Quick Introduction to Film Majors, Studios, Mini-Majors, and Independents

mgm

If you’ve ever done any study about the earlier years of Tinseltown, you know about the Golden Age of Hollywood.  A major film studio is basically a production and distribution company that releases a substantial number of films and commands a significant share of box office revenue.  There were eight original major studios during this time.  They were Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros., Universal Pictures, Columbia Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, United Artists, and RKO Radio Pictures.

Paramount was founded by Adolph Zukor in 1912.  Since 1994 has been run by Viacom although it split into two companies in 2006.

Universal Pictures was founded by Carl Laemmle, Pat Powers, Adam Kessel, Charles Baumann, Mark Dintenfass, William Swanson, David Horsley, and Jules Brulatour in 1912.  Since 2004 NBCUniversal jointly owned it with General Electric in 2004 and Comcast in 2013.

20th Century Fox was founded by William Fox in 1915.  It was renamed 21st Century Fox in 2013 and bought by Disney in 2019 which makes it a subsidiary of Walt Disney Studios

Columbia Pictures was founded by Harry Cohn, Joe Brandt, and Jack Cohn in 1918.  Since 1987 through 1991 it was run by Columbia Pictures Entertainment until Sony bought it in 1989.

United Artists was founded by Charles Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, D.W. Griffith, and Mary Pickford in 1919.  Since 2005 it has been under MGM Holdings and in 2011 Credit Suisse and JPMorgan Chase are bondholders.

Warner Bros. was founded by Jack L. Warner, Harry Warner, Albert Warner, and Sam Warner in 1923.  Since 1990 was known as Time Warner until 2018 when AT&T bought it and is referred to as WarnerMedia.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer was founded by Marcus Loew in 1924.  Since 2005 it has been under MGM Holdings and in 2011 Credit Suisse and JPMorgan Chase are bondholders.

RKO Pictures was founded in 1928 by David Sarnoff.  Since 1989 Independent owns the company.
 *******
columbiapictures

Today there are five major film studios that were active during the Golden Age although two out the the five were part of the original eight.  Their various film productions and distribution subsidiaries command approximately 80–85% of U.S. box office revenue.  They are Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros., Universal Pictures, Columbia Pictures, and Walt Disney Pictures.

Paramount was founded by Adolph Zukor in 1912.  Since 1994 has been run by Viacom although it split into two companies in 2006.

Universal Pictures was founded by Carl Laemmle, Pat Powers, Adam Kessel, Charles Baumann, Mark Dintenfass, William Swanson, David Horsley, and Jules Brulatour in 1912.  Since 2004 NBCUniversal jointly owned it with General Electric in 2004 and Comcast in 2013.

Warner Bros. was founded by Jack L. Warner, Harry Warner, Albert Warner, and Sam Warner in 1923.  Since 1990 was known as Time Warner until 2018 when AT&T bought it and is currently referred to as WarnerMedia.

Walt Disney Pictures was founded by Walt Disney and Roy O. Disney in 1923.  Since 2011 it has been referred to as Disney.

*******
tristar

There are mini-majors, which are those companies that tend to take smaller and riskier projects.  Their distribution isn’t worldwide, but are still well financed.  The three known mini-majors of today is Lions Gate Entertainment, MGM, and DreamWorks.  There are a handful of mini-majors no longer in existence and is listed below.

Castle Rock Entertainment was purchased in 1993 by Turner Broadcasting System and TBS merged with Time Warner in 1996.

Allied Artists Pictures in 1967.

New Line Cinema was purchased in 1994 by Turner Broadcasting System, TBS merged with Time Warner in 1996, and New Line merged with Warner Bros. in 2008

Relativity Media filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy July 2015 and May 2018.  It sold to UltraV Holdings.

United Artists was relaunched in 2006 by Paula Wagner and Tom Cruise, but in 2008 MGM bought it.

Orion Pictures in 1990 was considered the last of the mini-majors.  Purchased in 1997 by MGM.

Avco Embassy in 1967 and acquired by Dino DeLaurentiis in 1986.

TriStar Pictures consolidated in 1987 into Columbia.

DreamWorks Animation acquired by NBCUniversal in 2016.

DreamWorks Pictures is now under Amblin Partners.

The Weinstein Companyfiled for Chapter 11 bankruptcy but bought by Lantern Entertainment in 2018 and transferred to Spyglass Media Group.

Republic Pictures was formed by the consolidation of six minor studios.

FilmDistrict merged into Focus Features (Universal subsidiary) in 2014.

PolyGram Filmed Entertainment sold to Universal Studios in 1999 and in 1996 library sold to MGM.

Artisan Entertainment purchased in 2003 by Lions Gate Entertainment.

Overture Films sold to Relativity Media in 2010 and Overture’s film library acquired by Lions Gate Entertainment in 2016.

Summit Entertainmentacquired by Lions Gate Entertainment in 2012.

The Cannon Group

Global Road Entertainment formerly known as Open Road Films filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in September 2018.  It was purchased on approval as of December 2018 by a Delaware bankruptcy judge.

Miramax Films owned by The Walt Disney Company from 1993 to 2010.  It sold to beIN Media Group in 2016.

Weintraub Entertainment Group

*******

neworldpictures

There are past independent companies and instant major studios listed below for reference.   There were three instant major studios in 1967, which was a film company that had instant success.

Past Independent Companies

New World Pictures acquired by News Corporation in 1997.

Turner Pictures purchased along with Hanna-Barbera, Castle Rock Entertainment, New Line Cinema and Turner Entertainment Co. in 1996 by Time Warner.

DreamWorks Pictures purchased by Viacom.

DreamWorks Animation purchased in 2016 by NBCUniversal.

Lucasfilm purchased in 2012 by The Walt Disney Company.

Marvel Studios/Marvel Entertainment purchased in 2009 by The Walt Disney Company.

Pixar Animation Studios purchased in 2006 by The Walt Disney Company.

The Samuel Goldwyn Company purchased in 1997 by MGM.

Instant Major Studios

Cinerama Releasing Corporation (distributor for ABC Pictures Corporation).

National General Corporation (distributor for Cinema Center Films).

Commonwealth United Corporation

2019

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: