Histories of the Motion Picture Studios

Producers & Distributors

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Corporate histories of the Major Motion Picture Studios from their founding to the present day, including recent releases.

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Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation was started by William Fox, a pioneer in the arcade and nickelodeon business. Fox became a member of the exhibition firm of Fox, Moss and Brill and established the Greater New York Film Rental Company. In 1913, he organized the Box Office Attraction Company, acquiring the services of Winfield Sheehan. On February 1, 1915, the Fox Film Corporation was founded, combining production, exhibition and distribution under one name and with film exchanges in a dozen cities.

In 1917, Fox Films moved into its Sunset Studio in Hollywood. In 1926, Fox introduced Movietone, a soundon- film process developed by Theodore Case and Earl I. Sponable.

In 1929, Fox began a series of reorganizations and financial deals, principally the purchase by Fox Films of Loew’s, Inc. By order of the courts, Fox’s ownership of Loew’s was later dissolved and various banking interests acquired control of Loew’s. During these reorganizations, William Fox’s connections with the company were discontinued. Sidney R. Kent became the company’s president.

In 1935, The Fox Film Corporation merged with Twentieth Century Pictures, headed by Joseph M. Schenck, and the company assumed its present corporate name. This merger brought Darryl F. Zanuck into the company as vice president in charge of production. Schenck became chairman of the board and continued in that position until his resignation in June 1942, when Wendell L. Wilkie took over the post. Zanuck remained as production head until

1956, when Buddy Adler succeeded him. Upon Adler’s death, Robert Goldstein and then Peter G. Levathes took over studio reins. Spyros P. Skouras, a leading theatre operator, became president. On July 25, 1962, Darryl F. Zanuck was elected president and Skouras was named chairman of the board, a position he held until 1969. Richard D. Zanuck was named executive vice president in charge of worldwide production. The Zanucks turned an ailing company into an industry leader. In 1969, Darryl Zanuck was made chairman of the board and CEO and Richard Zanuck was made president.

In 1971, 20th Century Fox Film Corporation weathered a trying proxy fight which had the resounding effect of giving the company added resolve. A new managerial team was elected by the Board of Directors which saw Dennis

C. Stanfill succeeding Richard Zanuck as president of the company. Shortly thereafter, Stanfill was elevated to the position of chairman of the board of directors and the studio’s CEO. In 1972, Fox’s East Coast offices were consolidated with the West Coast offices. In 1981, Fox merged with a company owned by Marvin Davis. In 1985, Davis sold the company to Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation and Fox, Inc. was formed, consolidating the principal operating units: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, Fox Television Stations, Inc. and Fox Broadcasting Company. In the summer of 1989, revamping signalled a new emphasis on motion pictures. The company appointed Joe Roth, an independent producer and director, as chairman of its major filmmaking unit and renamed it the Fox Film Corporation, marking the first time a film director had run a major studio since Ernst Lubitsch headed Paramount Pictures in 1935. Roth’s first picture for Fox, “Die Hard 2,” proved to be a hit in the summer of 1990. This was followed by the gigantic success of “Home Alone” which went on to become the second highest grossing film in the studio’s history following 1977’s “Star Wars.” At that time, the science- fiction epic had dethroned the company’s previous record-holder, “The Sound of Music.”

Roth announced his resignation in December of 1992. His replacement, Peter Chernin, was a Fox television executive. In 1994, Fox released the James Cameron film “True Lies” which reportedly cost in excess of $100 million to produce. In 1996, “Independence Day” became one of the top-grossing films in history. In the Winter of 1996-97, George Lucas’ ground-breaking “Star Wars” trilogy was re-released theatrically, with new state-of-theart special effects footage added, and all three immediately broke box-office records (again). The 1997 release of James Cameron's “Titanic” was delayed from its scheduled July release until the Fall of 1997, ostensibly due to extensive special-effects re-shooting. With this feature Cameron broke the “Waterworld” record by setting a new negative cost record rumored to be in excess of $200 million. Late in the year, Fox threatened Disney’s monopoly on animated musicals, with its own mega- budgeted animated feature release, “Anastasia.”

In 1998, Fox, Inc. went public. 20th Century Fox and Fox 2000 then operated under the supervision of Bill Mechanic, chairman of Fox Filmed Entertainment.

In late 1999, Fox Filmed Entertainment promoted Tom Rothman to President of 20th Century Fox Film Group, a newly created executive post charged with overseeing production operations for Twentieth Century Fox and Fox 2000. Elizabeth Gabler replaced Laura Ziskin as head of Fox 2000, which despite failing box office, still planned to produce around 15 pictures per year.

After 1998’s record year, box office revenue continued to be healthy in 1999, largely driven by the summer release of “Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace” which, by Labor Day, had grossed $421 million. It was, however, the only superhit of the year.

The year 2000 brought blockbusters “Big Momma’s House” and “X-Men,” though midsummer’s “Me, Myself and Irene” proved to be a disappointment despite Jim Carrey’s leading role. Earnings for the quarter ending September 30th were $119 million (EBITDA) versus $62 million for the previous year, showing a nice rebound after the post-Titanic doldrums. Fox continued to reap strong returns from its television product. In 2000, the company was the largest producer of programming for the U.S. market. Fox began 2001 with “Cast Away,” its biggest hit of the year. Other successes included “Dr. Dolittle 2,” “Planet of the Apes” and “Moulin Rouge,” which was re-released at year’s end for Oscar consideration. 2002 was a very successful year for Fox Filmed Entertainment with “Minority Report” and “Star Wars: Episode II-Attack of the Clones,” two of the top grossing films of the year.

In 2003 profits for the filmed entertainment division of Fox, Inc. grew more than 40% on contributions from “X2,” “Daredevil,” “Daddy Day Care” and other films. “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World” was the year end release. The Studio’s successful classic division, Fox Searchlight, also added significantly to the bottom line with hits like, “28 Days Later,” “Bend It Like Beckham” and “Antwone Fisher.”

Fox’s Entertainment Group continued delivering double- digit profits during 2004. Its net income increased 31 percent to a record $1.4 billion, upping earnings per share by 23 percent to a record $1.44. The group also completed its acquisition of a 34 percent interest in the DIRECTV Group, saw strong advertising growth at Fox News and FX; and posted record Filmed Entertainment operating income gains from a string of theatrical hits and healthy home entertainment sales of film and television titles. Box office appeal for “The Day After Tomorrow,” ($530 million worldwide gross) “Dodgeball” ($110 million domestic gross since June 1) and “I, Robot” (with $144 million domestic gross to date) provided sound results while Fox Searchlight enjoyed critical success with “Sideways” and many other films.

Fox had another extraordinary year in 2005, leading all the studios in market share and posting record earnings for the fourth consecutive year. The last film in George Lucas’ epic series, “Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith” led the parade and was the highest grossing film, doing over $380 million domestically. By June of this year Fox had released three other mega-hits including, “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” with Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, “Fantastic Four,” a new franchise property and “Robots.” All of these did over $125 million in North America. The fall brought “In Her Shoes” with Cameron Diaz and Shirley MacLaine, “Stay” and the Johnny Cash story, “Walk the Line.” Steve Martin reprised his role in “Cheaper By The Dozen 2” at Christmas.

For parent News Corp., 2005 brought record income at the filmed entertainment, cable network programming, newspapers, television, magazines and book publishing. “Chief” Rupert Murdoch announced he would spend $1$ 2 billion on Web and internet acquisitions in the next year. John Malone’s Liberty Media owns an 18% stake in Fox, and the company voted to extend the “poison pill” plan for two years or until it figured out how to buy back

the shares from Malone. Succession became an issue again when Rupert’s son, Lachlan, resigned. Murdoch declined to say whether his other son, James, or Peter Chernin were in line as a possible successor.

News Corp. remains on the upswing. In November 2006, investors were poised to hear first-quarter sales of $5.9 billion, up 4 percent from 2005, and earnings of 21 cents a share, an increase of 17 percent.

The Fox studio’s 2006 slate of films illuminated a good year at the domestic box office. The shining stars for the studio were: “X-Men: The Last Stand,” ($234 million), “Ice Age: The Meltdown,” ($195 million), “The Devil Wears Prada,” ($125 million), “Big Mommas House 2” ($70 million) and “The Omen,” ($55 million).

Although News Corp.’s core businesses remain the mainstay of earnings, investor buzz and concern (and this carries over to all the big media companies) is about the growth taking place in interactive and new media companies. By the end of 2005, News Corp. formed Fox Interactive Media and completed the acquisition of Intermix Media, Inc. for approximately $580 million in cash, or the equivalent of $12 per common share. Both MySpace.com
and Intermix’s more than 30 sites became part of Fox’s new interactive media unit. MySpace.com
is the leading lifestyle portal for networking online.

The addition of MySpace, and Intermix’s network of sites, helped News Corp. nearly double its U.S. web traffic to more than 45 million unique monthly users, putting the company in the top echelon of most trafficked content sites on the Internet today. Launched less than three years ago, MySpace.com
is the fifth ranked web domain in terms of page views according to comScore Media Metrix. Integrating web profiles, blogs, instant messaging, e-mail, music downloads, photo galleries, classified listings, events, groups, chatrooms, and user forums, MySpace.com
created a connected community where users put their lives online. As a result of its popularity and use among young consumers, MySpace.com
is a favorite with online advertisers.

Although it came with the hefty purchase price of $580 million, News Corp. validated the transaction in Aug. 2006 when it announced a multi-year search technology and services agreement with search giant Google. Google became the exclusive search and keyword targeted advertising sales provider for Fox Interactive Media’s growing network of web properties including MySpace.com
Under the terms of the agreement, Google will be obligated to make guaranteed minimum revenue share payments to Fox Interactive Media of $900 million based on Fox achieving certain traffic and other commitments. These guaranteed minimum revenue share payments are expected to be made over the period beginning in the first quarter of 2007 and ending in the second quarter of 2010.

Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. announced two major deals in 2007; the acquisition of Dow Jones & Company, the publisher of The Wall Street Journal and the launch of a business channel to compete with GE’s CNBC. Full year operating income grew 15% in 2007, to $4.45 billion. Filmed Entertainment contributed $1.2 billion to that growth, driven by record results on a strong theatrical slate and subsequent home entertainment releases. “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer,” “Night at the Museum” and “Live Free or Die Hard” contributed $240 million, $570 million and $320 million worldwide respectively.

In August 2008, News Corporation chairman Rupert Murdoch warned, with a good degree of prescience, that the company was entering an “increasingly difficult economic environment” but says its strong balance sheet will help it weather the storm. News Corp. reported a 17% increase in net profit for 2007-08 to $5.61 billion, but anticipated profit growth would slow to between 4% and 6% in 2008-09 as the economy slowed. The News Corp result was boosted by strong contributions from the company’s 20th Century Fox film studio, European pay-TV business Sky Italia and international newspaper divisions.

While the distribution division’s market share dropped to slightly over 10% through the end of October, the final quarter of 2008 saw strong theatrical results with “Australia,” “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” “Marley & Me” and from Fox Searchlight, “The Wrestler.”

News Corporation’s top management changed hands in 2009, with News Corp. President and COO Peter Chernin stepping down mid-year. Chernin, 57, joined News Corporation in 1989 and served as president and COO since October 1996. During his two decades with the Company, Chernin headed both Twentieth Century Fox Filmed Entertainment and, earlier, the Fox Broadcasting Company. News Corp. Chairman and CEO

K. Rupert Murdoch tapped another long-time colleague, Chase Carey, as Chernin’s replacement. Carey spent 15 years as a senior executive at News Corp. before becoming CEO of The DIRECTV Group in 2003. The filmed entertainment group garnered 11.3% market share through November 2009. A Summer of successful sequels saw the release of the smash “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs,” $196mm, “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” at $180mm and the comedy, “Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian” which grossed $177mm. Year-end brought the much anticipated “Avatar,” directed by James Cameron, which played on 2,500 3-D screens and another 2,000 in the regular format and “Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel.

Fox had an extraordinary year in 2010 powered by the unprecedented success of “Avatar” which grossed over $760 million domestically and $2.78 billion worldwide, delivering a 14.8% market share among the studios. The rest of the release schedule was fair including titles such as “The Lightning Thief,” “Date Night,” “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps,” and “Knight and Day” all grossing less than $100 million.The sole exception was “The A-Team”which did $110 million.

Tom Rothman manages all feature film and TV production, marketing and global distribution for Fox with Co-Chairman and CEO Jim Gianopulos. Rothman was the first president of Fox Searchlight, one of the two survivors of the studio “classic” divisions. Fox Searchlight has given us some of the best- films to emerge from studio financiers: “Fantastic Mr Fox,” “Cyrus,” “Never Let Me Go,” “Black Swan” and “Slumdog Millionaire.”

In 2011 the irony was rich - if the phone hacking scandal in 2011 in Britain did not involve Rupert Murdoch, his sensational- obsessed headline writers likely would have had a field day with his growing misfortunes. What initially began with allegations that Murdoch's British News of the World had illegally hacked scores of phone messages has widened from a sordid tabloid tale involving a murdered British teen to a burgeoning scandal with broad political, criminal, ethical and business ramifications for Murdoch's far-flung News Corp.

While defending his company against the accusations accompanying the scandal, Mr. Murdoch insisted that he had the backing of News Corporation’s board and would stay on as its chief executive for the foreseeable future. Meanwhile, News Corporation reported a drop in fourth-quarter profit but a robust gain for the fiscal year 2011.

This year, the efforts by 20th Century Fox to restart its “X- Men” and “Planet of the Apes” franchises were particularly impressive. Fox took creative and technological risks with “X- Men: First Class” and “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” and it was rewarded with hits that re-started the franchises. Notably, “First Class” and “Rise” received some of the summer’s best reviews.

Tom Rothman echoed a familiar historical studio head’s lament about raising the filmmaking bar and costs, “despite all the technological advancement, [the filmmaking] doesn't seem to get any cheaper." He attributed the cost inflation to the parallel growth of “wow” expectations on digital-heavy films. "Movies compete not just with other movies for audiences' leisure time and dollars nowadays; they compete with everything," he says. "So we have to keep raising the bar to give them a truly original experience."


2001 Moulin Rouge, Dr. Dolittle 2, Joe Somebody, Shallow Hal, Planet of the Apes.

2002 Minority Report, Life or Something Like It, High Crimes, Star Wars: Episode II-Attack of the Clones, Swim Fan.

2003 X2, Daddy Day Care, Daredevil, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Runaway Jury, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World.

2004 The Day After Tomorrow, Dodgeball, Taxi, Alien vs. Predator, First Daughter, Paparazzi, Flight of the Phoenix, Fat Albert.

2005 Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Fantastic Four, Robots, In Her Shoes, Walk the Line.

2006 The Omen, X-Men: The Last Stand, The Devil Wears Prada, Borat, John Tucker Must Die, A Good Year, A Night at the Museum.

2007 Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, Live Free or Die Hard, The Simpsons Movie.

2008 Horton Hears a Who?, Meet the Spartans, Max Payne, Australia, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Marley & Me.

2009 Avatar, Alvin and the Chipmunks—the Squeakquel, Jennifer’s Body, All About Steve, Night At The Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian.

2010 The Lightning Thief, Date Night, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, The A-Team, Knight and Day.

2011 Rise of the Planet of the Apes, X-Men: First Class, Rio, Mr. Poppers’s Penguins.


2004 Johnson Family Vacation, Napoleon Dynamite, The Clearing, I “Heart” Huckabees, Garden State, Sideways.

2005 Roll Bounce, Bee Season, The Ringer, Night Watch.

2006 Little Miss Sunshine, The Hills Have Eyes, Phat Girlz, The Last King of Scotland.

2007 Notes on a Scandal, Waitress, The Savages, The Hills Have Eyes 2, 28 Days Later.

2008 Under the Same Moon, The Secret Life of Bees, Slumdog Millionaire, The Wrestler.

2009 500 Days of Summer, Whip It, Adam, Amelia, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Crazy Heart.

2010 Just Wright, Our Family Wedding, Conviction, 127 Hours, Black Swan.

2011 Cedar Rapids, The Art of Getting By, Tree of Life, Shame, The Descendants.