Paramount Pictures Corporation is an American motion picture production and distribution company, based in Hollywood, California. It has become the longest-running movie studio ever, running for 94 years. It is controlled by Viacom.
Paramount Pictures Inc. can trace its beginnings to the creation in May, 1912, of the Famous Players Film Company. Founder Adolph Zukor, who had been an early investor in nickelodeons, saw that movies appealed mainly to working-class immigrants. With partners Daniel Frohman and Charles Frohman he planned to offer feature-length films that would appeal to the middle class by featuring the leading theatrical players of the time. By mid-1913, Famous Players had completed five films, and Zukor was on his way to success.
That same year, another aspiring producer, Jesse L. Lasky, opened his "Lasky Feature Play Company" with money borrowed from his brother-in-law, Samuel Goldfish (later to be known as Samuel Goldwyn.) As their first employee, the Lasky company hired a stage director with no film experience, Cecil B. DeMille, who would find a suitable location-site in Hollywood, near Los Angeles for his first film, The Squaw Man.
Beginning in 1914, both Lasky and Famous Players released their films through a start-up company, "Paramount Pictures". Organized early that year by a Utah theater-owner, W. W. Hodkinson, who had bought and merged several smaller firms, Paramount was the first successful nation-wide distributor. Until this time films were sold on a state-wide or regional basis; not only was this inefficient, but it had proved costly to film producers.
Soon the ambitious Zukor, un-used to taking a secondary role, began courting Hodkinson and Lasky. In 1916, Zukor maneuvered a three-way merger of his Famous Players, the Lasky company, and Paramount. The new company, "Famous Players-Lasky", grew quickly, with Lasky and his partners Goldfish and DeMille running the production side, Hodkinson in charge of distribution, and Zukor making great plans. With only the exhibitor-owned First National as a rival, Famous Players-Lasky and its 'Paramount Pictures' soon dominated the business.
Zukor believed in stars - after all, he had begun by offering "Famous Players in Famous Plays," as his first slogan put it. He signed and developed many of the leading early stars, among them Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Gloria Swanson, Rudolph Valentino and Wallace Reid. With so many important players, Paramount was able to introduce "block-booking", which meant that an exhibitor who wanted a particular star's films had to buy a years'-worth of other Paramount productions. It was this system which gave Paramount a leading position in the 1920s and 1930s, but which led the government to pursue it on anti-trust grounds for more than twenty years.
The driving force behind Paramount's rise was Zukor. All through the 'teens and 'twenties, he built a mighty theatrical chain of nearly 2,000 screens, ran two production studios, and became an early investor in radio, taking a 50% interest in the new Columbia Broadcasting System in 1928. By acquiring the successful Balaban & Katz chain in 1926, he gained the services of both Barney Balaban, who became Paramount's president, and Sam Katz, who ran the Paramount-Publix theater chain. Zukor also hired independent producer B.P. Schulberg, an un-erring eye for new talent, to run the west-coast studio. In 1927, Famous Players-Lasky took on the name Paramount-Famous Lasky Corportation. Three years later, because of the importance of the Publix theater chain, it was later known as Paramount-Publix Corporation.
1916 publicity photo for the takeover of Paramount Pictures. (L to R) Jesse L. Lasky, Adolph Zukor, Samuel Goldwyn, Cecil B. DeMille, Al Kaufman
Eventually Zukor shed most of his early partners, the Frohman brothers, Hodkinson and Goldfish/Goldwyn were out by 1917 while Lasky hung on until 1932, when, blamed for the near-collapse of Paramount in the depression years, he too was tossed out. Zukor's over-expansion and use of over-valued Paramount stock for purchases led the company into receivership in 1933. A bank-mandated reorganization team, led by John Hertz and Otto Kahn kept the company intact, and miraculously, kept Zukor on. He was bumped up to an honorary 'chairman emeritus' role in 1935, while Barney Balaban became chairman. When the company emerged from bankruptcy, it was known as Paramount Pictures, Inc.
As always, Paramount films continued to emphasize stars; in the 1920s there were Swanson, Valentino and Clara Bow. By the 1930s, talkies brought in a range of powerful new draws: Marlene Dietrich, Mae West, Gary Cooper, Claudette Colbert, the Marx Brothers, Dorothy Lamour, Carole Lombard, and Bing Crosby among them. In this period Paramount can truly be described as a movie factory, turning out sixty and seventy pictures a year. Such were the benefits of having a huge theater chain to fill, and of block-booking to persuade other chains to go along.
Paramount's cartoon division was also a big success because of two major characters: Popeye The Sailor and Betty Boop. Fleischer Studios put out both cartoons until 1942, then Famous Studios took over both cartoons.
In 1940, Paramount agreed to a government-instituted consent decree: block-booking and 'pre-selling' (the practice of collecting up-front money for films not yet in production) would end. Immediately Paramount cut back on production, from sixty-plus pictures to a more modest twenty annually in the war years. Still, with more new stars (like Bob Hope, Alan Ladd and Betty Hutton), and with war-time attendance at astronomical numbers, Paramount and the other integrated studio-theater combines made more money than ever. At this, the Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department decided to re-open their case against the five integrated studios. This led to the Supreme Court decision of 1948 which broke up Adolph Zukor's amazing creation.
The 1950s to the 1970s
As movie attendance declined after World War II, Paramount and the others struggled to keep the audience. Hovering nearby were the Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department, still pursuing restraint-of-trade allegations. This case finally came before the Supreme Court as U.S. vs. Paramount Pictures, et al., and in May, 1948, the court agreed with the government, finding restraint of competition, and calling for the separation of production and exhibition. Paramount was split in two, with the 1,500-screen theater chain handed to the new United Paramount Theaters on December 31, 1949. Cash-rich and controlling prime downtown real estate, UPT-head Leonard Goldenson began looking for investments; barred from film-making, he acquired the struggling ABC in February, 1953.
Paramount Pictures had been an early backer of television, launching experimental stations in 1939 in Los Angeles (later to become KTLA) and Chicago's WBKB. It was also an early investor in the pioneer DuMont Laboratories and through that, the DuMont Television Network, but because of anti-trust concerns after the 1948 ruling, proved to be a timid and obstructionist partner, refusing to aid DuMont as it sank in the mid-1950s.
With the loss of the theater chain, Paramount Pictures went into a decline, cutting studio-backed production, releasing its contract players, and making production deals with independents. By the mid-1950s, all the great names were gone; only C.B. DeMille, associated with Paramount since 1913, kept making pictures in the grand old style. Like some other studios, Paramount saw little value in its film library. When the talent agency MCA, then wielding major influence on Paramount policy, offered $50 million for 750 pre-1948 features (with payment to be spread over many years), it was thought that Paramount had made the best possible deal. To address anti-trust concerns, MCA set up a separate company, EMKA, Ltd., to peddle these films to television. MCA later admitted that over the next forty years it took in more than a billion dollars in rentals of these supposedly worthless pictures.
The Paramount cartoons and shorts went to various television distributors, with U.M.&M. T.V. Corp. acquiring the majority of the cartoons and live action short subjects made before 1951. The Popeye cartoons were sold to Associated Artists Productions. The Superman cartoons went to Motion Pictures for Television, producers of the Superman television series. The rest of the cartoons made from 1950-1962, were sold to Harvey Comics. Except for the Superman cartoons and the features sold to Universal, most television prints of these films have had their titles refilmed to remove most traces of their connection to Paramount.
By the early 1960s Paramount's future was doubtful. The high-risk movie business was wobbly; the theater chain was long gone; investments in DuMont and in early pay-television came to nothing. Even the flagship Paramount building in Times Square was sold to raise cash, as was KTLA (sold to Gene Autry in 1964 for a then-phenomenal $12.5 million). Founding-father Adolph Zukor, born in 1873, was still chairman emeritus; he referred to chairman Barney Balaban (born 1888) as 'the boy'. Such aged leadership was incapable of keeping up with the changing times, and in 1966, a sinking Paramount was sold to the Charles Bluhdorn's industrial conglomerate Gulf and Western Industries. Bluhdorn immediately put his stamp on the studio, installing a virtually unknown producer, Robert Evans, as head of production. Despite some rough times, Evans held the job for eight years, restoring Paramount's reputation for commercial success with The Odd Couple, Love Story, Rosemary's Baby and The Godfather.
Gulf and Western Industries also bought the neighboring Desilu television studio (once the lot of RKO Pictures) from Lucille Ball in 1967. Using Desilu's established shows like Star Trek, Mission: Impossible and Mannix as a foot in the door at the networks, Paramount Television eventually became known as a specialist in half-hour situation comedies.
Robert Evans quit as head of production in 1974; his successor Richard Sylbert, was too literary and tasteful for G+W's Bluhdorn. By 1976, a new, television-trained team was in place: Barry Diller, and his 'killer-Dillers,' associates Michael Eisner, Jeffrey Katzenberg and Don Simpson. The specialty now was simpler, 'high concept' pictures like Saturday Night Fever, and Grease. With his television background, Diller kept pitching an idea of his to the board: a fourth commercial network. But the board, and Bluhdorn, wouldn't bite. Neither would Bluhdorn's successor, Martin Davis. When Bluhdorn died unexpectedly, Davis dumped all of G+W's industrial, mining, and sugar-growing subsidiaries and refocused the company, renaming it Paramount Communications. Diller took his fourth-network idea with him when he moved to Twentieth Century-Fox in 1984, where the new proprietor, Rupert Murdoch, was a more interested listener.
Paramount Pictures was unconnected to Paramount Records, until it purchased the rights to use Paramount Records' name (but not its catalogue) in the late 1960s. The Paramount name was used for soundtrack albums and some pop re-issues from the Dot Records catalogue. Paramount had acquired the pop-oriented Dot in 1958, but by 1970 Dot had become an all-country label . In 1974, Paramount sold all of its record holdings to ABC Records, which in turn was sold to MCA in 1978.
Paramount film Intro
From the 1980s to the present day
Paramount's successful run of lightweight pictures extended into the 1980s and 1990s, generating hits like Flashdance, the Friday the 13th slasher series; Raiders of the Lost Ark and its sequels; Beverly Hills Cop and a string of films starring comedian Eddie Murphy; and the Star Trek features. While the emphasis was decidedly on the commercial, there were occasional quality efforts like Atlantic City and Forrest Gump. During this period responsibility for running the studio passed from Eisner and Katzenberg to Don Simpson to Stanley Jaffe and Sherry Lansing and, late in 2005, Brad Grey. More so than most, Paramount's slate of films included many remakes and television spinoffs; while sometimes commercially successful, there have been few compelling films of the kind that once made Paramount the industry leader.
With the influx of cash from the sale of G+W's industrial properties in the mid-1980s, Paramount bought a string of television stations and KECO Entertainment's theme park operations, renaming them Paramount Parks. In 1993, Sumner Redstone's entertainment conglomerate Viacom made a bid for Paramount; this quickly escalated into a bidding war with Barry Diller. But Viacom prevailed, ultimately paying $10 billion for the Paramount holdings. In 1995, Viacom and Chris-Craft Industries' United Television launched United Paramount Network (UPN), fulfilling Diller's 1970s plan for a Paramount network. In 1999 Viacom bought out United Television's interests, and handed responsibility for the shaky UPN to its more-established CBS unit.
Reflecting in part the troubles of the broadcasting business, Viacom announced early in 2005 that it would split itself in two. The split was completed in January 2006. The CBS television and radio networks, the Infinity radio-station chain (now called CBS Radio), the Paramount Television production unit (now called CBS Paramount Television) and UPN (which will soon be The CW Television Network in a joint venture with rival, Time Warner's Warner Bros.) are part of CBS Corporation. Paramount Pictures is now lumped in with MTV, BET, and the New Viacom's other highly profitable cable channels.
Through a series of mergers and acquistitions, many of Paramount's early cartoons, shorts, and feature films are owned by numerous entities. The cartoons and shorts that were sold to U.M.&M. in 1956 have been reacquired by Paramount Pictures, following Viacom's purchase of Republic Pictures. EMKA/NBC Universal owns 750 of Paramount's pre-1948 sound features, except for a few feature films that either ended up in U.M.&M./NTA's posession, or had been retained by Paramount due to other rights issues (such as The Miracle of Morgan's Creek). The Popeye cartoons and Superman cartoons are owned by Time Warner's subsidaries, Turner Entertainment and DC Comics (respectively). The rest of the cartoons that were sold to Harvey Comics from 1951-1962 are owned by Classic Media. As for distribution of the material Paramount itself still owns, it has been split in half, with Paramount themselves owning theatrical rights, while what became CBS Paramount Television handles television distribution (under the CBS license).
Paramount is the last major film studio located in Hollywood proper. When Paramount moved to its present home in 1927, it was in the heart of the film community. Since then, former next-door neighbor RKO closed up shop in 1957; Warner Brothers (whose old Sunset Boulevard studio was sold to Paramount in 1949 as a home for KTLA) moved to Burbank in 1930; Columbia joined Warners in Burbank in 1973 then moved again to Culver City in 1989; and the Pickford-Fairbanks-Goldwyn-United Artists lot, after a lively history, has been turned into a post-production and music-scoring facility for Warners, known simply as "The Lot". For a time the semi-industrial neighborhood around Paramount was in decline, but has now come back. The recently refurbished studio has come to symbolize Hollywood for many visitors, and its studio tour is a popular attraction.
On December 11, 2005, Paramount announced that it had purchased DreamWorks SKG in a deal worth $1.6 billion. The announcement was made by Brad Grey, chairman and CEO of Paramount Pictures, who noted that enhancing Paramount's pipeline of pictures is a "key strategic objective in restoring Paramounts stature as a leader in filmed entertainment." The agreement does not include DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc., the most profitable part of the company that went public last year. But Paramount does gain the right to distribute the studio's lucrative animated films, including the Shrek franchise. On February 1, 2006, the studio announced that the DreamWorks acquisition was completed.
Burning Love Official Trailer
Premiering June 4th 2012 on Yahoo!
Notable Paramount movies
Transformers - Dark of the Moon
Nominated for 3 Academy Awards
Ketupa - Time Warner profile
The Master Switch : The Rise and Fall of Information Empires NY Alfred A. Knopf, 2010.
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"Paramount 100 Years Logo Animation" Youtube.com 2011-12-21
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