked as a blacksmith. Driven from his native country by hard economic times, he settled in Montreal in 1900. Like many Greek immigrants, he began by selling frozen treats and other sweets.

Ganetakos observed the great success of the first moving picture theatres and in 1910 joined with a few other Montreal businessmen to open their first “scope”, the Moulin Rouge, on St. Catherine St. between the Ouimetoscope and the Nationoscope. This initial venture did such good business that that they were able to build Montreal’s first real movie palace, the Strand, in 1912. Ganetakos’ company, United Amusement, continued to expand throughout the 1910s and 20s. It built numerous luxury movie theatres in Montreal, including the Papineau, the Plaza and the Granada (today the Théâtre Denise-Pelletier). During this period United also absorbed theatres operated by several other Greek immigrants, including those of P.G. Demetre and the Lazanis and Sperdakos families.

The success of Genatakos’ theatre chain was coveted by the Famous Players chain, however, and in 1924 it attempted an initial takeover of the company. But Genatakos succeeded in negotiating an agreement granting Famous Players part ownership of United while retaining control of the chain in Montreal. In fact the executives of Famous Players in Toronto knew that the skilful management of Genatakos and his associates in Montreal was the reason United Amusements was seen as one of the best movie-theatre circuits in North America.

United weathered the Depression quite well, even though it granted very little space to French-language films, which began to appear in Quebec in the 1930s. In 1937, it took over the Montreal movie theatres operated by the Lawand and Tabah families, which had not turned their privileged access to American films to account. Genatakos placed his son and designated successor, John G., in charge of these cinemas.

Genatakos’ fame grew considerably during the war because of his work for the Greek War Relief fund, for which he was decorated by the king of Greece in 1950. United opened the first new Montreal movie theatre since the end of the war, the Ahuntsic, in 1946.

George Genatakos died in an automobile accident in 1955. His son replaced him at the head of United Amusement before dying in turn in 1959. Genatakos’ heirs then yielded control of United Amusement to Famous Players.