United Artists Entertainment LLC (UA) is an American film studio. The current United Artists was formed in November 2006 under a partnership between producer/actor Tom Cruise and his production partner, Paula Wagner, and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc., an MGM company. Paula Wagner departed the studio on August 14, 2008.
Cruise owns a small stake in the studio, a subsidiary of MGM Studios. MGM is owned by MGM Holdings, Inc., which was formed by a consortium including Sony, Comcast, TPG Capital, L.P. and Providence Equity Partners.
UA was incorporated as a joint venture on February 5, 1919 by four of the leading figures in early Hollywood: Mary Pickford, Charles Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, and D. W. Griffith. Each held a 20% stake, with the remaining 20% held by lawyer William Gibbs McAdoo. The idea for the venture originated with Fairbanks, Chaplin, Pickford, and cowboy star William S. Hart a year earlier as they were traveling around the U.S. selling Liberty bonds to help the World War I effort. Already veterans of Hollywood, the four film stars began to talk of forming their own company to better control their own work as well as their futures. They were spurred on by established Hollywood producers and distributors making moves to tighten their control on star salaries and creative control, a process which would evolve into the rigid studio system. With the addition of Griffith, planning began, but Hart bowed out even before things had formalized. When he heard about their scheme, Richard A. Rowland, head of Metro Pictures, is said to have observed, "The inmates are taking over the asylum." The four partners, with advice from McAdoo (son-in-law and former Treasury Secretary of then-President Woodrow Wilson), formed their distribution company, with Hiram Abrams as its first managing director.
The original terms called for Pickford, Fairbanks, Griffith and Chaplin to independently produce five pictures each year. But by the time the company got under way in 1920-1921, feature films were becoming more expensive and more polished, and running times had settled at around ninety minutes (or eight reels). It was believed that no one, no matter how popular, could produce and star in five quality feature films a year. By 1924, by which time Griffith had dropped out, the company was facing a crisis: either bring in others to help support a costly distribution system or concede defeat. The veteran producer Joseph Schenck was hired as president. Not only had he been producing pictures for a decade, but he brought along commitments for films starring his wife, Norma Talmadge, his sister-in-law, Constance Talmadge, and his brother-in-law, Buster Keaton. Contracts were signed with a letter of independent producers, especially Samuel Goldwyn, Alexander Korda and Howard Hughes. Schenck also formed a separate partnership with Pickford and Chaplin to buy and build theaters under the United Artists name.
Still, even with a broadening of the company, UA struggled. The coming of sound ended the careers of Pickford and Fairbanks. Chaplin, rich enough to do what he pleased, worked only occasionally. Schenck resigned in 1933 to organize a new company with Darryl F. Zanuck, Twentieth Century Pictures, which soon provided four pictures a year to UA's schedule. He was replaced as president by sales manager Al Lichtman who himself resigned after only a few months. Pickford produced a few films, and at various times Goldwyn, Korda, Walt Disney, Walter Wanger, and David O. Selznick were made "producing partners" (i.e., sharing in the profits), but ownership still rested with the founders. As the years passed and the dynamics of the business changed, these "producing partners" drifted away, Goldwyn and Disney to RKO, Wanger to Universal Pictures, Selznick to retirement. By the late 1940s, United Artists had virtually ceased to exist as either a producer or distributor.
The Society of Independent Motion Picture Producers was founded in 1941 by Mary Pickford, Charlie Chaplin, Walt Disney, Orson Welles, Samuel Goldwyn, David O. Selznick, Alexander Korda, and Walter Wanger - many of the same people who were members of United Artists. Later members included William Cagney, Sol Lesser, and Hal Roach.
The Society aimed to preserve the rights of independent producers in an industry overwhelmingly controlled by the studio system.
SIMPP fought to end monopolistic practices by the seven major film studios - MGM, Columbia Pictures, Paramount Pictures, Universal Studios, RKO, 20th Century Fox and Warner Bros. - that controlled the production, distribution, and exhibition of films.
In 1942, the SIMPP filed an antitrust suit against Paramount's United Detroit Theatres. The complaint accused Paramount of conspiracy to control first-run and subsequent-run theaters in Detroit. It was the first antitrust suit brought by producers against exhibitors alleging monopoly and restraint of trade.
In 1948, the United States Supreme Court Paramount Decision ordered the Hollywood movie studios to sell their theater chains and to eliminate certain anti-competitive practices. This effectively brought an end to the studio system.
By 1958, many of the reasons for creating the SIMPP had been corrected and SIMPP closed its offices.
In taking over UA, Krim and Benjamin created the first studio without an actual "studio". Primarily acting as bankers, they offered money to independent producers. UA leased space at the Pickford/Fairbanks Studio, but did not own a studio lot as such. Thus UA did not have the overhead, the maintenance or the expensive production staff which ran up costs at other studios. Among their first clients were Sam Spiegel and John Huston, whose "Horizon Productions" gave UA one major hit, The African Queen (1951) and one slightly less successful one, Moulin Rouge (1952), based on the life of Toulouse-Lautrec. Others followed, among them Stanley Kramer, Otto Preminger, Hecht-Hill-Lancaster, and a number of actors, newly freed from studio contracts and anxious to produce or direct their own films. UA production-head Arnold Picker could do no wrong in selecting the properties which the company would back. With UA's new success, Pickford saw a chance to exit gracefully, though she still held out for top dollar, walking away with $1.5 million in 1955. That same year, UA won its first Best Picture Oscar, for the film Marty. It starred Ernest Borgnine, who won a Best Actor Oscar for his performance.
UA went public the following year, and as the other mainstream studios fell into decline, UA prospered, adding relationships with the Mirisch brothers, Billy Wilder, Joseph E. Levine and others. In 1961, United Artists released West Side Story, an adaptation of the Leonard Bernstein-Stephen Sondheim stage musical, which won a record ten Academy Awards (including Best Picture). In 1963 United Artists released Stanley Kramer's epic masterpiece It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. In 1964, UA introduced U.S. film audiences to The Beatles by releasing producer Walter Shenson's A Hard Day's Night (1964) and Help! (1965). (The group had already made wildly successful television appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show.) At the same time it backed two expatriate Americans in Britain, who had acquired screen rights to Ian Fleming's Bond novels. For $1 million, UA backed Harry Saltzman and Albert Broccoli's Dr. No (which was a sensation in 1962) and served as the launching point for the James Bond series. That franchise has outlived UA's life as a major studio, still running forty years later. Other successful projects backed in this period included Blake Edwards's Pink Panther series, which began in 1964, and Sergio Leone's Spaghetti Westerns, which made a star of Clint Eastwood.
In 1958 United Artists Records was created, initially to release soundtracks from UA films. but it later diversified into many types of music. In 1968, UA Records was merged with Liberty Records, along with their many subsidiary labels such as Imperial Records and Dolton Records. In 1972 the group was consolidated into one entity as United Artists Records. It was later sold to EMI.
In 1960 United Artists purchased Ziv Television Programs and, using the idea of financial backing for television, UA's television division was responsible for shows like Gilligan's Island, The Fugitive, Outer Limits, and The Patty Duke Show. The television unit also had begun to build up a substantial — and profitable — rental library, having purchased Associated Artists Productions, owners of Warner Bros. pre-1948 features, shorts and cartoons, as well as Popeye cartoons, purchased from Paramount Pictures a few years earlier. (See note below at '"Film Archives"' for more on this).
In 1964, the French subsidiary Les Productions Artistes Associés released its first production That Man From Rio. On the basis of its fantastic string of film and television hits in the 1960s, the company was an attractive property, and in 1967 Krim and Benjamin sold control of UA to the San Francisco-based insurance giant, Transamerica Corp. That year, UA released what would turn out to be another Best Picture Oscar winner, In the Heat of the Night, starring Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger.
What Transamerica got was not just the UA name and library, but the expertise and experience of Krim, Benjamin and a team of others. For a time the flow of successful pictures continued, including the 1971-screen version of Fiddler on the Roof. New talent was encouraged, including Woody Allen, Robert Altman, Sylvester Stallone, Saul Zaentz, Miloš Forman, and Brian De Palma. In 1973 UA took over the sales and distribution of MGM's films (ironically, MGM would soon be distributing UA's films in the future).
But the ups-and-downs of movie making made the insurance company nervous. They were also not pleased with UA's frequent releases of films rated X by the Motion Picture Association of America, such as Last Tango in Paris; in these instances, Transamerica demanded the byline "A Transamerica Company" be removed from the UA logo on the prints and in all advertising. At one point, the parent company expressed their desire to phase out the UA name and replace it with Transamerica Films. Finally in 1978, following a dispute over administrative expenses, UA's top executives, including chairman Krim and president Benjamin, walked out. Within days they announced the formation of Orion Pictures, with backing from Warner.
The inexperienced new leadership of UA, anxious to show that they could make quality pictures too, agreed to back Michael Cimino's pet project, a big-budget western, Heaven's Gate. After a tumultuous two-year gestation, the picture turned out to be a colossal box office bomb, angering critics and alienating audiences. The publicity about runaway costs far overshadowed any appeal the film might have. United Artists recorded a major loss for the year; to Transamerica, it was only a blip on a multi-billion dollar balance sheet, but it soured the relationship forever. To the greater Hollywood community, it also signaled that this was a company that could no longer produce bankable pictures.
MGM, led by Kirk Kerkorian, made an unsolicited bid for UA by estimating that MGM would pay UA $350 Million in distribution fees if the expiring distribution deal was renewed and used the estimated amount to offer the $350 Million to Transamerica to buy United Artists. Transamerica said yes and MGM absorbed UA. Film editors replaced UA logos on the head of most prints to remove any reference to former owner Transamerica (like the "T" stripped-logo and the "A Transamerica Company" byline, though in some cases, both were retained). Very rarely are existing film prints altered to reflect change in corporate governance or legal requirements.
Danjaq and UA have remained the public co-copyright holders for the Bond series ever since, and the 2006 Casino Royale release shares the copyright with Columbia Pictures, part of the consortium that now owns MGM/UA.
Under Kerkorian, United Artists became a shell. The studio, which was essentially bankrupt following the disaster of Heaven's Gate, cut its production schedule sharply. MGM and UA were merged into MGM/UA Entertainment Co. from 1981 to 1987. UA was essentially dormant after 1989, releasing no films for several years. In part this was due to the continuing turmoil at MGM/UA; bought by Ted Turner in 1986, he could not get financial backing to complete the deal and, seventy-four days later, re-sold UA and the MGM trademark to Kerkorian, while keeping the MGM/UA library for himself (with the exception of those MGM/UA releases by United Artists). (See below for a note on the film library.)
In 1981, United Artists Classics, a speciality film division for UA, was created by Michael Barker, Tom Bernard, and Marcie Bloom, who would later go on to form Orion Classics and Sony Pictures Classics. The label mostly released foreign and independent films such as Ticket to Heaven and The Grey Fox, and occasional first-run reissues from the UA library, such as director's cuts of Joan Micklin Silver's Head Over Heels (1979 film) and Ivan Passer's Cutter's Way. When the three founders left to form Orion Classics, the label was briefly rechristened MGM/UA Classics before it was finally shut down in the late '80's.
During the 2000s, UA was repositioned as a boutique or specialty studio. MGM had just acquired The Samuel Goldwyn Company, which had been a leading distributor of arthouse films, and after that name was retired, UA assumed SGC's purpose. The distributorship, branding, and copyrights for UA's main franchises (James Bond, Pink Panther, and Rocky) were moved to MGM, although select MGM releases (notably the James Bond franchise co-held with Danjaq, LLC and the Amityville Horror remake) carry a United Artists copyright.
UA (re-christened United Artists Films) distributed a few "art-house" films, among them Michael Moore's Bowling for Columbine; 2002's Nicholas Nickleby and the winner of that year's Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, No Man's Land; and 2004's Hotel Rwanda, a co-production of UA and Lions Gate Films.
In March 2006, MGM announced that it would return once again as a distribution company domestically. Striking distribution deals with The Weinstein Company, Lakeshore Entertainment, Bauer Martinez and other independent studios, MGM distributes films from these companies. MGM continues funding and co-producing projects that are released in conjunction with Sony's Columbia TriStar Motion Picture Group on a limited basis and is producing "tentpoles" for their own distribution company MGM Distribution.
Sony has a minority stake in MGM but otherwise MGM and UA will operate under Harry Sloan's (CEO of MGM and a minority owner himself) direction.
The deal gave them control over production and development of films. Wagner was named CEO of United Artists, which was allotted an annual slate of four films with different budget ranges, while Cruise serves as a producer for the revamped studio as well as serving as the occasional star.
UA became the first motion picture studio granted a WGA waiver in January 2008 during the Writers' Strike.
On August 14, 2008, MGM announced Paula Wagner will leave United Artists to produce films independently. Her output as head of UA was two films, the flop "Lions for Lambs". and "Valkyrie", a story of Nazi Germany starring Tom Cruise that was troubled by reshoots and release delays. Wagner's departure has led to speculation that an overhaul at United Artists is imminent.
United Artists, through various strategic purchases, built up a substantial film library. Included were rights not only to some of UA's own releases, but to the pre-1948 Warner Bros. and RKO libraries. Having passed through numerous hands, this catalog now belongs to Time Warner's Turner Entertainment unit. However, one post-1948 WB film, the 1956 version of Moby Dick, is still owned by UA.
Since UA produced very few of the pictures it released, ownership of UA's output often rests with the individual or company producing. Some UA films of the 1930s, 1940s and early 1950s fell into the public domain, to be picked up by Republic Pictures (today part of Paramount Pictures) or small boutique houses like Castle Hill Productions (with distribution by Warner Bros. Entertainment). A small fraction of UA's silent output is now owned by Kino International.
A good number of United Artists' films from the 1920s through the 1940s, in the public domain, have been forgotten. Of the hundreds of fiilms distributed by UA over eighty-plus years, those which it owns outright today are its own productions from 1951 forward, plus a few pre-1951 films such as 1933's Hallelujah, I'm A Bum and Howard Hawks's Red River (1948).
United Artists owned and operated television two television stations between the years of 1968 and 1977. Legal ID's for the company would typically say "United Artists Broadcasting: an entertainment service of Transamerica Corporation," along with the Transamerica "T" logo. The company was permittee of another station KUAB (TV) in the Houston, TX area. The station signed on in a time when KVVV-TV was and KHTV (now KIAH) were beginning.
|DMA||Market||Station||Years Owned||Known Today As||Notes|
|17.||Cleveland - Akron - Canton||WUAB 43||1968-1977|| MyNetworkTV affiliate owned |
by Raycom Media
| Licensed to Lorain. The call letters stand for United Artists Broadcasting, which founded the station.|
Kaiser Broadcasting owned a minor stake from 1975-1977 following the closure of crosstown WKBF.
|NR||San Juan - Ponce - Mayagüez||WRIK-TV 7||1970-1972?|| Independent station WSTE |
owned by Univision
| Licensed to Ponce. Operates 3 |
booster stations throughout