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Republic Entertainment, Inc.
Type subsidiary
Founded 1935
Owner(s) Viacom
Parent Paramount Motion Pictures Group

Republic Pictures was (and still is, in-name-only) an independent film production-distribution corporation with studio facilities, operating from 1934 through 1959 and best known for its specialization in quality westerns, movie serials and B films emphasizing mystery and action.

They were also responsible for financing one Shakespeare film, Orson Welles's Macbeth, and several of the films of John Ford during the 1940s and early 1950s, and for developing the careers and star-status of John Wayne and Gene Autry.

Contents

Corporate History

DVD front cover for The Adventures of Captain Marvel film serial (1941), the most celebrated of Republic's serials.

Created in 1935 by Herbert J. Yates, a longtime investor in film and music properties and founder and president of Consolidated Film Industries, Republic was the result of a union of six smaller Poverty Row studios.

In the depths of the 1930s depression, Yates's laboratory was servicing many poverty-row studios. In 1935 Yates saw a chance to become a production head himself. Six established poverty-row companies (Monogram, Mascot, Liberty, Majestic, Chesterfield, and Invincible) were all dependent on Yates's lab. Yates prevailed upon his clients to merge under his leadership (or otherwise face foreclosure on outstanding lab bills). Yates's new company, Republic Pictures Corporation, was established as a collaborative enterprise focused on low-budget product.

The largest of Republic's components was Monogram Pictures, run by Trem Carr and W. Ray Johnston, specializing in "B" films, and controlling a nation-wide distribution system. The most advanced technically was Nat Levine's Mascot Pictures Corporation, which had been making serials almost exclusively since the mid-1920s and had a first-class production facility, the former Mack Sennett-Keystone lot in Studio City. Mascot also had just discovered Gene Autry and signed him to a contract as a singing cowboy star. Larry Darmour's Majestic Pictures had developed a following, with big-name stars and rented sets giving his humble productions a polished look. Republic took its original "Liberty Bell" logo from M. H. Hoffman's Liberty Films (not to be confused with Frank Capra's short-lived Liberty Films that produced his It's a Wonderful Life, ironically now owned by Republic), Chesterfield Pictures and Invincible Pictures, two sister companies under the same ownership, were skilled in producing low budget melodramas and mysteries. Acquiring these six companies allowed Republic to begin life with a skilled production staff, a company of experienced B-film supporting players and at least one highly promising star, a complete distribution system, and a functioning studio. In exchange for merging, the principals were promised independence in their productions under the Republic aegis, and higher budgets with which to improve the quality of the films.

After he had "learned the ropes" of film production and distribution from his partners, Yates began asserting more and more authority over "their" film departments, and dissension arose in the ranks. Carr and Johnston left and reactivated Monogram Pictures; Darmour resumed independent production for Columbia Pictures; Levine left and never recovered from the loss of his studio, staff, and stars, all of whom now were contracted to Republic and Yates. Freed of partners, Yates presided over what was now "his" film studio and acquiring senior production and management staff who would serve him as employees, not experienced peers with independent ideas and agendas.

Republic also acquired Brunswick Records to record their singing cowboys Gene Autry and Roy Rogers and hired Cy Feuer as head of their music department. [1]

Types of films

In its early years Republic was itself sometimes labeled a "poverty row" company as its primary product were B movies and serials. Republic, however, showed more interest in, and provided larger budgets to, these films than many of the larger studios were doing, and certainly more than other independents were able to. The heart of the company was its B-westerns, and many western-film leads, among them John Wayne, Gene Autry, Rex Allen, and Roy Rogers, became recognizable stars at Republic. However, by the mid-1940s Yates was producing better-quality pictures, even mounting big-budget fare like The Quiet Man, Sands of Iwo Jima, Johnny Guitar, and The Maverick Queen

From the mid-1940s, Republic films often featured Vera Hruba Ralston, a former Czechoslovakian ice-skater who had won the heart of the studio boss, becoming the second Mrs. Yates in 1949. She was originally featured in musicals as Republic's answer to Sonja Henie, but Yates tried to build her up as a dramatic star, casting her in leading roles opposite important male stars. Yates billed her as "the most beautiful woman in films," but her charms were lost on the moviegoing public, and exhibitors complained that Republic was making too many Ralston pictures. Years later, John Wayne allowed that the reason he left Republic in 1952 was the threat of having to make another picture - he had endured two - with Miss Ralston. Yates remained Ralston's biggest supporter, and she continued to appear in Republic features until its very last production.

Although Republic made most of its films in black and white, it occasionally would produce a higher-budget film, such as The Red Pony (1949) and The Quiet Man (1952) in Technicolor. During the late 1940s and 1950s, Yates utilized a low-cost Cinecolor process called Trucolor in many of his films, notably Johnny Guitar (1954), The Last Command, and Magic Fire (1956).

Republic produced many "hillbilly" and rural musicals and comedies featuring Bob Burns, the Weaver Brothers, and Judy Canova that were popular in various areas of the United States.[2]

With production costs increasing, Yates organised Republic's output into four types of films, "Jubilee" usually a Western filmed in seven days for about $50,000, "Anniversary" filmed in fourteen to fifteen days for $175,000 to $200,000, "Deluxe" that were major films made by Republic's crew for a budget of around $500,000 and "Premiere" that featured major directors who did not usually work for Republic that could feature a budget of a million dollars.[3] Some of these were from independent production companies that were picked up for release by Republic.

In the television era

Republic was one of the first Hollywood studios to offer its film library to television. In 1951 Republic established a subsidiary, Hollywood Television Service, to sell screening rights in its vintage westerns and action thrillers. Hollywood Television Service also produced television shows filmed in the same style as Republic's serials such as The Adventures of Fu Manchu (1956). Also, in 1952 the Republic studio lot became the first home of MCA's series factory, Revue Productions. While it would appear that Republic was well suited for television-series production, it did not have the finances or vision to do so. Yet by the mid-fifties, thanks to its sale of old features and leasing of studio space to MCA, television was the prop holding up Republic Pictures. During this period, Republic produced Commando Cody: Sky Marshal of the Universe; unsuccessful as a theater release, the 12-part serial was later sold to NBC for television distribution. Talent-agent MCA exerted influence at the studio, bringing some high-paid clients in for occasional features, and it was rumored at various times that either MCA or deposed MGM head Louis B. Mayer would buy the studio outright. From 1954-1955, Republic produced Stories of the Century, starring and narrated by Jim Davis. The syndicated series was the first western to win an Emmy Award.

As the demand and market for B-pictures declined, Republic began to cut back, slowing production from 40 features annually in the early 1950s to 18 in 1957. A tearful Herbert Yates informed shareholders at the 1958 annual meeting that feature-film production was ending; the distribution offices were shut down the following year. In the early 1960s, Republic sold its library of films to National Telefilm Associates (NTA). Having used the studio for series production for years, CBS bought Republic's studio lot; today it is known as CBS Studio Center, and in 2006 became home to the network's Los Angeles stations, KCBS-TV and KCAL-TV. In 2008, the CBS Network relocated from its Hollywood Television City Location to the Radford lot. All network executives now reside on the lot.

The studio's parent company, Republic Corporation, survived for some years on Yates's other interests, among them Consolidated Film Laboratories and the manufacture of household appliances. Other than producing a 1966 package of 26 "Century 66" 100 minute made-for-TV movies edited from some of the Republic serials to cash in on the popularity of the Batman television series, its role in Hollywood ended with the sale of the studio lot.

Aftermath

During the early 1980s, NTA re-syndicated most of the Republic film library for use by then-emerging cable television, and by 1986 found itself so successful with these product lines that it bought the Republic Pictures name and logo. A television-production unit was set up under the Republic name, and offered, among other things, the CBS series Beauty and the Beast and game show Press Your Luck (the rights to the latter series have since reverted to FremantleMedia). There were also a few theatrical films, including Freeway, Ruby in Paradise, and Bound. The "new" Republic also began marketing the original's serial library on videotape.

In 1993, Republic won a landmark legal decision reactivating the copyright on Frank Capra's 1946 RKO film It's a Wonderful Life; (under NTA, they had already acquired the film's negative, music score, and the story on which it was based, "The Greatest Gift").

In 1994, Spelling Entertainment (headed by Aaron Spelling) acquired Republic Pictures. Soon after, Spelling consolidated its many divisions, reducing Republic Pictures to a marketing brand-name. Republic's video division shut down in 1995, allowing the video rights to the Republic library to be leased to Artisan Entertainment, while the library itself continued to be released under the Republic name and logo. By the end of the decade, Viacom bought the portion of Spelling it did not own previously, thus Republic became a wholly owned division of Paramount. Artisan (later sold to Lions Gate Home Entertainment) continued to use the Republic name, logo, and library under license from Paramount.

Republic Pictures' holdings consists of a catalog of 3,000 films and TV series, including:

Today, as a result of the Viacom/CBS corporate split of 2006, Republic's holdings are divided. CBS Television Studios owns most ancillary rights to Republic's television output (while sharing the copyrights with Republic themselves), while the theatrical side is owned outright by Viacom's Paramount Pictures. As of 2009, television distribution of the Republic theatrical films is by Trifecta Entertainment & Media (under license from Paramount).

Lions Gate Home Entertainment's home video rights initially expired in late 2005, but have since regained video rights to Republic's theatrical film library (except It's a Wonderful Life--the video rights to that and several other films, as well as Republic's TV library now are with Paramount Home Entertainment, with the TV shows released through the CBS DVD label). Paramount handles internet distribution of the Republic films via iTunes.

As of 2008, Republic remains an in-name-only distribution company under Paramount Motion Pictures Group, a division of Viacom.

Outside the US, video rights to the Republic film library are divided. For example, Universal Studios Home Entertainment owns the UK rights (they also own UK DVD rights to the TV series Twin Peaks, despite other Spelling/Republic shows being distributed by Paramount there), and Paramount themselves handles distribution in Latin America and Australia.

By 2010, Republic Pictures will have celebrated its 75th Anniversary.

Notable Republic Pictures

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1930s and 1940s

1950s

1990s

Republic Serials

References

  • Mathis, Jack Republic Confidential Volume One The Studio and Republic Confidential Volume Two The Players (1992) Empire Publishing Company

Notes

  1. ^ Feuer, Cy and Gross, Ken I Got The Show Right Here: The Amazing, True Story of How an Obscure Brooklyn Horn Player Became the Last Great Broadway Showman Simon & Schuster 2003
  2. ^ p.161 Harkins, Anthony Hillbilly: A Cultural History of an American Icon" 2005 Oxford University Press
  3. ^ p.276 Roberts, Randy & Olson, James Stewart John Wayne: American 1997 University of Nebraska Press

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