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A major film studio is a movie production and distribution company that releases a substantial number of films annually and consistently commands a significant share of box-office revenues in a given market. In the North American, Western, and global markets, the major film studios, often simply known as the majors, are commonly regarded as the six diversified media conglomerates whose various movie production and distribution subsidiaries command approximately 90 percent of the U.S. and Canadian box office. The term may also be applied more specifically to the primary movie business subsidiary of each respective conglomerate. The "Big Six" majors, whose movie operations are based in or around Hollywood, are all centered in film studios active during Hollywood's Golden Age of the 1930s and 1940s. In three cases—20th Century Fox, Warner Bros., and Paramount—the studios were one of the "Big Five" majors during that era as well. In two cases—Columbia and Universal—the studios were also considered majors, but in the next tier down, part of the "Little Three." In the sixth case, Walt Disney Studios was an independent production company during the Golden Age; it was an important Hollywood entity, but not a major.

Most of today's Big Six control subsidiaries with their own distribution networks that concentrate on arthouse pictures (e.g., Fox Searchlight) or genre films (e.g., Sony's Screen Gems); several of these specialty units were shut down or sold off between 2008 and 2010. The six major movie studios are contrasted with smaller movie production and/or distribution companies, which are known as independents or "indies". The leading independent producer/distributors—Lionsgate, Summit Entertainment, The Weinstein Company, Overture Films, and former major studio MGM—are sometimes referred to as "mini-majors". From 1998 through 2005, DreamWorks SKG commanded a large enough market share to arguably qualify it as a seventh major, despite its relatively small output and frequent reliance on outside distributors. In 2006, DreamWorks was acquired by Viacom, Paramount's corporate parent. In late 2008, DreamWorks once again became an independent production company; its films will be distributed by Disney.

The 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. The specialty divisions often simply acquire distribution rights to pictures with which the studio has had no prior involvement. While the majors do a modicum of true production, their activities are focused more in the areas of development, financing, marketing, and merchandising.


Today's Big Six

Conglomerate Parent division Major studio subsidiary Arthouse/"indie" distribution subsidiaries Genre/B movie distribution subsidiaries Other divisions and brands U.S./Can. market share (2009)[1]
Time Warner Warner Bros. Entertainment Warner Bros. Pictures New Line Cinema, HBO Films, Castle Rock Entertainment, Turner Entertainment, Warner Bros. Animation 20.1%1
News Corporation Fox Filmed Entertainment 20th Century Fox Fox Searchlight 20th Century Fox Animation, Fox Faith, New Regency (20% equity) 16.1%2
Viacom Paramount Motion Pictures Group Paramount Pictures Paramount Vantage Nickelodeon Movies, MTV Films 14.3%3
Sony Sony Pictures Entertainment Columbia Pictures Sony Pictures Classics Screen Gems TriStar Pictures, Sony Pictures Animation, Destination Films, Triumph Films, Stage 6 Films 14.1%4
The Walt Disney Company Walt Disney Motion Pictures Group Walt Disney Pictures/Touchstone Pictures (unified business with separate brands) Pixar Animation Studios, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Hollywood Pictures, ImageMovers Digital, Disneynature 11.9%5
General Electric / Vivendi SA NBC Universal Universal Studios Focus Features Universal Animation Studios 10.0%6

^1 Warner Bros.: 20.1% (Prev. totals: 2008—19.4% [primary—18.1%, subsidiaries—1.3%]; 2007—20.5% [primary—14.7%, subsidiaries—5.8%]; 2006—14.9%; 2005—21.7%; 2004—17.7%)
^2 20th Century Fox: 13.8%; Fox Searchlight 2.3% (Prev. totals: 2008—13.2% [primary—10.6%, subsidiaries—2.5%]; 2007—11.9% [primary—10.5%, subsidiaries—1.4%]; 2006—17.0%; 2005—16.5%; 2004—11.7%)
^3 Paramount: 13.7%; Paramount Vantage: 0.6% (Prev. totals: 2008—17.2% [primary—16.3%, subsidiaries—0.9%]; 2007—16.1% [primary—15.5%, subsidiaries—0.6%]; 2006—11.0%; 2005—9.8%; 2004—6.8%)
^4 Sony/Columbia: 13.4%; Sony Classics: 0.5%; Screen Gems: 0.3% (Prev. totals: 2008—13.4% [primary—11.1%, subsidiaries—2.3%]; 2007—13.4% [primary—12.9%, subsidiaries—0.5%]; 2006—19.3%; 2005—11.1%; 2004—16.8%)
^5 Disney: 11.4%; Miramax: 0.5% (Prev. totals: 2008—11.4% [primary—10.5%, subsidiaries—0.9%]; 2007—15.3% [primary—14.0%, subsidiaries—1.3%]; 2006—16.7%; 2005—14.6%; 2004—16.5%)
^6 Universal: 8.5%; Focus Features: 1.5% (Prev. totals: 2008—12.9% [primary—10.9%, subsidiaries—2.0%]; 2007—12.7% [primary—11.4%, subsidiaries—1.3%]; 2006—10.9%; 2005—13.2%; 2004—10.8%)

The "mini-majors"

Lions Gate Entertainment, which moved in 2006 from Vancouver, British Columbia, to Santa Monica, California, was the most successful North American movie studio based outside of the Los Angeles metropolitan area before its relocation. Now known as Lionsgate, it traces its roots back to the production company Lion's Gate Films, founded by director Robert Altman in the 1970s.[2] The studio controls the highly profitable Saw franchise.

Summit Entertainment, founded as an independent production and overseas sales company in 1996, was reconstituted as a full-fledged studio ten years later.[3] It saw its first major success with Twilight in autumn 2008, followed shortly after by its first Oscar-winning production, The Hurt Locker. Though it is based in Universal City and has a deal with Universal Studios for the distribution of home entertainment media,[4] Summit's ownership and theatrical distribution operation are fully independent.

MGM, after decades as a major studio, continues to distribute motion pictures and television content as a minor, privately held media company. In April 2005, it was purchased from Kirk Kerkorian's Tracinda Corporation by a consortium including Sony, cable company Comcast, Providence Equity Partners, and three other private investment firms. While Sony continues to hold a minority equity stake in the company, MGM has a deal with 20th Century Fox for the distribution of home video and overseas theatrical product.[5] MGM is also the majority shareholder of the latest incarnation of United Artists, whose other lead owners are Tom Cruise and Paula Wagner. Via its original 1981 merger with UA, MGM controls the rights to the James Bond franchise. Columbia codistributed the first two Bond films starring Daniel Craig after the 2005 purchase, but MGM will resume sole distribution control with the next film in the series.[6]

Overture Films, whose primary equity holder is Liberty Media, was founded in the fall of 2006. It released its first movie in January 2008;[7] by year's end, it was the fourth most successful independent studio.

The Weinstein Company was founded in late 2005 by brothers Harvey and Bob Weinstein after their departure from Miramax, which they had founded in 1979. In 1993, they sold control of Miramax to the Walt Disney Company, continuing to run the studio in quasi-independent fashion under the Disney umbrella. When the Weinsteins left Disney, they retained the right to the Dimension Films brand, which is used by The Weinstein Company (as it was by Miramax) for genre films. After the success of 1408, released in June 2007, the studio went two years without a hit.[8] It experienced several high-level executive defections in 2008, and announced major layoffs in November.[9] The Weinsteins have a long-standing relationship with Quentin Tarantino—all of the feature films he has directed through 2009 have been distributed either by Miramax, when it was led by the brothers, or The Weinstein Company. The successful release of his Inglourious Basterds in August 2009 was seen as a "turnaround" for the studio.[10]

DreamWorks SKG was founded in 1994 by Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and David Geffen. Once again independent after two-and-half years under the Viacom/Paramount corporate umbrella, it is now backed by India's Reliance ADA Group.[11] DreamWorks will not be a full-service studio—it will produce and finance films, but as it did for most its first era as an independent, it will arrange distribution through the majors. In February 2009, after dropping out of a deal with Universal, DreamWorks struck such a deal with Disney, though Paramount will continue to release the DreamWorks pictures developed there through the end of 2009.[12] Katzenberg, who is completely divested from the new DreamWorks, now runs DreamWorks Animation as a totally separate business. The company maintains a close-knit distribution deal with Paramount that runs through 2012.[13]

In 2007, CBS Corporation started a new movie division, CBS Films, focusing on star-driven projects with midrange budgets of $50 million or less.[14] The company released its first film, Extraordinary Measures, in January 2010.[15]

In 2009, Summit led the mini-majors with $480.4 million in total box office grosses, giving it a 4.5% market share. Lionsgate's $401.5 million in grosses gave it a 3.8% share. Two other companies commanded market shares greater than 1%: Weinstein/Dimension (2.0%) and Overture (1.5%).[16] In 2008, Lionsgate topped the mini-majors with $441.5 million in grosses, a 4.5% market share. Three other companies had over $100 million in box office grosses: Summit (2.4% market share), MGM/UA (1.7% market share), and Overture (1.1% market share).[17] In 2007, Lionsgate and MGM/UA were virtually tied for the position of most successful mini-major in terms of market share, each with 3.8%. No other independent studio had even a 1% market share.[18] In 2006, Lionsgate had a 3.6% market share, The Weinstein Company had a 2.5% market share, and MGM/UA had a 1.8% market share.[19] In 2005, the still independent DreamWorks SKG had 5.7% and Lionsgate had 3.2%. Of MGM/UA's four significant money-earners during 2005, it released three before its acquisition by the Sony-led consortium; MGM/UA's total market share for the year was 2.1%. The Weinstein Company, in its first three months of operation, gained 0.5% of the year's total market share.[20] In 2004, DreamWorks SKG had 10.0% (more than the Paramount Motion Pictures Group), Newmarket had 4.3% (due almost entirely to The Passion of the Christ), Lionsgate had 3.2%, and MGM/UA had 2.1%.[21]



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."[22] 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 studio that would soon be named Universal. 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. The first Hollywood major was in business.[23]

In 1916, a second powerful Hollywood studio was established when Adolph Zukor merged his Famous Players movie production house with the Jesse L. Lasky Company to form Famous Players–Lasky. The combined studio acquired Paramount Pictures as a distribution arm and eventually adopted its name. Paramount quickly surpassed Universal as Hollywood's dominant company. In 1916 as well, William Fox relocated his Fox Film Corporation from the East Coast to Hollywood and began expanding.[24] Between 1924, when Metro Pictures combined with Goldwyn Pictures and Louis B. Mayer Productions to form MGM (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer), and 1928, the year in which the U.S. film industry converted en masse to sound film, Hollywood had a Big Two: Paramount and Loew’s Incorporated, owner of America's largest theater circuit and parent company to MGM. Through 1927, the next three largest studios were Fox, Universal, and First National (founded in 1917). Propelled by the great success of The Jazz Singer (1927), the first important feature-length "talkie," small Warner Bros. (founded in 1919) quickly entered the big leagues and acquired First National in 1928. 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 (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 the "major-minors." Two—Universal and Columbia (founded in 1919)—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, 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.[25]

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 and all the smaller companies combined had a total of 5%. 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 and all the smaller companies combined had a total of 4%.[26]

The majors after the Golden Age


The end of the Golden Age had been signaled by the majors' loss of a 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.[27] 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, who had purchased a controlling interest in the studio in 1948. By the time Hughes sold it to the 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 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 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.[25]

The 1960s were marked by a spate of corporate takeovers. MCA, under Lew Wasserman, acquired Universal in 1962; 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 company preceded a 1969 purchase by 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. The majors almost entirely abandoned low-budget production during this era, bringing the annual average of features released down to 160.[25] The decade also saw an old name in the industry secure a position as a leading player. In 1923, Walt Disney had founded the Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio with his brother Roy and animator Ub Iwerks. Over the following three decades Disney became a powerful independent focusing on animation and, from the late 1940s, an increasing number of live-action movies. In 1954, the company—now Walt Disney Productions—established Buena Vista Film Distribution to handle its own product, which had been distributed for years by various majors, primarily United Artists and then RKO. (Disney's 1937 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, released by RKO, was the second biggest hit of the 1930s.) In its first year, Buena Vista had a major success with 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, the third biggest movie of 1954. In 1964, Buena Vista had its first blockbuster, 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 family movies meant that it was not generally considered a major.


The early 1970s were difficult years for all the majors. Movie attendance, which had been declining steadily since the Golden Age, hit an all-time low in 1971. In 1973, MGM president James T. Aubrey Jr. 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. The cutbacks, in the words of historian Joel Finler, "reduced the once proud studio to a Hollywood also-ran."[28] 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. 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.[25] The classic set of majors was shaken further in late 1980, when the disastrously expensive flop of 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 again declined. 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 brand and increasing attention to the adult market in the mid-1980s, Disney/Buena Vista secured acknowledgment as a full-fledged major. The two contenders were both newly formed companies. In 1978, Krim, Benjamin, and three other studio executives departed UA to found Orion Pictures as a joint venture with Warner Bros. It was announced optimistically as the "first major new film company in 50 years."[29] Tri-Star Pictures was created in 1982 as a joint venture of Columbia Pictures (then owned by Coca-Cola), HBO (then owned by Time Inc.), and CBS. In 1985, Rupert Murdoch's 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.

In 1986, the combined share of the six classic majors—at that point 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 Warners. 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%. 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%. As Finler wrote in his study The Hollywood Story (1988), "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."[26]


With the exception of MGM/UA—whose position was effectively filled by Disney—the old-established studios did bounce back. The purchase of Fox by Murdoch's News Corp. presaged a new round of corporate acquisitions. Between 1989 and 1994, Paramount, Warners, Columbia, and Universal all changed ownership in a series of conglomerate purchases and mergers that brought them new financial and marketing muscle. 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, the Weinsteins' Miramax, and DreamWorks SKG, were likewise sooner or later brought into the majors' fold, though DreamWorks is 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 (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, 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 totalling 2.3%.[30]

Only one of the major studios changed corporate hands during the first decade of the 2000s, though it did so twice: 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.[31] In 2008 as well, Paramount Vantage's production, marketing, and distribution departments were folded into the parent studio,[32] though as of early 2010, the studio still identifies Paramount Vantage as a distinct release unit.[33] Universal sold off its genre specialty division, Rogue Pictures, to Relativity Media in 2009.[34] In January 2010, Disney closed down Miramax.[35]

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):

Columbia Pictures

  • independent as CBC Film Sales, 1919–1924 (founded by Harry Cohn, Joe Brandt, and Jack Cohn)
  • independent, 1924–1982 (company changes name; goes public in 1926)
  • Coca-Cola, 1982–1987 (purchased by Coca-Cola; Tri-Star Pictures, a joint venture with HBO and CBS initiated in 1982—CBS drops out in 1984)
  • independent as Columbia/Tri-Star (or Columbia Pictures Entertainment), 1987–1989 (divested by Coca-Cola; also in 1987, HBO drops out of Tri-Star, which merges with Columbia)
  • Sony, 1989–present (purchased by Sony)

20th Century-Fox

Warner Bros.

Paramount Pictures

Universal Pictures

  • Independent, 1912–1946 (founded as public company via merger of Carl Laemmle's Independent Motion Picture Co., Pat Powers's Powers Picture Co., Adam Kessel and Charles Baumann's Bison Life Motion Pictures, Mark Dintenfass's Champion Film Co., William Swanson's Rex Picture Co., and the Nestor Film Co.)
  • independent as Universal-International, 1946–1952 (merges with International Pictures)
  • Decca, 1952–1962 (purchased by Decca)
  • MCA, 1962–1990 (MCA purchases Decca)
  • Matsushita Electric, 1990–1995 (Matsushita purchases MCA)
  • Seagram, 1995–2000 (purchased by Seagram from Matsushita)
  • Vivendi, 2000–2004 (Vivendi purchases Seagram)
  • General Electric, 2004–present (purchased by GE from Vivendi and merged with NBC to form NBC Universal)


  • Loew's Incorporated, 1924–1959 (founded via merger of Loew's-owned Metro Pictures with Goldwyn Pictures and Louis B. Mayer Productions; controlling interest in Loew's purchased by William Fox in 1929; Fox forced to sell off interest in 1930; operational control ceded by Loew's to studio management in 1954)
  • independent, 1959–1981 (fully divested by Loew's; purchased by Edgar Bronfman Sr. in 1967; purchased by Kirk Kerkorian in 1969)
  • independent as MGM/UA, 1981–1992 (United Artists purchased by Kerkorian and merged into MGM; purchased by Ted Turner in 1986; repurchased by Kerkorian seventy-four days later; purchased by Giancarlo Parretti in 1990)
  • Crédit Lyonnais, 1992–1997 (foreclosed upon by bank after Parretti defaulted)
  • Tracinda Corporation, 1997–2005 (repurchased by Kerkorian)
  • Sony/Comcast/4 private equity firms, 2005–present (purchased by Sony, Comcast, and private investment firms—Providence Equity Partners, in fact, currently owns the greatest number of shares—and privately held as a minor media company independent of Sony/Columbia)

United Artists (merged into MGM)

RKO Radio Pictures (defunct 1960–80, dormant 1993–97)

  • RCA/investment consortium, 1928–1935 (founded as public company via merger of Film Booking Offices of America studio and Keith-Albee-Orpheum theater chain; majority ownership by RCA from ca. 1930)
  • independent, 1935–1955 (half of RCA's interest purchased by Floyd Odlum, control split between RCA, Odlum, and Rockefeller brothers; controlling interest purchased by Odlum in 1942; controlling interest purchased by Howard Hughes in 1948; Hughes interest purchased by Stolkin-Koolish-Ryan-Burke-Corwin syndicate in 1952; interest repurchased by Hughes in 1953; fully purchased by Hughes in 1954)
  • 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, 1989–present (split off from Six Flags, purchased by Dina Merrill and Ted Hartley, and merged with Pavilion Communications; no films produced or distributed from 1993 through 1997)

Other significant, formerly independent entities

  • Artisan Entertainment – Purchased in 2003 by Lions Gate Entertainment
  • Castle Rock Entertainment – Purchased in 1994 by Turner Broadcasting System; TBS in 1996 merged with Time Warner
  • DreamWorks SKG – Purchased in 2006 by Viacom (parent company of Paramount); became independent again in 2008
  • The Samuel Goldwyn Company – Purchased in 1996 by John Kluge/Metromedia International; purchased in 1997 by MGM
  • Miramax Films – Purchased in 1993 by the Walt Disney Company
  • New Line Cinema – Purchased in 1994 by Turner Broadcasting System; TBS in 1996 merged with Time Warner; merged into Warner in 2008 as an in-name-only film distributor
  • October Films – Purchased in 1997 by Universal; purchased in 1999 by Barry Diller and merged with Gramercy Pictures into USA Films; USA in 2001 acquired by Vivendi (then parent company of Universal) and merged with Good Machine and Universal Focus into Focus Features
  • Orion Pictures – Purchased in 1988 by Kluge/Metromedia; purchased in 1997 by MGM
  • Pixar – Purchased in 1986 by Steve Jobs; purchased in 2006 by the Walt Disney Company
  • Tri-Star Pictures – Consolidated in 1987 into Columbia (one of the partners in the joint venture that created it)

See also


  1. ^ "Market Share for Each Distributor in 2009". The Numbers/Nash Information Services. 2010. Retrieved 2010-01-19.  For previous years' data in section notes, see "Market Share for Each Distributor in 2008". The Numbers/Nash Information Services. 2009. Retrieved 2010-01-19.  Studio Market Share (2007), Studio Market Share (2006), Studio Market Share (2005), and Studio Market Share (2004). Retrieved March 3, 2009.
  2. ^ Cook (2000), p. 97.
  3. ^ Barnes, Brooks (2008-11-19). "For Studio, Vampire Movie Is a Cinderella Story". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-12-19. 
  4. ^ "Summit Entertainment Announces Distribution Agreement with Universal Studios". Summit Entertainment. 2007-05-16. Retrieved 2008-12-19. 
  5. ^ Halbfinger, David M. (2008-06-08). "MGM: A Lion or a Lamb?". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-09-29. 
  6. ^ Barnes, Brooks, and Michael Cieply (2008-11-16). "A Studio, a Star, a Fateful Bet". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-12-19. 
  7. ^ Halbfinger, David M. (2008-01-10). "An Upstart in Films With Many Fast Moves". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-09-29. 
  8. ^ Teodorczuk, Tom (2008-07-25). "Weinsteins' Hollywood Star Begins to Fade". Telegraph.'-Hollywood-star-begins-to-fade.html. Retrieved 2008-12-19.  Segal, David (2009-08-16). "Weinsteins Struggle to Regain Their Touch". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-08-16. 
  9. ^ Goldstein, Gregg (2008-11-21). "Weinstein Co. Lets Go of 24". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2008-12-19. 
  10. ^ Barnes, Brooks (2009-08-23). "Brad Pitt Pulls Them In at the Box Office". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-08-25. 
  11. ^ Thompson, Anne, and Tatiana Siegel (2008-09-19). "DreamWorks, Reliance Close Deal". Variety. Retrieved 2008-12-23. 
  12. ^ Graser, Marc, and Tatiana Siegel (2009-02-09). "Disney Signs Deal with DreamWorks". Variety. Retrieved 2009-02-14. 
  13. ^ Fritz, Ben (2008-09-26). "DreamWorks Toons Stay Put". Variety. Retrieved 2008-12-23. 
  14. ^ Siegel, Tatiana (2009-05-15). "CBS Tackles Feature Films". Variety. Retrieved 2010-01-19. 
  15. ^ Barnes, Brooks (2010-01-18). "With New Films, CBS Charts Tough Middle Course". New York Times. Retrieved 2010-01-19. 
  16. ^ "Market Share for Each Distributor in 2009". The Numbers/Nash Information Services. 2010. Retrieved 2010-01-19. 
  17. ^ "Market Share for Each Distributor in 2008". The Numbers/Nash Information Services. 2009. Retrieved 2010-01-19. 
  18. ^ Studio Market Share (2007) part of Retrieved August 9, 2009 (with Premier Pass allowing access to data of all distributors, rather than universally accessible top 12).
  19. ^ Studio Market Share (2006) part of Retrieved May 14, 2007 (with Premier Pass allowing access to data of all distributors, rather than universally accessible top 12).
  20. ^ Studio Market Share (2005) part of Retrieved May 14, 2007 (with Premier Pass allowing access to data of all distributors, rather than universally accessible top 12).
  21. ^ Studio Market Share (2004) part of Retrieved May 14, 2007 (with Premier Pass allowing access to data of all distributors, rather than universally accessible top 12).
  22. ^ Hirschhorn (1983), p. 9.
  23. ^ Hirschhorn (1983), p. 11.
  24. ^ Thomas and Solomon (1985), p. 12
  25. ^ a b c d Finler (1988), p. 280.
  26. ^ a b Finler (1988), p. 35.
  27. ^ Hirschhorn (1983), p. 157.
  28. ^ Finler (1988), p. 119.
  29. ^ Cook (2000), p. 319.
  30. ^ Studio Market Share (2006) part of Retrieved May 20, 2007.
  31. ^ Hayes, Dade, and Dave McNary (2008-05-08). "Picturehouse, WIP to Close Shop". Variety. Retrieved 2009-01-18. 
  32. ^ Goldsmith, Jill, and Tatiana Siegel (2008-12-04). "Viacom Lays Off 850 Staffers". Variety. Retrieved 2009-02-23. 
  33. ^ "Paramount Vantage Acquires Worldwide Rights". Paramount. 2010-01-22.®-winning-documentarian-davis-gu. Retrieved 2010-01-31. 
  34. ^ Borys, Kit (2009-01-04). "Relativity Completes Rogue Acquisition". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2009-08-09. 
  35. ^ Waxman, Sharon (2010-01-27). "Miramax Dies: Rest in Peace". The Wrap. Retrieved 2010-01-31. 


  • 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). ISBN 0-520-23265-8
  • Eames, John Douglas (1985). The Paramount Story (New York: Crown). ISBN 0-517-55348-1
  • Finler, Joel W. (1988). The Hollywood Story (New York: Crown). ISBN 0-517-56576-5
  • Hirschhorn, Clive (1983). The Universal Story (London: Crown). ISBN 0-517-55001-6
  • Hirschhorn, Clive (1999). The Columbia Story (London: Hamlyn). ISBN 0-600-59836-5
  • Jewell, Richard B., with Vernon Harbin (1982). The RKO Story (New York: Arlington House/Crown). ISBN 0-517-54656-6
  • Schatz, Thomas (1998 [1989]). The Genius of the System: Hollywood Filmmaking in the Studio Era (London: Faber and Faber). ISBN 0-571-19596-2
  • Thomas, Tony, and Aubrey Solomon (1985). The Films of 20th Century-Fox (Secaucus, N.J.: Citadel). ISBN 0-8065-0958-9

Simple English

The Big Ten are the United States's ten major movie production studios. Most of them have their offices in Hollywood.

The Big Six are the group of major companies who own them.

The studios


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