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20th Century Fox (1934)

Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Type :  

  Summary  

Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation (Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation, with hyphen, from 1935 to 1985) — also known as 20th Century Fox, or simply 20th or Fox — is one of the six major American film studios . Located in the Century City area of Los Angeles, just west of Beverly Hills, the studio is a subsidiary of Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation.

The company was founded on May 31, 1935, as the result of the merger of Fox Film Corporation, founded by William Fox in 1915, and Twentieth Century Pictures, founded in 1933 by Darryl F. Zanuck, Joseph Schenck, Raymond Griffith and William Goetz.

20th Century Fox's most popular film franchises include Avatar, Star Wars, Ice Age, Garfield, Alvin and the Chipmunks, X-Men, Die Hard, Alien, Speed, Revenge of the Nerds, Planet of the Apes, Home Alone, Dr. Dolittle, Night at the Museum, Predator, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and The Chronicles of Narnia , The Beach, plus famous TV shows such as The Simpsons, Family Guy, and American Dad!. Some of the most famous actors to come out of this studio were Shirley Temple, who was 20th Century Fox's first film star, Betty Grable, Gene Tierney, Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield. The studio also contracted the first African-American cinema star, Dorothy Dandridge.

(References to "Fox" below refer to William Fox or Fox Film Corporation until 1935 and shortly afterwards, and to Twentieth Century-Fox or Twentieth Century Fox afterwards.)

Their most commercially successful production partners in later years have been 1492 Pictures, Lucasfilm, Lightstorm Entertainment, Davis Entertainment, Walden Media, Regency Enterprises, Blue Sky Studios, Troublemaker Studios, Marvel Studios, Ingenious Film Partners, Scott Free Productions, Gracie Films, EuropaCorp, Color Force, Centropolis Entertainment, Conundrum Entertainment, Bad Hat Harry Productions, Red Hour Productions, Village Roadshow Pictures, Dune Entertainment, Chernin Entertainment, The Donners' Company, 21 Laps Entertainment and Spyglass Entertainment.

20th Century Fox is a member of the Motion Picture Association of America .

  Biography  

 Fox Film Corporation
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The Fox Film Corporation was formed in 1915 by the theater chain pioneer William Fox, who formed Fox Film Corporation by merging two companies he had established in 1913: Greater New York Film Rental, a
distribution firm, which was part of the Independents; and Fox Office Attractions Company, a production company. This merging of a distribution company and a production company was an early example of vertical integration. Only a year before, the latter company had distributed Winsor McCay's groundbreaking cartoon Gertie the Dinosaur.

Always more of an entrepreneur than a showman, Fox concentrated on acquiring and building theaters; pictures were secondary. The company's first film studios were set up in Fort Lee, New Jersey where it and many other early film studios in America's first motion picture industry were based at the beginning of the 20th century. In 1917, William Fox sent Sol M. Wurtzel to Hollywood to oversee the studio's West Coast production facilities where a more hospitable and cost-effective climate existed for filmmaking. Fox had purchased the Edendale studio of the failing Selig Polyscope Company, which had been making films in Los Angeles since 1909 and was the first motion picture studio in Los Angeles.

With the introduction of sound technologies, Fox moved to acquire the rights to a sound-on-film process. In the years 1925–26, Fox purchased the rights to the work of Freeman Harrison Owens, the U.S. rights to the Tri-Ergon system invented by three German inventors, and the work of Theodore Case. This resulted in the Movietone sound system later known as "Fox Movietone." Later that year, the company began offering films with a music-and-effects track, and the following year Fox began the weekly Fox Movietone News feature, which ran until 1963. The growing company needed space, and in 1926 Fox acquired 300 acres </span> in the open country west of Beverly Hills and built "Movietone City," the best-equipped studio of its time.

When rival Marcus Loew died in 1927, Fox offered to buy the Loew family's holdings. Loew's Inc. controlled more than 200 theaters, as well as the MGM studio . When the family agreed to the sale, the merger of Fox and Loew's Inc. was announced in 1929. But MGM studio boss Louis B. Mayer, not included in the deal, fought back. Using political connections, Mayer called on the Justice Department's anti-trust unit to block the merger. Fortunately for Mayer, Fox was badly injured in a car crash in the summer of 1929, and by the time he recovered he had lost most of his fortune in the fall, 1929 stock market crash, putting an end to the Loew's merger.

Overextended and close to bankruptcy, Fox was stripped of his empire and ended up in jail. Fox Film, with more than 500 theatres, was placed in receivership. A bank-mandated reorganization propped the company up for a time, but it was clear a merger was the only way Fox Film could survive. Under the new president Sidney Kent, the new owners began negotiating with the upstart but powerful independent Twentieth Century Pictures in the early spring of 1935.

 Twentieth Century Pictures

Twentieth Century Pictures was an independent Hollywood motion picture production company created in 1933 by Joseph Schenck , Darryl F. Zanuck from Warner Brothers, William Goetz from Fox Films, and Raymond Griffith. Financial backing came from Schenck's older brother Nicholas Schenck and the father-in-law of Goetz, Louis B. Mayer, the head of MGM Studios. Company product was distributed by United Artists , and was filmed at various studios.

Schenck was President of 20th Century while Zanuck was named Vice President in Charge of Production and Goetz served as vice-president. Successful from the very beginning, their 1934 production, The House of Rothschild was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture. In 1935, they produced the classic film Les Misérables, from Victor Hugo's novel, which was also nominated for Best Picture. Legend has it that the new independent took a detour straight into the major studio camp when Zanuck became outraged by United Artists' board including UA's co-founder Mary Pickford's refusal to reward Twentieth Century with UA stock, fearing it would have diluted the value of holdings by another UA stockholder and co-founder, D.W. Griffith. Schenck, who had been a UA stockholder for over ten years, resigned from United Artists in protest of the shoddy treatment of Twentieth Century, and Zanuck began discussions with other distributors, which led to talks with the foundering giant, Fox.

For a list of films produced by Twentieth Century Pictures, see List of 20th Century Pictures films.

 Twentieth Century/Fox merger
Joe Schenck and Fox management agreed to a merger; Spyros Skouras, then manager of the Fox-West Coast theaters, helped in the merger . Although it was still much smaller than Fox, Twentieth Century was the senior partner in the merger. At first, it was expected that the new company would be called "Fox-Twentieth Century." However, 20th Century brought more to bargaining table besides Schenck and Zanuck, as it was profitable and had more talent than Fox. The new company was called The Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation, and began trading on May 31, 1935; the hyphen was dropped in 1985. Schenck became Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, while Kent remained as President. Zanuck became Vice President in Charge of Production, replacing Fox's longtime production chief Winfield Sheehan.

For many years, 20th Century-Fox claimed to have been founded in 1915, the year Fox Film Corporation was founded. However, in recent years it has claimed the 1935 merger as its founding date, even though most film historians agree it was founded in 1915.

Aside from the theater chain and a first-rate studio lot, Zanuck and Schenck felt there wasn't much else to Fox. The studio's biggest star, Will Rogers, died in a plane crash weeks after the merger. Its leading female star, Janet Gaynor, was fading in popularity. Promising leading men James Dunn and Spencer Tracy had been dropped because of heavy drinking. Zanuck quickly signed young actors who would carry Twentieth Century-Fox for years: Tyrone Power, Linda Darnell, Carmen Miranda, Don Ameche, Henry Fonda, Gene Tierney, Sonja Henie, and Betty Grable. Also on the Fox payroll he found two players who he built up into the studio's leading assets, Alice Faye and seven-year-old Shirley Temple. Favoring popular biographies and musicals, Zanuck built Fox back to profitability. Thanks to record attendance during World War II, Fox overtook RKO and mighty MGM to become the third most profitable studio. While Zanuck went off for eighteen months' war service, junior partner William Goetz kept profits high by emphasizing light entertainment. The studio's—indeed the industry's—biggest star was creamy blonde Betty Grable.

In 1942 Spyros Skouras succeeded Schenck as president of the studio. Together with Zanuck, who returned in 1943, they intended to make Fox's output more serious-minded. During the next few years, with pictures like The Razor's Edge, Wilson, Gentleman's Agreement, The Snake Pit, Boomerang, and Pinky, Zanuck established a reputation for provocative, adult films. Fox also specialized in adaptations of best-selling books Ben Ames Williams' Leave Her to Heaven starring Gene Tierney which was the highest-grossing Fox film of the 1940s. Fox also produced Broadway musicals, including the Rodgers and Hammerstein films, beginning with the musical version of State Fair in 1945, and continuing years later with Carousel in 1956, The King and I, and The Sound of Music. They also distributed, but did not make, the CinemaScope version of Oklahoma! and the 1958 film version of South Pacific.

After the war and with the advent of television audiences drifted away, Twentieth Century-Fox held on to its theaters until a court-mandated divorce; they were spun off as Fox National Theaters in 1953. That year, with attendance at half the 1946 level, Twentieth Century-Fox gambled on an unproven gimmick. Noting that the two film sensations of 1952 had been Cinerama, which required three projectors to fill a giant curved screen, and "Natural Vision" 3D, which got its effects of depth by requiring the use of polarized glasses, Fox mortgaged its studio to buy rights to a French anamorphic projection system which gave a slight illusion of depth without glasses. President Spyros Skouras struck a deal with the inventor Henri Chrétien, leaving the other filmstudios empty-handed, and in 1953 introduced CinemaScope in the studio's ground-breaking feature film The Robe.

The success of The Robe was so massive that in February 1953 Zanuck announced that henceforth all Fox pictures would be made in CinemaScope. To convince theater owners to install this new process, Fox agreed to help pay conversion costs (about $25,000 per screen); and to ensure enough product, Fox gave access to CinemaScope to any rival studio choosing to use it. Seeing the box-office for the first two CinemaScope features, The Robe and How to Marry a Millionaire, Warner Bros., MGM, Universal Pictures (then known as Universal-International), Columbia Pictures and Disney quickly adopted the process. In 1956 Fox engaged Robert Lippert to establish a subsidiary company, Regal Pictures, later Associated Producers Incorporated to film B pictures in CinemaScope.

CinemaScope brought a brief up-turn in attendance, but by 1956 the numbers again began to slide. That year Darryl Zanuck announced his resignation as head of production. Officially attributed to burn-out, rumors persisted that his wife had threatened divorce (in community-property California) after discovering Zanuck's affair with actress Bella Darvi. Zanuck moved to Paris, setting up as an independent producer; he did not set foot in California again for twenty years.

 Production and financial problems
Zanuck's successor, producer Buddy Adler, died a year later. President Spyros Skouras brought in a series of production executives, but none had Zanuck's success. By the early 1960s Fox was in trouble. A remake of Theda Bara's Cleopatra had begun in 1959 with Joan Collins in the lead. As a publicity gimmick, producer Walter Wanger offered one million dollars to Elizabeth Taylor if she would star; she accepted, and costs for Cleopatra began to escalate, aggravated by Richard Burton's on-set romance with Taylor and surrounding media frenzy.

Meanwhile, another remake — of the 1940 Cary Grant hit My Favorite Wife — was rushed into production in an attempt to turn over a quick profit to help keep Fox afloat. The romantic comedy, titled Something's Got to Give, paired Marilyn Monroe,
Fox's most bankable star of the 1950s with Dean Martin, and director . The troubled Monroe caused delays on a daily basis, and it quickly descended into a costly debacle. As Cleopatra's budget passed the ten-million dollar mark, Fox sold its back lot to Alcoa in 1961 to raise cash. After several months of very little progress, Marilyn Monroe was fired from Something's Got to Give and two months later she was found dead, although somewhat controversially. Elizabeth Taylor's highly disruptive reign on the Cleopatra set continued unchallenged.

With few pictures on the schedule, Skouras wanted to rush Zanuck's big-budget war epic The Longest Day, a highly accurate account of the Allied invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944, with a huge international cast, into release as another source of quick cash. This offended Zanuck, still Fox's largest shareholder, for whom The Longest Day was a labor of love that he had dearly wanted to produce for years. After it became clear that Something's Got to Give would not be able to progress without Monroe in the lead , Skouras finally decided that something had to give and re-signed her. But days before filming was due to resume, she was found dead at her Los Angeles home and the unfinished scenes from Something's Got to Give were shelved for nearly 40 years. Rather than being rushed into release as if it were a B-picture, The Longest Day was lovingly and carefully produced under Zanuck's supervision. It was finally released at a length of three hours, and went on to be recognized as one of the great World War II films.

At the next board meeting, Zanuck spoke for eight hours, convincing directors that Skouras was mismanaging the company and that he was the only possible successor. Zanuck was installed as chairman, and then named his son Richard Zanuck as president. This new management group seized Cleopatra and rushed it to completion, shut down the studio, laid off the entire staff to save money, axed the long-running Movietone Newsreel and made a series of cheap, popular pictures that restored Fox as a major studio. The biggest boost to the studio's fortunes came from the tremendous success of The Sound of Music , an expensive and handsomely produced adaptation of the Rodgers and Hammerstein Broadway musical, which became one of the all-time greatest box office hits.

Fox also had two big science-fiction hits in the 1960s: Fantastic Voyage in 1966, and the original Planet of the Apes, starring Charlton Heston, in 1968.

Zanuck stayed on as chairman until 1971 but there were several expensive flops in his last years, resulting in Fox posting losses from 1969 to 1971. Following his removal, and after an uncertain period, new management brought Fox back to health. Under president Dennis Carothers Stanfill and production head Alan Ladd, Jr., Fox films connected with modern audiences. Stanfill used the profits to acquire resort properties, soft-drink bottlers, Australian theaters, and other properties in an attempt to diversify enough to offset the boom-or-bust cycle of picture-making. In 1977 Fox's success reached new heights and produced the most profitable film made up to that time, Star Wars.

 Rupert Murdoch


With financial stability came new owners, and in 1978 control passed to the investors Marc Rich and Marvin Davis. By 1985, Rich had fled the U.S. after evading $100 million in U.S. income taxes, and Davis sold Rich's half of Fox to Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation. Six months later Davis sold his half of Fox, giving News Corp complete control. To run the studio, Murdoch hired Barry Diller from Paramount. Diller brought with him a plan which Paramount's board had refused: a studio-backed, fourth television network that was financed by advertising.

To gain FCC approval of Fox's purchase of Metromedia's television holdings, once the stations of the old DuMont network, Murdoch had to become a US citizen. He did so in 1985 (the same year 20th Century-Fox dropped the hyphen from its name), and in 1986 the new Fox Broadcasting Company took to the air. Over the next 20-odd years the network and owned-stations group expanded to become extremely profitable for News Corp.

Since January 2000 this company has been the international distributor for MGM/UA releases, until ,when Turner Broadcasting System bought MGM the worldwide video distributor for the MGM/UA library. In the 1980s Fox— through a joint venture with CBS, called CBS/Fox Video—had distributed certain UA films on video, thus UA has come full circle by switching to Fox for video distribution. Fox also makes money distributing films for small independent film companies.

In 2008 Fox announced an Asian subsidiary, Fox STAR Studios, a joint venture with STAR TV, also owned by News Corporation. It was reported that Fox STAR would start by producing films for the Bollywood market, then expand to several Asian markets.

Its future is in doubt due to the recent News Corporation scandal; however, it might be the least impacted of all of News Corporation's holdings.

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Whole or part of the information contained in this card come from the Wikipedia article "20th Century Fox", licensed under CC-BY-SA full list of contributors here.