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Major film studios are
production Production may be: Economics and business * Production (economics) * Production, the act of manufacturing goods * Production, in the outline of industrial organization, the act of making products (goods and services) * Production as a statistic, g ...
and
distributionDistribution may refer to: Mathematics *Distribution (mathematics) Distributions, also known as Schwartz distributions or generalized functions, are objects that generalize the classical notion of functions in mathematical analysis. Distr ...
companies that release a substantial number of
film A film, also called a movie, motion picture or moving picture, is a work of used to simulate experiences that communicate ideas, stories, perceptions, feelings, beauty, or atmosphere through the use of moving images. These images are gen ...

film
s annually and consistently command a significant share of
box office A box office or ticket office is a place where tickets are sold to the public for admission to an event. Patrons may perform the transaction at a countertop A stainless steel countertop A countertop (also counter top, counter, benchtop, (Briti ...

box office
revenue in a given market. In the American and international markets, the major film studios, often simply known as the majors, are commonly regarded as the five diversified
media conglomerate A media conglomerate, media group, or media institution is a company A company, abbreviated as co., is a Legal personality, legal entity representing an association of people, whether Natural person, natural, Legal personality, legal or a mix ...
s whose various film production and distribution subsidiaries collectively command approximately 80 to 85% of U.S. box office revenue. The term may also be applied more specifically to the primary motion picture business subsidiary of each respective conglomerate. Since the dawn of filmmaking, the U.S. film studios have dominated both
American cinema The cinema of the United States, often called Hollywood, has had a large effect on the film industry The film industry or motion picture industry comprises the technological and commercial institutions of filmmaking, i.e., film production ...

American cinema
and the global
film industry The film industry or motion picture industry comprises the technological and commercial institutions of filmmaking Filmmaking (film production) is the process by which a motion picture A film, also called a movie, motion picture or ...
. U.S. studios have benefited from a strong
first-mover advantage In marketing strategy, first-mover advantage (FMA) is the competitive advantage gained by the initial ("first-moving") significant occupant of a market segment Market segmentation is a process of dividing a heterogeneous market into relatively ...
in that they were the first to industrialize filmmaking and master the art of mass-producing and distributing high-quality films with broad cross-cultural appeal. Today, the Big Five majors –
Universal Pictures Universal Pictures (legally Universal City Studios LLC, also known as Universal Studios, or simply Universal; common : Uni, and formerly named Universal Film Manufacturing Company and Universal-International Pictures Inc.) is an American and ...
,
Paramount Pictures Paramount Pictures Corporation (common : Par) is an American film and television and company and a subsidiary of . It is the fifth oldest in the world, the second oldest film studio in the United States (behind ), and the sole member of the ...

Paramount Pictures
, Warner Bros. Pictures,
Walt Disney Pictures Walt Disney Pictures is an American film production studio and subsidiary of Walt Disney StudiosWalt Disney Studios may refer to: * Walt Disney Studio (1926–1929) the second name of The Walt Disney Company * Walt Disney Studios (division), t ...

Walt Disney Pictures
, and
Columbia Pictures Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. is an American film production Filmmaking (film production) is the process by which a Film, motion picture is #Production, produced. Filmmaking involves a number of complex and discrete stages, starting with ...
– routinely distribute hundreds of films every year into all significant international markets (that is, where
discretionary income :''country lists in disposable household and per capita income Household income is a measure of the combined incomes of all people sharing a particular household or place of residence. It includes every form of income, e.g., salaries and wages, ...
is high enough for consumers to afford to watch films). It is "nearly impossible" for a film to reach a broad international theatrical audience without being first picked up by one of the majors for distribution.


Overview

The "Big Five" majors are all centered in film studios that were active since Hollywood's Golden Age, three of which were among the Big Eight major
film studio A film studio (also known as movie studio or simply studio) is a major entertainment company or motion picture company that has its own privately owned studio A studio is an artist or worker's workroom. This can be for the purpose of acting, arc ...
s. In two cases–Paramount and Warner Bros.–the studios were one of the original "Big Five" during that era. In one case–Universal–the studio was also considered a major, but in the next tier down, part of the "Little Three".
Walt Disney Productions The Walt Disney Company, commonly known as Disney (), is an American diversified multinational mass media and entertainment conglomerate headquartered at the Walt Disney Studios complex in Burbank, California California is a U.S. st ...
was an independent production company and an important Hollywood entity that wasn't a major until the mid-1980s, joining the then "Big Six": four of the Big Five (Warner Bros., Paramount, MGM, and 20th Century Fox), and two of the Little Three (Columbia and Universal), briefly to comprise the "Big Seven", before MGM became a mini-major in 1986. And lastly, Sony Pictures Entertainment was formed by the merger of Columbia and Tri-Star in 1987.
RKO RKO Pictures was an American film production and distribution company. In its original incarnation, as RKO Radio Pictures, Inc. (a subsidiary of Radio-Keith-Orpheum, aka: RKO) it was one of the Big FiveBig Five may refer to: Animals * the ...
,
MGM Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. (also known as Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures or MGM) is an American media company, founded in 1924, that produces and distributes feature films and television programs. It is based in Beverly Hills, California ...
, and
20th Century Fox 20th Century Studios, Inc. (also known as 20th Century for short, and nicknamed 20th Pictures, formerly Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation) is an American film studio A film studio (also known as movie studio or simply studio) is a maj ...
were the other three "Big Five" majors, which were defunct in 1959, became a mini-major upon the sale from Turner to Kerkorian, and acquired by Disney, respectively. This brought the then "Big Six" studios to an end.
United Artists United Artists Corporation (UA), currently doing business as United Artists Digital Studios, is an American digital production company. Founded in 1919 by D. W. Griffith, Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, and Douglas Fairbanks, the studio w ...
and
Columbia Columbia may refer to: * Columbia (personification), the historical female national personification of the United States, and a poetic name for the Americas Places North America Natural features * Columbia Plateau, a geologic and geographic regio ...
were the other members of the "Little Three" that grew to major status, the former a distribution company for several independent producers which later began producing films, and was then acquired by MGM. The latter produced and distributed films, was latter became part of Columbia Pictures Entertainment along with
Tri-Star Pictures TriStar Pictures, Inc. (spelled as Tri-Star until 1991 and stylized on-screen as TRISTAR since 1992) is an American film studio and production company that is a member of the Sony Pictures Motion Picture Group, a subsidiary of Sony Entertainment's ...

Tri-Star Pictures
in 1987. CPE in turn was acquired by Sony in 1989, and renamed itself as Sony Pictures in 1991. While the main studios of the Big Five are located within of each other, (Disney and Warner Bros. are both located in
Burbank Burbank may refer to: Places Australia * Burbank, Queensland, a suburb in Brisbane United States * Burbank, California, a city in Los Angeles County * Burbank, Santa Clara County, California, a census-designated place * Burbank, Illinois, a ...
and Universal the nearby unincorporated area of Universal City, whereas Paramount is the only member of the Big Five still based ''in'' Hollywood and located entirely within the official
city limits City limits or city boundaries refer to the defined boundary or border of a city. The area within the city limit can be called the city proper. Town limit/boundary and village limit/boundary apply to towns and villages. Similarly, corporate limi ...
of the City of Los Angeles and Columbia is in
Culver City Culver City is a city in Los Angeles County, California Los Angeles County, officially the County of Los Angeles, is the most populous county in the United States The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United State ...
), Disney is the only studio that has been owned by the same conglomerate since its founding and was also the sole member whose parent entity is still located near
Los Angeles Los Angeles ( ; xgf, Tovaangar; es, Los Ángeles, , ), commonly referred to by the L.A., is the in . With a 2020 population of 3,898,747, it is the in the , following . Los Angeles is known for its , ethnic and cultural diversity, a ...

Los Angeles
on Disney's studio lot and in the same building, until 2019, when the company acquired 20th Century Fox, Warner Bros, Paramount, and Universal were previously owned by many different companies which were acquired by and merged with conglomerates that they now report to in
New York City New York, often called New York City to distinguish it from , or NYC for short, is the in the United States. With a 2020 population of 8,804,190 distributed over , New York City is also the major city in the United States. Located at the s ...

New York City
(
NBCUniversal NBCUniversal Media, LLC, traded as NBCUniversal (formerly known as NBC Universal, Inc. from 2004 to 2011), is an American multinational Multinational may refer to: * Multinational corporation, a corporate organization operating in multiple countr ...
,
ViacomCBS ViacomCBS Inc. is an American diversified multinational mass media and formed through the of the and the on December 4, 2019 (which were split from the in 2006) and headquartered at the complex in , , . The company operates over 170 netw ...

ViacomCBS
, and
WarnerMedia Warner Media, LLC (Trade name, traded as WarnerMedia, but stylized as WarnerMedia; formerly known as Time Warner from 1990 to 2001 and again from 2003 to 2018; from 2001 to 2003, AOL Time Warner and from 1972 to 1990, Warner Communications) is ...

WarnerMedia
), whose parent corporations are respectively headquartered in Philadelphia (
Comcast Comcast Corporation (formerly known as American Cable Systems and Comcast Holdings)Before the AT&T AT&T Inc. is an American multinational Multinational may refer to: * Multinational corporation, a corporate organization operating in multi ...
), Boston (
National Amusements National Amusements, Inc. is an American privately owned theater company and mass media based in , and incorporated in . It is the parent company of . History The company was founded by in 1936 in the suburb of as Northeast Theater Corpor ...

National Amusements
), and Dallas (
AT&T AT&T Inc. is an American multinational Multinational may refer to: * Multinational corporation, a corporate organization operating in multiple countries * Multinational force, a military body from multiple countries * Multinational state, a s ...

AT&T
). Most of today's Big Five also control subsidiaries with their own distribution networks that concentrate on
arthouse An art film is typically an independent film An independent film, independent movie, indie film, or indie movie is a feature film or short film that is produced outside the major film studio system, in addition to being produced and distrib ...
pictures (e.g. Universal's
Focus Features Focus Features LLC is an American film production Filmmaking (or, in any context, film production) is the process by which a film is made. Filmmaking involves a number of complex and discrete stages including an initial story, idea, or commissi ...

Focus Features
) or
genre films Genre Films, usually credited as Kinberg Genre, is the production company founded by screenwriter-producer-director Simon Kinberg. History Genre Films in April 2010 signed a first-look deal with 20th Century Fox, which gave Fox "direct access" ...

genre films
(e.g. Sony's
Screen Gems Screen Gems, Inc. is an American film production and distribution studio that is a division of Sony Pictures Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc. (commonly known as Sony Pictures or SPE, and formerly known as Columbia Pictures Entertainment Inc. ...
); several of these specialty units were shut down or sold off between 2008 and 2010. The five major studios are contrasted with smaller production and/or distribution companies, which are known as independents or "indies". The leading independent producer/distributors such as
Lionsgate Lions Gate Entertainment Corporation, doing business as Lionsgate, is an American-Canadian Canadians (french: Canadiens) are people identified with the country of Canada. This connection may be residential, legal, historical or cultural. ...
,
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. (also known as Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures or MGM) is an American media company, founded in 1924, that produces and distributes feature films and television programs. It is based in Beverly Hills, California ...
, and
STX Entertainment STX Entertainment is a mini-major American entertainment and media company. Founded on March 10, 2014 by film producer Robert Simonds Robert Bruce Simonds Jr. (born 1964) is an American film producer, entrepreneur and the founder, chairman and ...

STX Entertainment
are sometimes referred to as "mini-majors". From 1998 through 2005,
DreamWorks SKGDreamWorks may refer to: * DreamWorks Pictures, an American film production company of Amblin Partners **DreamWorks Records, a now-defunct record label that was a division of the film studio ** DreamWorks Television, an American television productio ...

DreamWorks SKG
commanded a large enough market share to arguably qualify it as a seventh major, despite its relatively small output. In 2006, DreamWorks was acquired by
ViacomViacom, an acronym of Video & Audio Communications, may refer to: * Viacom (1952–2006) The first incarnation of Viacom Inc. (derived from "Video & Audio Communications") was an American media conglomerate. It began as CBS Television Film Sales ...
, Paramount's corporate parent. In late 2008, DreamWorks once again became an independent production company; its films were distributed by Disney's
Touchstone Pictures Touchstone Pictures was an American film distribution label of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures (formerly known as Buena Vista Pictures Distribution, Inc.) is an American film distribution studio within ...
until 2016, at which point distribution switched to Universal. The Big Five major studios are today primarily backers and distributors of films whose actual production is largely handled by independent companies – either long-running entities or ones created for and dedicated to the making of a specific film. Two of them (Disney and Columbia) distribute their films through affiliated divisions (
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures (formerly known as Buena Vista Pictures Distribution, Inc. until 2007) is an American film distribution studio within the Disney Media and Entertainment Distribution Disney Media and Entertainment Distribu ...
and
Sony Pictures Releasing Sony Pictures Entertainment Motion Picture Group (commonly known as the Sony Pictures Motion Picture Group, formerly known as the Columbia TriStar Motion Picture Group until 2013, and abbreviated as SPMPG) is a division of Sony Pictures Entertain ...
); while the rest (Universal, Paramount, and Warner Bros.) function as both production and distribution companies.The specialty divisions often simply acquire distribution rights to pictures in which the studio has had no prior involvement. While the majors still do a modicum of true production, their activities are focused more in the areas of development, financing, marketing, and merchandising. Those business functions are still usually performed in or near Los Angeles, even though the
runaway production Runaway production is a term used by the American Cinema of the United States, Hollywood industry to describe filmmaking and television productions that are intended for initial release/exhibition or television broadcast in the U.S., but are actua ...
phenomenon means that most films are now mostly or completely shot
on locationOn location can refer to: *Location shooting *Filming location, a place where a movie is filmed, separate from a sound stage or studio back lot *On Location (TV series), ''On Location'' (TV series), an HBO stand-up comedy series *On Location Vacatio ...
at places outside Los Angeles. The Big Five major studios are also members of the
Motion Picture Association The Motion Picture Association (MPA) is an American trade association representing the Major film studios#Present, five major film studios of the United States, as well as the video streaming service Netflix. Founded in 1922 as the Motion Pict ...
(MPA).


Majors


Present


Past

Other major film studios of the 20th century included: *
RKO Radio Pictures RKO Pictures was an American film production and distribution company. In its original incarnation, as RKO Radio Pictures, Inc. (a subsidiary of Radio-Keith-Orpheum, aka: RKO) it was one of the Big FiveBig Five may refer to: Animals * the ...
(RKO) (1928–1959): one of the Big Five studios, bought by
Howard Hughes Howard Robard Hughes Jr. (December 24, 1905 – April 5, 1976) was an American , investor, record-setting pilot, engineer, film director, and , known during his lifetime as one of the most influential and financially successful individuals in th ...

Howard Hughes
in 1948, was mismanaged and dismantled and was pretty much defunct by the 1957 studio lot sale; revived several times as an independent studio, with most recent film releases in 2012 and 2015. *
United Artists United Artists Corporation (UA), currently doing business as United Artists Digital Studios, is an American digital production company. Founded in 1919 by D. W. Griffith, Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, and Douglas Fairbanks, the studio w ...
(UA) (1919–1981): one of the Little Three major minor studios, originally only a distributor for independent film producers acquired by MGM in 1981; brand name was resurrected in 2019 when Annapurna Pictures and MGM renamed a distribution company which is a joint venture between the two companies to
United Artists Releasing United Artists Corporation (UA), currently doing business as United Artists Digital Studios, is an American digital production company. Founded in 1919 by D. W. Griffith, Charlie Chaplin Sir Charles Spencer Chaplin Jr. (16 April 1 ...
. *
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. (also known as Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures or MGM) is an American media company, founded in 1924, that produces and distributes feature films and television programs. It is based in Beverly Hills, California ...
(MGM) (1924–1986): one of the Big Five studios, acquired by
Ted Turner Robert Edward Turner III (born November 19, 1938) is an American media proprietor, producer, and philanthropist. As a businessman, he is known as founder of the Cable News Network (CNN), the first 24-hour United States cable news, cable news ch ...

Ted Turner
in 1986, who sold the studio back to
Kirk Kerkorian Kerkor "Kirk" Kerkorian (; June 6, 1917 – June 15, 2015) was an American businessman, investor, and philanthropist. He was the president and CEO of Tracinda Corporation, his private holding company based in Beverly Hills, California. Kerk ...

Kirk Kerkorian
later that year while retaining MGM's pre-May 1986 library; became a mini-major studio upon the sale; emerged twice from
bankruptcy Bankruptcy is a legal process through which people or other entities who cannot repay debts to creditors may seek relief from some or all of their debts. In most jurisdictions, bankruptcy is imposed by a court order, often initiated by the debto ...
in the 2010s; pending sale to
Amazon Amazon usually refers to: * Amazons In Greek mythology, the Amazons (Ancient Greek: Ἀμαζόνες ''Amazónes'', singular Ἀμαζών ''Amazōn'') are portrayed in a number of ancient Greek, ancient epic poems and legends, such as the ...
. *
20th Century Fox 20th Century Studios, Inc. (also known as 20th Century for short, and nicknamed 20th Pictures, formerly Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation) is an American film studio A film studio (also known as movie studio or simply studio) is a maj ...
(TCF, 20th, or Fox) (1935–2019): one of the Big Five studios, acquired by
The Walt Disney Company The Walt Disney Company, commonly just Disney (), is an American multinational entertainment Entertainment is a form of activity that holds the attention and Interest (emotion), interest of an audience or gives pleasure and delight. It ...
in 2019 via
Walt Disney StudiosWalt Disney Studios may refer to: * Walt Disney Studio (1926–1929) the second name of The Walt Disney Company * Walt Disney Studios (division), the Walt Disney Company's Studio Entertainment unit, which includes Disney's motion picture studios, mus ...
and renamed 20th Century Studios the following year.


Mini-majors

Mini-major studios (or "mini-majors") are the larger film production companies that are smaller than the major studios and attempt to compete directly with them.


Present


Past

Past mini-majors include: *
Castle Rock Entertainment Castle Rock Entertainment is an American film and television production company A production company, production house, production studio, or a production team is a business that provides the physical basis for works in the fields of performing a ...
– purchased in 1993 by
Turner Broadcasting System Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. (abbreviated as Turner) is an American television and media conglomerate, part of AT&T's WarnerMedia. Founded by Ted Turner and based in Atlanta, Georgia, it merged with Time Warner on October 10, 1996. Among its ...
; TBS merged with Time Warner in 1996 *
Monogram Pictures Monogram Pictures Corporation is an American film studio that produced mostly low-budget films between 1931 and 1953, when the firm completed a transition to the name Allied Artists Pictures Corporation. Monogram was among the smaller studios in ...
/
Allied Artists Pictures Monogram Pictures Corporation is an American film studio that produced mostly low-budget films between 1931 and 1953, when the firm completed a transition to the name Allied Artists Pictures Corporation. Monogram was among the smaller studios in ...
, 1967Cook, David A. (2000). Page 10
Lost Illusions: American Cinema in the Shadow of Watergate and Vietnam, 1970–1979
University of California Press.
– the current entertainment company
Allied Artists International Allied Artists International, Inc. (AAI) is an American multinational mass media and entertainment Entertainment is a form of activity that holds the attention and Interest (emotion), interest of an audience or gives pleasure and delight ...
is considered the successor to AAP. *
New Line Cinema New Line Productions, Inc., doing business as A trade name, trading name, or business name is a pseudonym A pseudonym () or alias () (originally: ψευδώνυμος in Greek) is a fictitious name that a person or group assumes for a particu ...

New Line Cinema
– purchased in 1994 by Turner Broadcasting System; TBS merged with Time Warner in 1996; New Line merged with Warner Bros. in 2008 *
Relativity Media Relativity Media is an American media company headquartered in Beverly Hills, California, founded in 2004 by Lynwood Spinks and Ryan Kavanaugh. The studio was the third largest mini-major globally until bankruptcy on July 30, 2015. Its full-sca ...
– filed for
Chapter 11 bankruptcy Chapter 11 of the United States Bankruptcy Code ( Title 11 of the United States Code The Code of Laws of the United States of America (variously abbreviated to Code of Laws of the United States, United States Code, U.S. Code, U.S.C., or USC) is ...
on July 30, 2015. Emerged from bankruptcy in 2016, only to re-file in May 2018, sold to UltraV Holdings *
Orion Pictures Orion Pictures, legal name Orion Releasing LLC, is an American motion picture producer owned by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. In its original operating period, the company produced and released films from 1978 until 1999 and was also involved in telev ...
– in 1990, was considered the last of the mini-majors. Purchased in 1988 by Kluge/
Metromedia Metromedia (also often MetroMedia) was an American media company that owned radio station, radio and television stations in the United States from 1956 to 1986 and controlled Orion Pictures from 1988 to 1997. Metromedia was established in 1956 aft ...
; purchased in 1997 by MGM. * Avco Embassy, 1967 – acquired by
Norman Lear Norman Milton Lear (born July 27, 1922) is an American television writer and Film producer, film and television producer, television producer who has produced, written, created or developed over 100 shows. Lear is known for many popular 1970s sitc ...

Norman Lear
and
Jerry Perenchio Andrew Jerrold Perenchio (December 20, 1930 – May 23, 2017) was an American billionaire businessman and philanthropist. He was at one time the chairman and chief executive officer of Univision. Early life Perenchio was the grandson of Italian ...
in 1982;'Avco's Way to Lick the Movie Giants of Hollywood', ''New Straits Times'', 6 Dec1981 p 8
/ref> acquired by the Coca-Cola Company in 1985; its theatrical division acquired by
Dino DeLaurentiis Agostino "Dino" De Laurentiis (; 8 August 1919 – 10 November 2010) was an Italians, Italian (later naturalized American) film producer. Along with Carlo Ponti, he was one of the producers who brought Italian cinema to the international scene at ...
in 1986. Sony Pictures currently owns the television rights to most of the theatrical library and the logo, names, and trademarks through its
ELP Communications ELP Communications (formerly known as T.A.T. Communications Company, Embassy Television, Embassy Telecommunications, and Embassy Communications) was an American television production company that originally began in 1974. It's currently an in-nam ...
subsidiary *
TriStar Pictures TriStar Pictures, Inc. (spelled as Tri-Star until 1991 and stylized on-screen as TRISTAR since 1992) is an American film studio and production company that is a member of the Sony Pictures Motion Picture Group, a subsidiary of Sony Entertainmen ...

TriStar Pictures
– consolidated in 1987 into Columbia, one of the partners in the joint venture that created it. *
DreamWorks Animation DreamWorks Animation LLC (also simply known as DreamWorks) is an American animation studio An animation studio is a company A company, abbreviated as co., is a Legal personality, legal entity representing an association of people, whether N ...
– acquired by
NBCUniversal NBCUniversal Media, LLC, traded as NBCUniversal (formerly known as NBC Universal, Inc. from 2004 to 2011), is an American multinational Multinational may refer to: * Multinational corporation, a corporate organization operating in multiple countr ...
in 2016 *
DreamWorks Pictures DreamWorks Pictures (also known as DreamWorks SKG or DreamWorks Studios, commonly referred to as DreamWorks) is an American Production company, film production company, and a label of Amblin Partners. It was founded in 1994 as an original live-a ...

DreamWorks Pictures
– now a label of Amblin Partners of which NBCUniversal (through
Universal Pictures Universal Pictures (legally Universal City Studios LLC, also known as Universal Studios, or simply Universal; common : Uni, and formerly named Universal Film Manufacturing Company and Universal-International Pictures Inc.) is an American and ...
) owns a stake *
The Walt Disney Company The Walt Disney Company, commonly just Disney (), is an American multinational entertainment Entertainment is a form of activity that holds the attention and Interest (emotion), interest of an audience or gives pleasure and delight. It ...
/
Walt Disney StudiosWalt Disney Studios may refer to: * Walt Disney Studio (1926–1929) the second name of The Walt Disney Company * Walt Disney Studios (division), the Walt Disney Company's Studio Entertainment unit, which includes Disney's motion picture studios, mus ...
– became a major studio *
The Weinstein Company The Weinstein Company (usually credited or abbreviated as TWC) was an American independent film studio, founded in New York City New York City (NYC), often simply called New York, is the List of United States cities by population, most p ...
– filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy but bought by
Lantern Entertainment Lantern Entertainment, LLC is an American independent film studio. It was formed by Lantern Capital Partners after it acquired the assets of The Weinstein Company in July 2018, after the latter company's bankruptcy filing (which was a result of co- ...

Lantern Entertainment
in 2018 then its assets transferred to Spyglass Media Group of which
WarnerMedia Warner Media, LLC (Trade name, traded as WarnerMedia, but stylized as WarnerMedia; formerly known as Time Warner from 1990 to 2001 and again from 2003 to 2018; from 2001 to 2003, AOL Time Warner and from 1972 to 1990, Warner Communications) is ...

WarnerMedia
(through Warner Bros.) and Lions Gate Entertainment owns their respective stake * Republic Pictures – originally a “poverty row” B-movie producer, produced many serials and was formed by the consolidation of six minor production companies in 1935. It was rebooted in 1985. Viacom then purchased it in the early 2000s. * FilmDistrict – merged into
Focus Features Focus Features LLC is an American film production Filmmaking (or, in any context, film production) is the process by which a film is made. Filmmaking involves a number of complex and discrete stages including an initial story, idea, or commissi ...

Focus Features
(a subsidiary of Universal) in 2014 * PolyGram Filmed Entertainment – sold to Universal Studios in 1999, pre-March 31, 1996 library sold to MGM * Artisan Entertainment – purchased in 2003 by Lions Gate Entertainment * Overture Films – distribution and marketing assets sold to Relativity Media in 2010; Overture's film library acquired by Lions Gate Entertainment by May 2016. * Summit Entertainment – acquired by Lions Gate Entertainment in 2012 * The Cannon Group, Inc., The Cannon Group – purchased by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer * Open Road Films#Global Road Entertainment, Global Road Entertainment – formerly Open Road Films, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on September 6, 2018;, by November 2018, has reverted to Open Road, purchased by Raven Capital Management on approval as of December 19, 2018 by a Delaware bankruptcy judge. * Miramax, Miramax Films – owned by
The Walt Disney Company The Walt Disney Company, commonly just Disney (), is an American multinational entertainment Entertainment is a form of activity that holds the attention and Interest (emotion), interest of an audience or gives pleasure and delight. It ...
from 1993 to 2010, sold to Filmyard Holdings from 2010, then to beIN Media Group in 2016, and by
ViacomCBS ViacomCBS Inc. is an American diversified multinational mass media and formed through the of the and the on December 4, 2019 (which were split from the in 2006) and headquartered at the complex in , , . The company operates over 170 netw ...

ViacomCBS
(through
Paramount Pictures Paramount Pictures Corporation (common : Par) is an American film and television and company and a subsidiary of . It is the fifth oldest in the world, the second oldest film studio in the United States (behind ), and the sole member of the ...

Paramount Pictures
) with a 49% stake with beIN (which has a 51% stake) * Weintraub Entertainment Group – filed for bankruptcy September 1990, resulting in the company folding up operations * CBS Films – folded into the CBS Entertainment Group on October 11, 2019, and absorbed into CBS Studios to produce TV films for CBS All Access (later Paramount+)


Instant major studios

"Instant major" is a 1960s coined term for a film company that seemingly overnight has approached the status of major" In 1967, three "instant major" studios popped up, two of which were partnered with a Television network theatrical film unit with most lasting until 1973: * Cinerama Releasing Corporation (distributor for Movies produced by ABC, ABC Pictures Corporation) * National General Pictures, National General Corporation (distributor for Cinema Center Films) * Commonwealth United Entertainment, Commonwealth United Corporation


Other significant, past independent entities

* New World Pictures – acquired by News Corporation (1980–2013), News Corporation (then parent company of
20th Century Fox 20th Century Studios, Inc. (also known as 20th Century for short, and nicknamed 20th Pictures, formerly Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation) is an American film studio A film studio (also known as movie studio or simply studio) is a maj ...
) in 1997. Content library held under film studio. * Turner Entertainment, Turner Pictures – purchased along with Hanna-Barbera,
Castle Rock Entertainment Castle Rock Entertainment is an American film and television production company A production company, production house, production studio, or a production team is a business that provides the physical basis for works in the fields of performing a ...
,
New Line Cinema New Line Productions, Inc., doing business as A trade name, trading name, or business name is a pseudonym A pseudonym () or alias () (originally: ψευδώνυμος in Greek) is a fictitious name that a person or group assumes for a particu ...

New Line Cinema
and Turner Entertainment, Turner Entertainment Co. (including most of the pre-May 1986
MGM Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. (also known as Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures or MGM) is an American media company, founded in 1924, that produces and distributes feature films and television programs. It is based in Beverly Hills, California ...
library, and US and Canadian distribution rights to the RKO Pictures, RKO Radio film library) in 1996 by Time Warner. *
DreamWorks Pictures DreamWorks Pictures (also known as DreamWorks SKG or DreamWorks Studios, commonly referred to as DreamWorks) is an American Production company, film production company, and a label of Amblin Partners. It was founded in 1994 as an original live-a ...

DreamWorks Pictures
– purchased by Viacom (1952–2006), Viacom; then owners of both
Paramount Pictures Paramount Pictures Corporation (common : Par) is an American film and television and company and a subsidiary of . It is the fifth oldest in the world, the second oldest film studio in the United States (behind ), and the sole member of the ...

Paramount Pictures
and CBS Corporation in 2006; distributed the films from 2005 to 2011; reformed as an independent with
The Walt Disney Company The Walt Disney Company, commonly just Disney (), is an American multinational entertainment Entertainment is a form of activity that holds the attention and Interest (emotion), interest of an audience or gives pleasure and delight. It ...
distributing the live-action films under their
Touchstone Pictures Touchstone Pictures was an American film distribution label of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures (formerly known as Buena Vista Pictures Distribution, Inc.) is an American film distribution studio within ...
banner until 2016; now a label after being reorganized as Amblin Partners of which NBCUniversal owns a stake. * Lucasfilm – purchased in 2012 by The Walt Disney Company. * Marvel Studios/Marvel Entertainment – purchased in 2009 by The Walt Disney Company. * Pixar, Pixar Animation Studios – purchased in 2006 by The Walt Disney Company. * The Samuel Goldwyn Company – purchased in 1996 by John Kluge/Metromedia International; purchased in 1997 by MGM.


History


The majors before the Golden Age

In 1909, Thomas Edison, who had been fighting in the courts for years for control of fundamental motion picture patents, won a major decision. This led to the creation of the Motion Picture Patents Company, widely known as the Trust. Comprising the nine largest U.S. film companies, it was "designed to eliminate not only independent film producers but also the country's 10,000 independent [distribution] exchanges and exhibitors." Though its many members did not consolidate their filmmaking operations, the New York–based Trust was arguably the first major North American movie conglomerate. The independents' fight against the Trust was led by Carl Laemmle, whose Chicago-based Laemmle Film Service, serving the Midwest and Canada, was the largest distribution exchange in North America. Laemmle's efforts were rewarded in 1912 when the U.S. government ruled that the Trust was a "corrupt and unlawful association" and must be dissolved. On June 8, 1912, Laemmle organized the merger of his production division, IMP (Independent Motion Picture Company), with several other filmmaking companies, creating the Universal Pictures, Universal Film Manufacturing Company in
New York City New York, often called New York City to distinguish it from , or NYC for short, is the in the United States. With a 2020 population of 8,804,190 distributed over , New York City is also the major city in the United States. Located at the s ...

New York City
. By the end of the year, Universal was making movies at two Los Angeles facilities: the former Nestor Film studio in Hollywood, and another studio in Edendale, Los Angeles, California, Edendale. The first Hollywood major was in business. In 1916, a second powerful Hollywood studio was established when Adolph Zukor merged his Famous Players Film Company movie production house with the Jesse L. Lasky, Jesse L. Lasky Company to form Famous Players-Lasky. The combined studio acquired
Paramount Pictures Paramount Pictures Corporation (common : Par) is an American film and television and company and a subsidiary of . It is the fifth oldest in the world, the second oldest film studio in the United States (behind ), and the sole member of the ...

Paramount Pictures
as a distribution arm and eventually adopted its name. That same year, William Fox (producer), William Fox relocated his Fox Film, Fox Film Corporation from Fort Lee, New Jersey to Hollywood and began expanding. In 1918, Walt Disney had founded the Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio and The Disney Brothers Features Company with his brother Roy O. Disney, Roy and animator Ub Iwerks. Over the following three decades Disney became a powerful independent focusing on animation and, from October 16, 1923, an increasing number of live-action movies. In 1923, the company—now
Walt Disney Productions The Walt Disney Company, commonly known as Disney (), is an American diversified multinational mass media and entertainment conglomerate headquartered at the Walt Disney Studios complex in Burbank, California California is a U.S. st ...
—established Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, Buena Vista Film Distribution to handle its own product, which had been distributed for years by various majors, primarily Leslie B. Mace, Winkler Pictures, Universal Pictures, Celebrity Productions, Cinephone, Columbia Pictures, United Artists, United Artists Pictures and then RKO. In its first year in 1928, Celebrity Productions and Cinephone had released its first blockbuster ''Steamboat Willie''. Though over the next decades Disney and its associated distributors share of the box-office did not hit similar marks, its relatively large output and exclusive focus on non-G-rated movies meant that it was generally considered a major as a 9th and final golden age major. In 1918, four brothers—Harry Warner, Harry, Albert Warner, Albert, Sam Warner, Sam, and Jack L. Warner, Jack Warner—founded the Old Warner Brothers Studio, first Warner Brothers Studio on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. On April 4, 1923, the Warner Brothers incorporated their fledgling movie company as "Warner Bros. Pictures, Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc." The Motion Picture Theatre Owners of America and the Independent Producers' Association declared war in 1925 on what they termed a common enemy — the "film trust" of
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. (also known as Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures or MGM) is an American media company, founded in 1924, that produces and distributes feature films and television programs. It is based in Beverly Hills, California ...
, Paramount, and First National Pictures, First National, which they claimed dominated the industry by not only producing and distributing motion pictures, but by entering into exhibition as well. On October 6, 1927, Warner Bros. released ''The Jazz Singer'', starring Al Jolson, and a whole new era began, with "pictures that talked," bringing the Studio to the forefront of the film industry. ''The Jazz Singer'' played to standing-room-only crowds throughout the country and earned a special Academy Award for Technical Achievement. Fox, in the forefront of sound film along with Warners, was also acquiring a sizable circuit of movie theaters to exhibit its product.


The majors during the Golden Age

Between late 1928, when RCA's David Sarnoff engineered the creation of the
RKO RKO Pictures was an American film production and distribution company. In its original incarnation, as RKO Radio Pictures, Inc. (a subsidiary of Radio-Keith-Orpheum, aka: RKO) it was one of the Big FiveBig Five may refer to: Animals * the ...
(Radio-Keith-Orpheum) studio, and the end of 1949, when Paramount divested its theater chain—roughly the period considered Hollywood's Golden Age—there were eight Hollywood studios commonly regarded as the "majors". Of these eight, the so-called Big Five were integrated conglomerates, combining ownership of a production studio, distribution division, and substantial theater chain, and contracting with performers and filmmaking personnel: Loew's/MGM, Paramount, Fox (which became 20th Century-Fox after a 1935 merger), Warner Bros., and RKO. The remaining majors were sometimes referred to as the "Little Three" or "major minor" studios. Two—Universal and Columbia (founded in 1924)—were organized similarly to the Big Five, except for the fact that they never owned more than small theater circuits (a consistently reliable source of profits). The third of the lesser majors, United Artists (founded in 1919), owned a few theaters and had access to production facilities owned by its principals, but it functioned primarily as a backer-distributor, loaning money to independent producers and releasing their films. During the 1930s, United Artists had a major success with ''20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1934 film), 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea'', the first biggest movie of 1934. the eight majors averaged a total of 358 feature film releases a year; in the 1940s, the four largest companies shifted more of their resources toward high-budget productions and away from B movies, bringing the yearly average down to 288 for the decade.Finler (2003), pp. 364–67. Among the significant characteristics of the Golden Age was the stability of the Hollywood majors, their hierarchy, and their near-complete domination of the box office. At the midpoint of the Golden Age, 1939, the Big Five had market shares ranging from 22% (MGM) to 9% (RKO); each of the Little Three had around a 7% share. In sum, the eight majors controlled 95% of the market. Ten years later, the picture was largely the same: the Big Five had market shares ranging from 22% (MGM) to 9% (RKO); the Little Three had shares ranging from 8% (Columbia) to 4% (United Artists). In sum, the eight majors controlled 96% of the market.


The majors after the Golden Age


1950s–1960s

The end of the Golden Age had been signaled by the majors' loss of a United States v. Paramount Pictures, Inc., federal antitrust case that led to the divestiture of the Big Five's theater chains. Though this had virtually no immediate effect on the eight majors' box-office domination, it somewhat leveled the playing field between the Big Five and the Little Three. In November 1951, Decca Records purchased 28% of Universal; early the following year, the studio became the first of the classic Hollywood majors to be taken over by an outside corporation, as Decca acquired majority ownership. The 1950s saw two substantial shifts in the hierarchy of the majors: RKO, perennially the weakest of the Big Five, declined rapidly under the mismanagement of
Howard Hughes Howard Robard Hughes Jr. (December 24, 1905 – April 5, 1976) was an American , investor, record-setting pilot, engineer, film director, and , known during his lifetime as one of the most influential and financially successful individuals in th ...

Howard Hughes
, who had purchased a controlling interest in the studio in 1948. By the time Hughes sold it to the General Tire, General Tire and Rubber Company in 1955, the studio was a major by outdated reputation alone. In 1957, virtually all RKO movie operations ceased and the studio was dissolved in 1959. (Revived on a small scale in 1981, it was eventually spun off and now operates as a minor independent company.) In contrast, there was United Artists, which had long operated under the financing-distribution model the other majors were now progressively shifting toward. Under Arthur B. Krim, Arthur Krim and Robert Benjamin, who began managing the company in 1951, UA became consistently profitable. By 1956—when it released one of the biggest blockbusters of the decade, ''Around the World in Eighty Days (1956 film), Around the World in 80 Days''—it commanded a 10% market share. By the middle of the next decade, it had reached 16% and was the second-most profitable studio in Hollywood. Despite RKO's collapse, the majors still averaged a total yearly release slate of 253 feature films during the decade. The 1960s were marked by a spate of corporate takeovers. MCA Inc., under Lew Wasserman, acquired Universal in 1962; Gulf and Western Industries, Gulf+Western took over Paramount in 1966; and the Transamerica Corporation purchased United Artists in 1967. Warner Bros. underwent large-scale reorganization twice in two years: a 1967 merger with the Seven Arts Productions, Seven Arts company preceded a 1969 purchase by Kinney National Company, Kinney National, under Stephen J. Ross. MGM, in the process of a slow decline, changed ownership twice in the same span as well, winding up in the hands of financier
Kirk Kerkorian Kerkor "Kirk" Kerkorian (; June 6, 1917 – June 15, 2015) was an American businessman, investor, and philanthropist. He was the president and CEO of Tracinda Corporation, his private holding company based in Beverly Hills, California. Kerk ...

Kirk Kerkorian
. The majors almost entirely abandoned low-budget production during this era, bringing the annual average of features released down to 160. The decade also saw an old name in the industry secure a position as a leading player. (Disney's 1937 ''Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937 film), Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs'', released by RKO, was the second biggest hit of the 1930s.) In its first year, In 1964, Buena Vista had its first blockbuster, ''Mary Poppins (1964 film), Mary Poppins'', Hollywood's biggest hit in half a decade. The company achieved a 9% market share that year, more than Fox and Warner Bros. Though over the next two decades, Disney/Buena Vista's share of the box-office would again hit similar marks, its relatively small output and exclusive focus on G-rated movies meant that it was not generally considered a major.


1970s–1980s

The early 1970s were difficult years for ''all'' the classic majors. Movie attendance, which had been declining steadily since the end of the Golden Age, hit an all-time low by 1971. In 1973, MGM president James T. Aubrey drastically downsized the studio, slashing its production schedule and eliminating its distribution arm (UA would distribute the studio's films for the remainder of the decade). From fifteen releases in 1973, the next year MGM was down to five; its average for the rest of the 1970s would be even lower. Like RKO in its last days under Hughes, MGM remained a major in terms of brand reputation, but little more. MGM, however, was not the only studio to trim its release line. However, Disney began to get a major status through a resurgence in its animated movies with ''The Rescuers'' (1977) and entering alot of more of the adult market with ''The Black Hole (1979 film), The Black Hole'' (1979). By the mid-1970s, the industry had rebounded and a significant philosophical shift was in progress. As the majors focused increasingly on the development of the next hoped-for blockbuster and began routinely opening each new movie in many hundreds of theaters (an approach called "saturation booking"), their collective yearly release average fell to 81 films during 1975–84. The classic set of majors was shaken further in late 1980, when the disastrously expensive flop of ''Heaven's Gate (film), Heaven's Gate'' effectively ruined United Artists. The studio was sold the following year to Kerkorian, who merged it with MGM. After a brief resurgence, the combined studio continue to decline. From the mid-1980s on, MGM/UA has been at best a "mini-major", to use the present-day term. Meanwhile, a new member was finally admitted to the club of major studios and two significant contenders emerged. With the establishment of its
Touchstone Pictures Touchstone Pictures was an American film distribution label of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures (formerly known as Buena Vista Pictures Distribution, Inc.) is an American film distribution studio within ...
brand in 1984 and increasing attention to alot of more much much more of the adult market in the early 1980s, Disney/Buena Vista secured acknowledgment as a full-fledged major. Film historian Joel Finler identifies 1986 as the breakthrough year, when Disney rose to third place in market share and remained consistently competitive for a leading position thereafter. The two contenders were both newly formed companies. In 1978, Krim, Benjamin, and three other studio executives departed UA to found
Orion Pictures Orion Pictures, legal name Orion Releasing LLC, is an American motion picture producer owned by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. In its original operating period, the company produced and released films from 1978 until 1999 and was also involved in telev ...
as a joint venture with Warner Bros. It was announced optimistically as the "first major new film company in 50 years". Tri-Star Pictures was created in 1982 as a joint venture of Columbia Pictures (then owned by the The Coca-Cola Company, Coca-Cola Company), HBO (then owned by Time Inc.), and CBS. In 1985, Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation (1980–2013), News Corporation acquired 20th Century-Fox, the last of the five relatively healthy Golden Age majors to remain independent throughout the entire Golden Age and after. By 1986, the combined share of the six classic majors—at that point Disney/Buena Vista as "Disney", Paramount, Warner Bros., Columbia, Universal, Fox, and MGM/UA—fell to 64%, the lowest since the beginning of the Golden Age. Disney was in third place, behind only Paramount and Warner Bros.. Even including it as a seventh major and adding its 10% share, the majors' control of the North American market was at a historic ebb. Orion, now completely independent of Warner Bros., and Tri-Star were well positioned as mini-majors, each with North American market shares of around 6% and regarded by industry observers as "fully competitive with the majors". Smaller independents garnered 13%—more than any studio aside from Paramount. In 1964, by comparison, all of the companies beside the then seven majors and Disney had combined for a grand total of 1%. In the first edition of Finler's ''The Hollywood Story'' (1988), he wrote, "It will be interesting to see whether the old-established studios will be able to bounce back in the future, as they have done so many times before, or whether the newest developments really do reflect a fundamental change in the US movie industry for the first times since the 20s."


1990s–2000s

With the exception of MGM/UA—whose position was effectively filled by Disney—the old-established studios ''did'' bounce back. The purchase of
20th Century Fox 20th Century Studios, Inc. (also known as 20th Century for short, and nicknamed 20th Pictures, formerly Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation) is an American film studio A film studio (also known as movie studio or simply studio) is a maj ...
by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation (1980–2013), News Corporation presaged a new round of corporate acquisitions. Between 1989 and 1994, Paramount, Warner Bros., Columbia, and Universal all changed ownership in a series of conglomerate purchases and mergers that brought them new financial and marketing muscle. Paramount's parent company Gulf and Western Industries, Gulf+Western was renamed Paramount Communications in 1989 and was merged with Viacom five years later. WarnerMedia, Warner Communications merged with Time Inc. to give birth to the conglomerate WarnerMedia, Time Warner. Coca-Cola sold Columbia to Japanese electronics firm Sony also in 1989. And Universal's parent MCA Inc., MCA was purchased by Panasonic, Matsushita. By the early 1990s, both Tri-Star and Orion were essentially out of business: the former consolidated into Columbia, the latter bankrupt and sold to MGM. The most important contenders to emerge during the 1990s,
New Line Cinema New Line Productions, Inc., doing business as A trade name, trading name, or business name is a pseudonym A pseudonym () or alias () (originally: ψευδώνυμος in Greek) is a fictitious name that a person or group assumes for a particu ...

New Line Cinema
, Miramax, and
DreamWorks SKGDreamWorks may refer to: * DreamWorks Pictures, an American film production company of Amblin Partners **DreamWorks Records, a now-defunct record label that was a division of the film studio ** DreamWorks Television, an American television productio ...

DreamWorks SKG
, were likewise sooner or later brought into the majors' fold, though DreamWorks and Miramax are now independent again. The development of in-house pseudo-indie subsidiaries by the conglomerates—sparked by the 1992 establishment of Sony Pictures Classics and the success of ''Pulp Fiction (film), Pulp Fiction'' (1994), Miramax's first project under Disney ownership—significantly undermined the position of the true independents. The majors' release schedule rebounded: the six primary studio subsidiaries alone put out a total of 124 films during 2006; the three largest secondary subsidiaries (New Line, Fox Searchlight, and Focus Features) accounted for another 30. Box-office domination was fully restored: in 2006, the six major movie conglomerates combined for 89.8% of the North American market; Lionsgate and Weinstein were almost exactly half as successful as their 1986 mini-major counterparts, sharing 6.1%; MGM came in at 1.8%; and all of the remaining independent companies split a pool totaling 2.3%. Only one of the major studios changed corporate hands during the first decade of the 2000s, though it did so three times: Universal was acquired by Vivendi in 2000, and then by General Electric four years later. More developments took place among the majors' subsidiaries. The very successful animation production house Pixar, whose films were distributed by Buena Vista, was acquired by Disney in 2006. In 2008, New Line Cinema lost its independent status within Time Warner and became a subsidiary of Warner Bros. Time Warner also announced that it would be shutting down its two specialty units, Warner Independent and Picturehouse. In 2008 as well, Paramount Vantage's production, marketing, and distribution departments were folded into the parent studio, though it retained the brand for release purposes. Universal sold off its genre specialty division, Rogue Pictures, to
Relativity Media Relativity Media is an American media company headquartered in Beverly Hills, California, founded in 2004 by Lynwood Spinks and Ryan Kavanaugh. The studio was the third largest mini-major globally until bankruptcy on July 30, 2015. Its full-sca ...
in 2009.


2010s–present

In January 2010, Disney closed down Miramax's operations and sold off the unit and its library that July to an investor group led by Ronald N. Tutor of the Tutor Perini construction firm and Tom Barrack of the Colony Capital private equity firm. In March 2013,
Comcast Comcast Corporation (formerly known as American Cable Systems and Comcast Holdings)Before the AT&T AT&T Inc. is an American multinational Multinational may refer to: * Multinational corporation, a corporate organization operating in multi ...
Acquisition of NBC Universal by Comcast, fully acquired Universal Studios after buying out the remaining 49% of NBCUniversal from General Electric. On December 14, 2017, The Walt Disney Company (which its division, The Walt Disney Studios, owns numerous studio units including a major film studio, Walt Disney Pictures) Acquisition of 21st Century Fox by Disney, announced its intent to acquire a key assets of 21st Century Fox (which includes another major film studio, 20th Century Fox, along with Fox Searchlight Pictures and Blue Sky Studios). After beating out Comcast in a bidding war for Fox, both Disney and Fox shareholders approved the deal on July 27, 2018, and closed on March 20, 2019. Because of the deal, the number of major film studios was reduced to five after 20th Century Fox became a subsidiary of The Walt Disney Studios, thereby ending the era of the "Big Six" studios and Fox's 83-year reign as a member of that elite group. Since June 14, 2018, Warner Bros. is owned by
AT&T AT&T Inc. is an American multinational Multinational may refer to: * Multinational corporation, a corporate organization operating in multiple countries * Multinational force, a military body from multiple countries * Multinational state, a s ...

AT&T
, which completed its acquisition of Time Warner, renaming it "WarnerMedia". On August 13, 2019, Paramount Pictures parent, Viacom, announced Proposed 2019 merger of CBS and Viacom, its reunion with CBS Corporation, and the combined company would be called
ViacomCBS ViacomCBS Inc. is an American diversified multinational mass media and formed through the of the and the on December 4, 2019 (which were split from the in 2006) and headquartered at the complex in , , . The company operates over 170 netw ...

ViacomCBS
. The two companies previously merged in 1999 but split in 2006. The deal was completed on December 4, 2019. Meanwhile, CBS Corporation's mini-major film studio, CBS Films was folded into CBS Entertainment Group after releasing its 2019 film slate, switching its focus to creating original film content for CBS All Access. On January 17, 2020, Disney dropped the "Fox" name from both 20th Century Fox and Fox Searchlight Pictures and rebranded them as 20th Century Studios and Searchlight Pictures respectively, to avoid brand confusion with Rupert Murdoch-owned Fox Corporation. The "Searchlight Pictures" and "20th Century Studios" name were first seen on ''Downhill (2020 film), Downhill'' on February 14, and on ''The Call of the Wild (2020 film), The Call of the Wild'' a week later on February 21 respectively. The studios were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic with some cinema chains closing, precipitating box-office bomb, box office flops (like Disney's ''Onward (film), Onward'' or Sony's ''Bloodshot (film), Bloodshot''). Several films were delayed (Universal and MGM's ''No Time to Die'' or Paramount's ''A Quiet Place Part II'' and even Disney's ''Black Widow (2021 film), Black Widow'' and ''Mulan (2020 film), Mulan'') and others were launched to the digital market (like Universal's ''The Invisible Man (2020 film), The Invisible Man'' and ''Trolls World Tour'' and Warner's ''Birds of Prey (2020 film), Birds of Prey'', ''Scoob'' and ''Wonder Woman 1984''). On May 16, 2021, it was reported that AT&T was in talks with Discovery, Inc. for it to merge with WarnerMedia, forming a publicly-traded company that would be divided between its shareholders. The proposed spin-off and merger was officially announced the next day, which is to be structured as a Reverse Morris Trust. AT&T shareholders will receive a 71% stake in the merged company, which is expected to be led by Discovery's current CEO David Zaslav, with that, AT&T will leave the entertainment business. On the same day after the announcement of the merger of WarnerMedia & Discovery,
Amazon Amazon usually refers to: * Amazons In Greek mythology, the Amazons (Ancient Greek: Ἀμαζόνες ''Amazónes'', singular Ἀμαζών ''Amazōn'') are portrayed in a number of ancient Greek, ancient epic poems and legends, such as the ...
entered negotiations with MGM Holdings to acquire Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. The negotiations were made directly with MGM board chairman Kevin Ulrich whose Anchorage Capital Group is a major shareholder. MGM already began to explore a potential sale of the studio since December 2020, with the COVID-19 pandemic and the domination of streaming platforms due to the closure of movie theaters as contributing factors. On May 26, 2021, it was officially announced that MGM will be acquired by Amazon for $8.45 billion, subject to regulatory approvals and other routine closing conditions; with the studio continuing to operate as a label under Amazon's existing content arm, complementing Amazon Studios and Amazon Prime Video.


Historical organizational lineage


The eight Golden Age majors

The eight major film studios of the Golden Age have gone through the following significant ownership changes ("independent" meaning customarily identified as the primary commercial entity in its corporate structure; "purchased" meaning acquired anything from majority to total ownership): Note: that this does not include
Walt Disney Pictures Walt Disney Pictures is an American film production studio and subsidiary of Walt Disney StudiosWalt Disney Studios may refer to: * Walt Disney Studio (1926–1929) the second name of The Walt Disney Company * Walt Disney Studios (division), t ...

Walt Disney Pictures
(then Walt Disney Productions), which was primarily an Walt Disney Animation Studios, animation studio at the time and also the only studio owned by the same conglomerate since its founding.


Columbia Pictures

* Independent as CBC Film Sales, 1918–1924 (founded by Harry Cohn, Joe Brandt, and Jack Cohn) * Independent, 1924–1968 (company changes name to Columbia Pictures Corporation; goes public in 1926) * Columbia Pictures Industries, 1968–1987 (merger between Columbia Pictures Corporation and
Screen Gems Screen Gems, Inc. is an American film production and distribution studio that is a division of Sony Pictures Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc. (commonly known as Sony Pictures or SPE, and formerly known as Columbia Pictures Entertainment Inc. ...
. CPI becomes the parent of both companies) ** The Coca-Cola Company, 1982–1987 (purchased by Coca-Cola;
Tri-Star Pictures TriStar Pictures, Inc. (spelled as Tri-Star until 1991 and stylized on-screen as TRISTAR since 1992) is an American film studio and production company that is a member of the Sony Pictures Motion Picture Group, a subsidiary of Sony Entertainment's ...

Tri-Star Pictures
, a joint venture with HBO and CBS initiated in 1982—CBS drops out in 1985 and HBO in 1986) * Columbia Pictures Entertainment, 1987–1991 (divested by Coca-Cola; Coke's entertainment business sold to Tri-Star and takes 49% in CPE) * Sony, 1989–present (purchased by Sony Corporation in November 1989, Sony Corporation changed its name to Sony Group Corporation in 2021) ** Sony Pictures, Sony Pictures Entertainment, 1991–present (Columbia Pictures Entertainment rebrands itself two years after purchase)


Warner Bros.

* Independent as Warner Brothers Studio, 1918-1923 (founded by Jack L. Warner, Harry Warner, Albert Warner, and Sam Warner; was not incorporated until 1923) * Independent, 1923–1929 (Formally incorporated and renamed Warner Bros. Pictures, Incorporated; Sam Warner died in 1927) ** Warner Bros.–First National, 1929–1967 (acquired First National Pictures; syndicate led by Jack Warner, Serge Semenenko of BankBoston, First National Bank of Boston, and Charles Allen Jr.; purchased controlling interest in 1956) ** Warner Bros.-Seven Arts, Warner Bros.–Seven Arts, 1967–1969 (purchased by and merged with Seven Arts Productions) * Kinney National Company, Kinney, 1969–1972 (Kinney purchased Warner Bros.–Seven Arts) ** Warner Communications, 1972–1990 (Kinney spun off non-entertainment assets and changed name) * Time-Warner, 1990–2001 (on January 10, 1990, in New York City, New York as a merger of Time Inc. and Warner Communications) ** AOL Time Warner, 2001–2003 (AOL merged with Time Warner in 2001) ** Time Warner, 2003–2018 (AOL Time Warner reverted to their original name in 2003, which remained until AT&T's acquisition in 2018, despite spinning off AOL and Time Inc.) **
WarnerMedia Warner Media, LLC (Trade name, traded as WarnerMedia, but stylized as WarnerMedia; formerly known as Time Warner from 1990 to 2001 and again from 2003 to 2018; from 2001 to 2003, AOL Time Warner and from 1972 to 1990, Warner Communications) is ...

WarnerMedia
, 2018–present (Time Warner renamed after
AT&T AT&T Inc. is an American multinational Multinational may refer to: * Multinational corporation, a corporate organization operating in multiple countries * Multinational force, a military body from multiple countries * Multinational state, a s ...

AT&T
WarnerMedia#History, acquisition) ***
AT&T AT&T Inc. is an American multinational Multinational may refer to: * Multinational corporation, a corporate organization operating in multiple countries * Multinational force, a military body from multiple countries * Multinational state, a s ...

AT&T
, 2018–present (sale pending, will be spun off in 2022) ** Warner Bros. Discovery, (pending 2022, AT&T sells and WarnerMedia mergers with Discovery, Inc.)


Paramount Pictures

* Independent as Famous Players Film Company, 1912–1916 (founded by Adolph Zukor and W. W. Hodkinson) * Independent as Famous Players-Lasky, 1916–1921 (founded by Adolph Zukor and Jesse L. Lasky) * Independent, 1922–1966 (as Paramount Pictures, the company adopting its distribution division's name and folded into it in 1933) * Gulf and Western, Gulf+Western Industries, 1966–1989 (purchased by Gulf+Western) ** Paramount Pictures#History, Paramount Communications, 1989–1994 (Gulf+Western changed name after selling non-entertainment assets) *
National Amusements National Amusements, Inc. is an American privately owned theater company and mass media based in , and incorporated in . It is the parent company of . History The company was founded by in 1936 in the suburb of as Northeast Theater Corpor ...

National Amusements
, 1994–present (owner of the three iterations of Viacom; the first includes CBS Corporation, the second involving the split, and the latter being the merger back into two companies) ** Viacom (1952–2006), Viacom, 1994–2006 (Viacom purchased Paramount) ** Viacom (2005–2019), Viacom, 2006–2019 (Viacom split into two companies: "new" Viacom—with Paramount Pictures, MTV, BET, Nickelodeon, VH1, Comedy Central, and other cable channels—and CBS Corporation—which includes CBS Studios, CBS Television Studios; both companies are controlled by
National Amusements National Amusements, Inc. is an American privately owned theater company and mass media based in , and incorporated in . It is the parent company of . History The company was founded by in 1936 in the suburb of as Northeast Theater Corpor ...

National Amusements
) **
ViacomCBS ViacomCBS Inc. is an American diversified multinational mass media and formed through the of the and the on December 4, 2019 (which were split from the in 2006) and headquartered at the complex in , , . The company operates over 170 netw ...

ViacomCBS
, 2019–present (Re-merger between Viacom and CBS to form ViacomCBS)


Universal Pictures

* Independent, 1912–1946 (founded by Carl Laemmle, Pat Powers (businessman), Pat Powers, Adam Kessel, Charles Baumann, Mark Dintenfass, William Swanson, David Horsley, and Jules Brulatour) * Universal-International, 1946–1952 (merged with International Pictures) * Decca Records, Decca, 1952–1962 (purchased by Decca) * MCA Inc., 1962–1996 (MCA purchased Decca) ** Panasonic Corporation, Matsushita Electric, 1990–1995 (Matsushita purchased MCA) * Universal Pictures, Universal Studios Entertainment, 1996–2004 (MCA renames its company) ** Seagram, 1995–2000 (purchased by Seagram from Matsushita) ** Vivendi, Vivendi Universal, 2000–2004 (Vivendi purchased Seagram) *
NBCUniversal NBCUniversal Media, LLC, traded as NBCUniversal (formerly known as NBC Universal, Inc. from 2004 to 2011), is an American multinational Multinational may refer to: * Multinational corporation, a corporate organization operating in multiple countr ...
, 2004–present (NBC merges with the company) ** General Electric/Vivendi, 2004–2011 (jointly owned by GE (80%) and Vivendi, S.A. (20%) and merged with NBC to form NBCUniversal) **
Comcast Comcast Corporation (formerly known as American Cable Systems and Comcast Holdings)Before the AT&T AT&T Inc. is an American multinational Multinational may refer to: * Multinational corporation, a corporate organization operating in multi ...
/General Electric, 2011–2013 (Comcast Acquisition of NBC Universal by Comcast, purchased 51% of redubbed
NBCUniversal NBCUniversal Media, LLC, traded as NBCUniversal (formerly known as NBC Universal, Inc. from 2004 to 2011), is an American multinational Multinational may refer to: * Multinational corporation, a corporate organization operating in multiple countr ...
) ** Comcast, 2013–present (Comcast bought the remaining 49% from GE)


Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)

* Metro Pictures, 1915–1924 (founded by Richard A. Rowland, George Grombacker, and Louis B. Mayer) * Goldwyn Pictures, 1916–1924 (founded by Samuel Goldwyn (then Goldfish) and theatre producers Edgar Selwyn, Edgar and Archibald Selwyn) * Louis B. Mayer Pictures, 1922–1924 (founded by Louis B. Mayer; brought over Irving Thalberg from Universal as head of production) * Loews Cineplex Entertainment, Loew's Inc., 1924–1959 (in 1924, Marcus Loew merged the first two studios and Louis B. Mayer offered up the third and was named head of MGM; controlling interest in Loew's purchased by William Fox (producer), William Fox in 1929, but was then forced to sell off interest due to stock market crash; operational control ceded by Loew's to studio management in 1957) * Independent, 1959–1981 (fully divested by Loew's; purchased by Edgar Bronfman Sr. in 1967; purchased by
Kirk Kerkorian Kerkor "Kirk" Kerkorian (; June 6, 1917 – June 15, 2015) was an American businessman, investor, and philanthropist. He was the president and CEO of Tracinda Corporation, his private holding company based in Beverly Hills, California. Kerk ...

Kirk Kerkorian
in 1969) * Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, MGM/UA Entertainment Co., 1981–1986 (United Artists purchased by Kerkorian in 1981 and merged into MGM) *
Turner Broadcasting System Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. (abbreviated as Turner) is an American television and media conglomerate, part of AT&T's WarnerMedia. Founded by Ted Turner and based in Atlanta, Georgia, it merged with Time Warner on October 10, 1996. Among its ...
, 1986 (purchased by
Ted Turner Robert Edward Turner III (born November 19, 1938) is an American media proprietor, producer, and philanthropist. As a businessman, he is known as founder of the Cable News Network (CNN), the first 24-hour United States cable news, cable news ch ...

Ted Turner
in 1986) ** Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, MGM Entertainment Co., 1986 * Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, MGM/UA Communications Co., 1986–1990 (repurchased by Kerkorian seventy-four days later) * Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, MGM-Pathe Communications, 1990–1992 (purchased by Giancarlo Parretti in 1990) * Crédit Lyonnais, 1992–1997 (foreclosed upon by bank after Parretti defaulted) * Tracinda Corporation, 1997–2005 (repurchased by Kerkorian) * MGM Holdings, 2005–present ** Sony/
Comcast Comcast Corporation (formerly known as American Cable Systems and Comcast Holdings)Before the AT&T AT&T Inc. is an American multinational Multinational may refer to: * Multinational corporation, a corporate organization operating in multi ...
/4 private equity firms, 2005–2010 (purchased by Sony, Comcast, and private investment firms—Providence Equity Partners currently owns the greatest number of shares—and privately held as a minor media company independent of Sony/Columbia) ** Credit Suisse, JPMorgan Chase, other former bondholders (2011–2021) including Carl Icahn (2011–2012) **
Amazon Amazon usually refers to: * Amazons In Greek mythology, the Amazons (Ancient Greek: Ἀμαζόνες ''Amazónes'', singular Ἀμαζών ''Amazōn'') are portrayed in a number of ancient Greek, ancient epic poems and legends, such as the ...
, (sale pending 2022)


United Artists (UA)

* Independent, 1919–1967 (founded by Charles Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, D. W. Griffith, and Mary Pickford; operational control by Arthur Krim and Robert Benjamin from 1951; fully purchased by Krim and Benjamin in 1956) * Transamerica Corporation, Transamerica, 1967–1981 (purchased by Transamerica) *
MGM Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. (also known as Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures or MGM) is an American media company, founded in 1924, that produces and distributes feature films and television programs. It is based in Beverly Hills, California ...
, 1981–present (purchased by Kirk Kerkorian from Transamerica and merged into MGM) ** Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, MGM/UA Entertainment Co., 1981–1986 (United Artists purchased by Kerkorian in 1981 and merged into MGM) **
Turner Broadcasting System Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. (abbreviated as Turner) is an American television and media conglomerate, part of AT&T's WarnerMedia. Founded by Ted Turner and based in Atlanta, Georgia, it merged with Time Warner on October 10, 1996. Among its ...
, 1986 (purchased by
Ted Turner Robert Edward Turner III (born November 19, 1938) is an American media proprietor, producer, and philanthropist. As a businessman, he is known as founder of the Cable News Network (CNN), the first 24-hour United States cable news, cable news ch ...

Ted Turner
in 1986) *** Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, MGM Entertainment Co., 1986 ** Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, MGM/UA Communications Co., 1986–1990 (repurchased by Kerkorian seventy-four days later) ** Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, MGM-Pathe Communications, 1990–1992 (purchased by Giancarlo Parretti in 1990) ** Crédit Lyonnais, 1992–1997 (foreclosed upon by bank after Parretti defaulted) ** Tracinda Corporation, 1997–2005 (repurchased by Kerkorian) ** MGM Holdings, 2005–present *** Sony/
Comcast Comcast Corporation (formerly known as American Cable Systems and Comcast Holdings)Before the AT&T AT&T Inc. is an American multinational Multinational may refer to: * Multinational corporation, a corporate organization operating in multi ...
/4 private equity firms, 2005–2010 (purchased by Sony, Comcast, and private investment firms—Providence Equity Partners currently owns the greatest number of shares—and privately held as a minor media company independent of Sony/Columbia) *** Credit Suisse, JPMorgan Chase, other former bondholders (2011–2021) including Carl Icahn (2011–2012) *** United Artists was revived in 2019 as
United Artists Releasing United Artists Corporation (UA), currently doing business as United Artists Digital Studios, is an American digital production company. Founded in 1919 by D. W. Griffith, Charlie Chaplin Sir Charles Spencer Chaplin Jr. (16 April 1 ...
, the distribution banner. (2019–present)


20th Century Fox/20th Century Studios

* Fox Film, 1915–1935 (founded by William Fox (producer), William Fox) * Twentieth Century Pictures, 20th Century Pictures, 1933–1935 (founded by Joseph Schenck and Darryl F. Zanuck) * Independent, 1935–1985 (merged both companies in 1935 as 20th Century-Fox; fully purchased by Marc Rich and Marvin Davis in 1981 with the hyphen removed; Rich's interest purchased by Davis in 1984; half of Davis's interest purchased by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation (1980–2013), News Corporation in March 1985) * News Corporation (1980–2013), News Corporation, 1985–2013 (purchased the remainder of Davis's shares in September) * 21st Century Fox, 2013–2019 (renamed media conglomerate when News Corporation split into two companies on June 28, 2013) *
The Walt Disney Company The Walt Disney Company, commonly just Disney (), is an American multinational entertainment Entertainment is a form of activity that holds the attention and Interest (emotion), interest of an audience or gives pleasure and delight. It ...
, 2019–present (Disney acquired 20th Century Fox as part of a Acquisition of 21st Century Fox by Disney, $71.3 billion purchase of their parent company 21st Century Fox, which was announced on December 14, 2017, and completed on March 20, 2019; was renamed 20th Century Studios by January 17, 2020)


RKO Radio Pictures/RKO Pictures

* Independent as Film Booking Offices of America, FBO, 1918–1928 (founded by Harry F. Robertson) * RCA, 1928–1935 (merger engineered under RCA by its President David Sarnoff, bringing together FBO and Keith-Albee-Orpheum) * Independent, 1935–1955 (half of RCA's interest purchased by Floyd Odlum, control split between RCA, Odlum, and Rockefeller family, Rockefeller brothers; controlling interest purchased by Odlum in 1942; controlling interest purchased by
Howard Hughes Howard Robard Hughes Jr. (December 24, 1905 – April 5, 1976) was an American , investor, record-setting pilot, engineer, film director, and , known during his lifetime as one of the most influential and financially successful individuals in th ...

Howard Hughes
in 1948; Hughes interest purchased by Stolkin-Koolish-Ryan-Burke-Corwin syndicate in 1952; interest repurchased by Hughes in 1953; studio nearly fully purchased by Hughes in 1954) * General Tire, General Tire and Rubber, 1955–1984 (purchased by General Tire and Rubber—coupled with General Tire's broadcasting operation as RKO Teleradio Pictures; production and distribution halted in 1957; movie business dissolved in 1959 and RKO Teleradio renamed RKO General; RKO General establishes RKO Pictures as production subsidiary in 1981) * GenCorp, 1984–1987 (reorganization creates holding company with RKO General and General Tire as primary subsidiaries) * Wesray Capital Corporation, 1987–1989 (spun off from RKO General, purchased by Wesray—controlled by William E. Simon and Ray Chambers—and merged with amusement park operations to form RKO/Six Flags Entertainment) * Independent as RKO Pictures LLC, 1989–present (owned by Ted Hartley, who also is the CEO. As of 2015, the company's recent films released were ''A Late Quartet'' and ''Barely Lethal''.)


See also

* Concentration of media ownership * Media conglomerate * Media cross-ownership in the United States *
Motion Picture Association The Motion Picture Association (MPA) is an American trade association representing the Major film studios#Present, five major film studios of the United States, as well as the video streaming service Netflix. Founded in 1922 as the Motion Pict ...
* List of film production companies * Streaming service provider


References


Sources

Works cited * Cook, David A. (2000). ''Lost Illusions: American Cinema in the Shadow of Watergate and Vietnam, 1970–1979'' (Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London: University of California Press). . * Eames, John Douglas (1985). ''The Paramount Story'' (New York: Crown). . * Finler, Joel W. (1988). ''The Hollywood Story'', 1st ed. (New York: Crown). . * Finler, Joel W. (2003). ''The Hollywood Story'', 3d ed. (London and New York: Wallflower). . * Hirschhorn, Clive (1983). ''The Universal Story'' (London: Crown). . * Hirschhorn, Clive (1999). ''The Columbia Story'' (London: Hamlyn). . * Jewell, Richard B., with Vernon Harbin (1982). ''The RKO Story'' (New York: Arlington House/Crown). . * Schatz, Thomas (1998 [1989]). ''The Genius of the System: Hollywood Filmmaking in the Studio Era'' (London: Faber and Faber). . * Thomas, Tony, and Aubrey Solomon (1985). ''The Films of 20th Century-Fox'' (Secaucus, N.J.: Citadel). . * * {{DEFAULTSORT:Major Film Studio American film studios, * Cinema of Southern California, . Hollywood history and culture Film distributors of the United States, * Anti-corporate activism