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Big Time Operators (1957)

The Smallest Show on Earth (original title)
Not Rated | | Comedy | 17 September 1958 (France)
A young couple inherits a debt-ridden old movie theater, appropriately nicknamed "The Flea Pit", and the three eccentric senior citizens who work there.


Basil Dearden


William Rose (original story), John Eldridge (screenplay)
Nominated for 1 BAFTA Film Award. See more awards »




Complete credited cast:
Virginia McKenna ... Jean Spenser
Bill Travers ... Matt Spenser
Margaret Rutherford ... Mrs. Fazackalee
Peter Sellers ... Mr. Percy Quill
Bernard Miles ... Old Tom
Francis De Wolff Francis De Wolff ... Albert Hardcastle (as Francis de Wolff)
Leslie Phillips ... Robin Carter
June Cunningham ... Marlene Hogg
Sidney James ... Mr. Hogg
George Cross George Cross ... Grand Commissionaire
George Cormack ... Sam Bell
Stringer Davis Stringer Davis ... Fred Emmett
Michael Corcoran Michael Corcoran ... Taxi Driver


Jean (Virginia McKenna) and Matt (Bill Travers) are a struggling married couple, with Matt trying to scrape out a living as a writer. Out of the blue, they receive a telegram informing them that Matt's long-lost uncle has died and left them his business - a cinema in the town of Sloughborough. They pack their bags and travel to Sloughborough expecting to sell the cinema to gain a huge inheritance. However, they discover the cinema is falling apart and is run by a comically incompetant staff who seem to have worked there forever. They set out with a plan to sell it, but things don't quite go as planned. Written by Col Needham <col@imdb.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The Funniest Show on Earth! See more »




Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »

Did You Know?


Liz Fraser was screentested for the role of Marlene, but ended up as an extra in the cinema scenes instead. See more »


When Mrs Fazackalee tells Matt Carter that she "can't tolerate Mr Quill", her position changes between shots, from close to the desk to being near the middle of the room. See more »


Jean: [Reacting to seeing the inside of the theater and its employees for the first time] Flea pit? More like "The Snake Pit!"
See more »


Featured in A Bit of Scarlet (1997) See more »


God Save the Queen
See more »

User Reviews

Beware the inheritance from a long forgotten relative
8 May 2001 | by jcholguinSee all my reviews

This film starts off with a young couple inheriting from an uncle long forgotten. An old theatre named the "Bijou" but known to the locals as the "flea pit" starts the fun. Apart from a closed decaying building, the couple also inherit three old eccentric people who are the employees of the Bijou. Not to be left out is the nefarious owner of the town's other theatre house who wants the valuable land under the Bijou for expansion. The young couple reopen the old theatre to an array of problems. You actually begin to "root" for the employees and couple to keep the old theatre going. Ingenuity is upmost in "bringing" and "keeping" paying customers. These attempts are both amusing and creative and makes this film worth watching.

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Release Date:

17 September 1958 (France) See more »

Also Known As:

Big Time Operators See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Westrex Recording System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.75 : 1
See full technical specs »

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