20th Century Fox

20th Century Fox With roots dating to 1915, this studio is now part of the global media empire of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, whose roots are in Australia. Corporate siblings include the Fox television network. James Cameron’s blockbuster Avatar was co- produced by a consortium of three studios, including 20th Century Fox, to share the risk of the high-budget project. Cameron’s earlier film Titanic was a partnership between Paramount and 20th Century Fox, also to share the risk.

Universal In 2013, the cable television giant Comcast finalized a deal whereby it acquired the controlling share of Universal, along with the NBC television network and other media properties, from General Electric.

Warner Founded in 1918, Warner Bros. became part of the Time Inc. media empire in a 1989 acquisition, prompting the parent company to rename itself Time Warner. The company produces and distributes movies and television programs mostly through units carrying the Warner name but also the names Castle Rock, New Line, and Lorimar.

Independents Besides the major studios that dominate Hollywood, independent studios and producers have generally come and go—often with a single breakthrough film, then not much that attracts attention. The term independent may be misleading as these indies have frequently leaned on majors for financing. Also, there are no suitable options for distribution other than through the corporate siblings and subsidiaries of the major studios. The history of independents is that those that establish a track record end up being acquired by a major studio. One exception is what happened to The Weinstein Company, which has had string of successes, including The King’s Speech, Inglourious Basterds, Django Unchained, and Silver Linings Playbook.

Indie Studios Acquired by Major Studios

United Artists Unhappy with profit-obsessed studios limiting their creativity, friends Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, D. W. Griffith, and Mary Pickford broke away in 1919. They created United Artists (UA). With full creative control, they produced movies that scored well among critics and attracted huge audiences. United Artists has been among only a few movie companies that defied the big studios to make a long-term mark on Hollywood. It was bought by Transamerica Insurance, overspent on films such as Michael Cimino’s big-budget Heaven’s Gate in 1980, and in 1981, it was acquired by MGM/UA. In 2014, MGM holdings purchased UA.

DreamWorks In the United Artists spirit, three Hollywood legends—David Geffen, Jeff Katzenberg, and Steven Spielberg—founded a new studio, DreamWorks, in 1994. The three founders were well-connected and seasoned Hollywood people, each with a fortune from successful entertainment industry careers. They were called the Hollywood dream team. Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan in 1998 established an early DreamWorks benchmark for film excellence. Then came Gladiator, named 2000’s best picture at the Academy Awards. Like most upstarts, even the most successful ones, DreamWorks has disappeared. Geffen, Katzenberg, and Spielberg sold the enterprise in 2005 to Paramount for $1.6 billion.

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