Major film studio

Warner Bros.
Big Six studios in the San Fernando Valley
Big Six studios in Hollywood and the Westside

A major film studio is a production and film distributor that releases a substantial number of films annually and consistently commands a significant share of box office revenue in a given market. In the North American, Western, and global markets, the major film studios, often simply known as the majors, are commonly regarded as the six diversified media conglomerates whose various film production and distribution subsidiaries collectively command approximately 80 to 85 percent of U.S. and Canadian box office revenue.[1][2] The term may also be applied more specifically to the primary motion picture business subsidiary of each respective conglomerate.

The "Big Six" majors, whose operations are based in or around the Los Angeles neighborhood of Hollywood, are all centered in film studios active during Hollywood's Golden Age of the 1930s and 1940s. In three cases—20th Century Fox, Warner Bros., and Paramount—the studios were one of the "Big Five" majors during that era as well. In two cases—Columbia and Universal—the studios were also considered majors, but in the next tier down, part of the "Little Three". In the sixth case, Walt Disney Studios was an independent production company during the Golden Age; it was an important Hollywood entity, but not a major. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, United Artists, and RKO were majors.

Today, Disney is the only member of the Big Six whose parent entity is still located near Los Angeles (actually, on Disney's studio lot and in the same building).[3][4] The five others report to conglomerates headquartered in New York City, Philadelphia, and Tokyo. Of the Big Six, Paramount is the only one still based in Hollywood, and Paramount and Fox are the only ones still located within the Los Angeles city limits, while Disney and Warner Bros. are located in Burbank, Columbia in Culver City, and Universal in the unincorporated area of Universal City.

Most of today's Big Six control subsidiaries with their own distribution networks that concentrate on arthouse pictures (e.g. Fox Searchlight Pictures) or genre films (e.g. Sony's Screen Gems); several of these specialty units were shut down or sold off between 2008 and 2010. The six major studios are contrasted with smaller production and/or distribution companies, which are known as independents or "indies". The leading independent producer/distributors—Lionsgate Films, The Weinstein Company, and former major studio MGM—are sometimes referred to as "mini-majors". From 1998 through 2005, DreamWorks SKG commanded a large enough market share to arguably qualify it as a seventh major, despite its relatively small output. In 2006, DreamWorks was acquired by Viacom, Paramount's corporate parent. In late 2008, DreamWorks once again became an independent production company; its films were distributed by Disney's Touchstone Pictures until 2016, at which point distribution switched to Universal.

The Big Six major studios are today primarily backers and distributors of films whose actual production is largely handled by independent companies—either long-running entities or ones created for and dedicated to the making of a specific film. The specialty divisions often simply acquire distribution rights to pictures in which the studio has had no prior involvement. While the majors still do a modicum of true production, their activities are focused more in the areas of development, financing, marketing, and merchandising. Those business functions are still usually performed in or near Los Angeles, even though the runaway production phenomenon means that most films are now mostly or completely shot on location at places outside Los Angeles.

Since the dawn of filmmaking, the U.S. major film studios have dominated both American cinema and the global film industry. U.S. studios have benefited from a strong first-mover advantage in that they were the first to industrialize filmmaking and master the art of mass-producing and distributing high-quality films with broad cross-cultural appeal.[5] Today, the Big Six majors routinely distribute hundreds of films every year into all significant international markets (that is, where discretionary income is high enough for consumers to afford to watch films). It is very rare, if not impossible, for a film to reach a broad international audience on multiple continents and in multiple languages without first being picked up by one of the majors for distribution.



Studio parent
Major film studio unit Date founded Arthouse/indie Genre movie/B movie Animation Other divisions and brands US/CA market share (2015)[6]
Universal Filmed Entertainment Group[7]
Universal Pictures 1912 Focus Features Gramercy Pictures
Working Title Films
Focus World
High Top Releasing
NBCU Ent. Japan
Oriental DreamWorks (45%)
Walt Disney Studios
(The Walt Disney Company)
Walt Disney Pictures 1923 Disneynature
Marvel Studios
DisneyToon Studios
Lucasfilm Animation
Marvel Animation
Disney Animation
Warner Bros. Entertainment
(Time Warner)
Warner Bros. Pictures 1918 New Line Cinema
DC Films
Warner Animation Group
Cartoon Network Studios
Castle Rock
CNN Films
Flagship (49%)[8]
HBO Films
Turner Entertainment
Fox Entertainment Group
(21st Century Fox)
20th Century Fox 1935 Fox Searchlight Pictures Blue Sky Studios
20th Century Fox Animation
Fox 2000 Pictures
Fox Star Studios
New Regency (20%)
Sony Pictures Motion Picture Group
Columbia Pictures 1924 Sony Pictures Classics
Destination Films
Screen Gems
Affirm Films
Stage 6 Films
Sony Pictures Animation Sony Pictures Releasing
TriStar Pictures[9]
TriStar Productions[10]
Triumph Films
Paramount Motion Pictures Group
Paramount Pictures 1912 Insurge Pictures Nickelodeon Animation Studio
Paramount Animation
Comedy Central Films
MTV Films
Nickelodeon Movies

^1 Universal: 21.3%; Focus Features: 1.0% (Prev. totals: 2014 - 10.3%; 2013 - 13.9%; 2012-11.3%; 2011-11.3%; 2010—9.2%; 2009—10.0%; 2008—12.9%; 2007—12.7%; 2006—10.9%; 2005—13.2%; 2004—10.8%)
^2 Disney: 19.8% (Prev. totals: 2014 - 14.9%; 2013 - 15.9%; 2012 - 14.7%; 2011-12.2%; 2010—14.3%; 2009—11.9%; 2008—11.4%; 2007—15.3%; 2006—16.7%; 2005—14.6%; 2004—16.5%)
^3 Warner Bros.: 13.9%; New Line: 2.9% (Prev. totals: 2014 - 14.4%; 2013 - 17.08%; 2012 - 15.3%; 2011-18.1%; 2010—18.0%; 2009—20.1%; 2008—19.4%; 2007—20.5%; 2006—14.9%; 2005—21.7%; 2004—17.7%)
^4 20th Century Fox: 11.3%; Fox Searchlight: 1.0% (Prev. totals: 2014 - 16.5%; 2013 - 10.80%; 2012-10.4%; 2011-11.1%; 2010—14.8%; 2009—16.1%; 2008—13.2%; 2007—11.9%; 2006—17.0%; 2005—16.5%; 2004—11.7%)
^5 Sony (Columbia/Screen Gems/TriStar): 8.4%; Sony Classics: 0.5% (Prev. totals: 2014 - 11.6%; 2013 - 11.17% ; 2012 - 17.0%; 2011-13.4%; 2010—12.8%; 2009—14.2%; 2008—13.4%; 2007—13.4%; 2006—19.3%; 2005—11.1%; 2004—16.8%)
^6 Paramount: 5.9% (Prev. totals: 2014 - 9.7%; 2013 - 8.94%; 2012-8.3%;2011-19.3%; 2010—16.8%; 2009—14.3%; 2008—17.2%; 2007—16.1%; 2006—11.0%; 2005—9.8%; 2004—6.8%)


Former majors include:


Mini-major studios (or "mini-majors") are the larger film production companies that are smaller than the major studios and attempt to compete directly with them.[12]


Studio parent
Mini-major studio unit[13] Date founded Other divisions and brands US/CA market share
Lions Gate Entertainment
(Lions Gate Entertainment Corporation[14][15])
Lionsgate Films[13] 1997 5.9%
The Weinstein Company[17] 2005 Dimension Films
Kaleidoscope TWC
AMC Theatres
(Dalian Wanda Group)
Regal Entertainment Group
Open Road Films[18] 2011 0.63%
STX Entertainment[19] 2014 0.57%
CBS Corporation CBS Films[18] 2007 0.53%
The Amblin Group[20]
Participant Media
Reliance Entertainment
(Reliance ADA Group)
Entertainment One[21]
Amblin Partners[22] 1994 DreamWorks Pictures[23]
Amblin Entertainment
Gaumont Film Company[24] 1895 Gaumont Animation
(MGM Holdings)
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures[26] 1924 MGM Animation
United Artists
Orion Pictures
Lightworkers Media


Former mini-majors included:

The studios

Lions Gate Entertainment, which moved in 2006 from Vancouver, British Columbia, to Santa Monica, California, was the most successful North American movie studio based outside of the Los Angeles metropolitan area before its relocation. Now known as Lionsgate, it was founded in 1997 by financier Frank Giustra.[36] (The company is unrelated to Lion's Gate Films, the Los Angeles–based production company run by filmmaker Robert Altman in the 1970s.)[37] In 2003, the company doubled in size with the acquisition of Artisan Entertainment.[38] In January 2012, Lionsgate acquired Summit Entertainment, which was the highest-grossing mini-major the previous three years.[39] Summit was founded as an independent overseas sales company in 1991, moved into production in the mid-1990s, and was reconstituted as a full-fledged studio in 2006.[40] Lionsgate also owns a minority stake in the independent distribution company Roadside Attractions.[41]

Lionsgate is apparently on the cusp of becoming a major studio with the parent's purchase of Summit Entertainment as well as its controlling share of Roadside Attractions (43%)[42] and Pantelion Films (as specialty units), and its top five box office showing as being declared as a new major studio by Variety;[41] however, The Hollywood Reporter does not yet recognize the company as a major studio just yet.[43]

The Weinstein Company was founded in late 2005 by brothers Harvey and Bob Weinstein after their departure from Miramax Films, which they had founded in 1979. In 1993, they sold control of Miramax to the Walt Disney Company, continuing to run the studio in quasi-independent fashion under the Disney umbrella. When the Weinsteins left Disney, they retained the right to the Dimension Films brand, which is used by The Weinstein Company (as it was by Miramax) for genre films. After the success of 1408, released in June 2007, the studio went two years without a hit.[44] It experienced several high-level executive defections in 2008, and announced major layoffs that November.[45] The Weinsteins have a long-standing relationship with Quentin Tarantino—all of the feature films he has directed through 2009 have been distributed either by Miramax, when it was led by the brothers, or The Weinstein Company. The successful release of his Inglourious Basterds in August 2009 was seen as a "turnaround" for the studio.[46]

MGM, after decades as a major studio, continues to distribute motion pictures and television content as a minor, privately held media company. In April 2005, it was purchased from Kirk Kerkorian's Tracinda Corporation by a consortium including Sony, cable company Comcast, Providence Equity Partners, and three other private investment firms. MGM has a deal with 20th Century Fox for the distribution of home video and overseas theatrical product.[47] MGM is also once again the sole owner of United Artists, after Tom Cruise and Paula Wagner sold back their minority stakes. Via its original 1981 merger with UA, MGM controls the rights to the James Bond franchise. Columbia co-distributed the first two Bond films starring Daniel Craig after the 2005 purchase.[48] After a third Bond film with Craig was put on hold when MGM slipped into deep financial trouble, Sony reached an agreement with MGM in April 2011 to distribute the next entry in the series.[49]

DreamWorks was founded in 1994 by Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and David Geffen. Once again independent with the founding of a new company after two-and-a-half years under the Viacom/Paramount corporate umbrella, it is now backed by India's Reliance ADA Group.[50] DreamWorks will not be a full-service studio—it will produce and finance films, but as it did for most of its first era as an independent, it will arrange distribution through the majors. In February 2009, after dropping out of a deal with Universal, DreamWorks struck such a deal with Disney, though Paramount will be releasing the DreamWorks pictures developed there through mid-2011.[51] The first independent DreamWorks film to be released under the new deal, via Touchstone, was I Am Number Four in February 2011. Katzenberg, who is completely divested from the new DreamWorks, now runs DreamWorks Animation as a totally separate business. The company maintains distribution deals with DreamWorks Pictures, Paramount Pictures and 20th Century Fox.[52]

The standings

In 2010, Summit led with $519.9 million in grosses and a 5.0% market share. Lionsgate was close behind with $513.9 million in grosses, good for a 4.9% share. They were far ahead of the other mini-majors, none of which reached $100 million in grosses or a 1% share.[53] In 2009, Summit's mini-major-leading figures were $480.4 million in grosses and a 4.5% market share. Lionsgate's $401.5 million in grosses gave it a 3.8% share. Two other companies commanded market shares greater than 1%: Weinstein/Dimension (2.0%) and Overture Films (1.5%).[54] In 2008, Lionsgate topped the mini-majors with $441.5 million in grosses, a 4.5% market share. Three other companies had over $100 million in box office grosses: Summit (2.4% market share), MGM/UA (1.7% market share), and Overture (1.1% market share).[55]

In 2007, Lionsgate and MGM/UA were virtually tied for the position of most successful mini-major in terms of market share, each with 3.8%. No other independent studio had even a 1% market share.[56] In 2006, Lionsgate had a 3.6% market share, The Weinstein Company had a 2.5% market share, and MGM/UA had a 1.8% market share.[57] In 2005, the still independent DreamWorks SKG had 5.7% and Lionsgate had 3.2%. Of MGM/UA's four significant money-earners during 2005, it released three before its acquisition by the Sony-led consortium; MGM/UA's total market share for the year was 2.1%. The Weinstein Company, in its first three months of operation, gained 0.5% of the year's total market share.[58] In 2004, DreamWorks SKG had 10.0% (more than the Paramount Motion Pictures Group), Newmarket had 4.3% (due almost entirely to The Passion of the Christ), Lionsgate had 3.2%, and MGM/UA had 2.1%.[59]In 2016, STX Entertainment a film studio founded in late-2014, had market share of 2.0% and ranking number eight, it also had it first $100 million domestic film with the release of Bad Moms[60][61][61]

Instant major studios

"'Instant major' is a newly coined term for a film company that seemingly overnight has approached the status of major"[62] In 1967, three "instant majors" studios popped up, two of which were partnered with a Television network theatrical film unit with most lasting until 1973:

Other significant, formerly independent entities


The majors before the Golden Age

In 1909, Thomas Edison, who had been fighting in the courts for years for control of fundamental motion picture patents, won a major decision. This led to the creation of the Motion Picture Patents Company, widely known as the Trust. Comprising the nine largest U.S. film companies, it was "designed to eliminate not only independent film producers but also the country's 10,000 independent [distribution] exchanges and exhibitors."[63] Though its many members did not consolidate their filmmaking operations, the New York–based Trust was arguably the first major North American movie conglomerate. The independents' fight against the Trust was led by Carl Laemmle, whose Chicago-based Laemmle Film Service, serving the Midwest and Canada, was the largest distribution exchange in North America. Laemmle's efforts were rewarded in 1912 when the U.S. government ruled that the Trust was a "corrupt and unlawful association" and must be dissolved. On June 8, 1912, Laemmle organized the merger of his production division, IMP (Independent Motion Picture Company), with several other filmmaking companies, creating the studio that would soon be named Universal. By the end of the year, Universal was making movies at two Los Angeles facilities: the former Nestor Film studio in Hollywood, and another studio in Edendale. The first Hollywood major was in business.[64]

In 1916, a second powerful Hollywood studio was established when Adolph Zukor merged his Famous Players Film Company movie production house with the Jesse L. Lasky Company to form Famous Players–Lasky. The combined studio acquired Paramount Pictures as a distribution arm and eventually adopted its name. Paramount quickly surpassed Universal as Hollywood's dominant company. In 1916 as well, William Fox relocated his Fox Film Corporation from the East Coast to Hollywood and began expanding.[65] The Motion Picture Theatre Owners of America and the Independent Producers' Association declared war in 1925 on what they termed a common enemy — the "film trust" of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Paramount, and First National, which they claimed dominated the industry by not only producing and distributing motion pictures, but by entering into exhibition as well.[66]

Propelled by the great success of The Jazz Singer (1927), the first important feature-length "talkie", small Warner Bros. (founded in 1919) quickly entered the big leagues and acquired First National in 1928.[67] Fox, in the forefront of sound film along with Warners, was also acquiring a sizable circuit of movie theaters to exhibit its product.

The majors during the Golden Age

For more details on this topic, see Studio system.

Between late 1928, when RCA's David Sarnoff engineered the creation of the RKO (Radio-Keith-Orpheum) studio, and the end of 1949, when Paramount divested its theater chain—roughly the period considered Hollywood's Golden Age—there were eight Hollywood studios commonly regarded as the "majors".[68][69] Of these eight, the so-called Big Five were integrated conglomerates, combining ownership of a production studio, distribution division, and substantial theater chain, and contracting with performers and filmmaking personnel: Loew's/MGM, Paramount, Fox (which became 20th Century-Fox after a 1935 merger), Warner Bros., and RKO. The remaining majors were sometimes referred to as the "Little Three" or “major minor” studios.[32] Two - Universal and Columbia (founded in 1924)—were organized similarly to the Big Five, except for the fact that they never owned more than small theater circuits (a consistently reliable source of profits). The third of the lesser majors, United Artists (founded in 1919), owned a few theaters and had access to production facilities owned by its principals, but it functioned primarily as a backer-distributor, loaning money to independent producers and releasing their films. During the 1930s, the eight majors averaged a total of 358 feature film releases a year; in the 1940s, the four largest companies shifted more of their resources toward high-budget productions and away from B movies, bringing the yearly average down to 288 for the decade.[68]

Among the significant characteristics of the Golden Age was the stability of the Hollywood majors, their hierarchy, and their near-complete domination of the box office. At the midpoint of the Golden Age, 1939, the Big Five had market shares ranging from 22% (MGM) to 9% (RKO); each of the Little Three had around a 7% share. In sum, the eight majors controlled 95% of the market and all the smaller companies combined had a total of 5%. Ten years later, the picture was largely the same: the Big Five had market shares ranging from 22% (MGM) to 9% (RKO); the Little Three had shares ranging from 8% (Columbia) to 4% (United Artists). In sum, the eight majors controlled 96% of the market and all the smaller companies combined had a total of 4%.[70]

The majors after the Golden Age

Warner Bros.


The end of the Golden Age had been signaled by the majors' loss of a federal antitrust case that led to the divestiture of the Big Five's theater chains. Though this had virtually no immediate effect on the eight majors' box-office domination, it somewhat leveled the playing field between the Big Five and the Little Three. In November 1951, Decca Records purchased 28% of Universal; early the following year, the studio became the first of the classic Hollywood majors to be taken over by an outside corporation, as Decca acquired majority ownership.[71] The 1950s saw two substantial shifts in the hierarchy of the majors: RKO, perennially the weakest of the Big Five, declined rapidly under the mismanagement of Howard Hughes, who had purchased a controlling interest in the studio in 1948. By the time Hughes sold it to the General Tire and Rubber Company in 1955, the studio was a major by outdated reputation alone. In 1957, virtually all RKO movie operations ceased and the studio was dissolved in 1959. (Revived on a small scale in 1981, it was eventually spun off and now operates as a minor independent company.) In contrast, there was United Artists, which had long operated under the financing-distribution model the other majors were now progressively shifting toward. Under Arthur Krim and Robert Benjamin, who began managing the company in 1951, UA became consistently profitable. By 1956—when it released one of the biggest blockbusters of the decade, Around the World in 80 Days—it commanded a 10% market share. By the middle of the next decade, it had reached 16% and was the second-most profitable studio in Hollywood. Despite RKO's collapse, the majors still averaged a total yearly release slate of 253 feature films during the decade.[68]

The 1960s were marked by a spate of corporate takeovers. MCA, under Lew Wasserman, acquired Universal in 1962; Gulf+Western took over Paramount in 1966; and the Transamerica Corporation purchased United Artists in 1967. Warner Bros. underwent large-scale reorganization twice in two years: a 1967 merger with the Seven Arts company preceded a 1969 purchase by Kinney National, under Stephen J. Ross. MGM, in the process of a slow decline, changed ownership twice in the same span as well, winding up in the hands of financier Kirk Kerkorian. The majors almost entirely abandoned low-budget production during this era, bringing the annual average of features released down to 160.[68] The decade also saw an old name in the industry secure a position as a leading player. In 1923, Walt Disney had founded the Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio with his brother Roy and animator Ub Iwerks. Over the following three decades Disney became a powerful independent focusing on animation and, from the late 1940s, an increasing number of live-action movies. In 1954, the company—now Walt Disney Productions—established Buena Vista Film Distribution to handle its own product, which had been distributed for years by various majors, primarily United Artists and then RKO. (Disney's 1937 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, released by RKO, was the second biggest hit of the 1930s.) In its first year, Buena Vista had a major success with 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, the third biggest movie of 1954. In 1964, Buena Vista had its first blockbuster, Mary Poppins, Hollywood's biggest hit in half a decade. The company achieved a 9% market share that year, more than Fox and Warner Bros. Though over the next two decades, Disney/Buena Vista's share of the box-office would again hit similar marks, its relatively small output and exclusive focus on family movies meant that it was not generally considered a major.


The early 1970s were difficult years for all the majors. Movie attendance, which had been declining steadily since the Golden Age, hit an all-time low in 1971. In 1973, MGM president James T. Aubrey Jr. drastically downsized the studio, slashing its production schedule and eliminating its distribution arm (UA would distribute the studio's films for the remainder of the decade). From fifteen releases in 1973, the next year MGM was down to five; its average for the rest of the 1970s would be even lower.[72] Like RKO in its last days under Hughes, MGM remained a major in terms of brand reputation, but little more. MGM, however, was not the only studio to trim its release line. By the mid-1970s, the industry had rebounded and a significant philosophical shift was in progress. As the majors focused increasingly on the development of the next hoped-for blockbuster and began routinely opening each new movie in many hundreds of theaters (an approach called "saturation booking"), their collective yearly release average fell to 81 films during 1975–84.[68] The classic set of majors was shaken further in late 1980, when the disastrously expensive flop of Heaven's Gate effectively ruined United Artists. The studio was sold the following year to Kerkorian, who merged it with MGM. After a brief resurgence, the combined studio again declined. From the mid-1980s on, MGM/UA has been at best a "mini-major", to use the present-day term.

Meanwhile, a new member was finally admitted to the club of major studios and two significant contenders emerged. With the establishment of its Touchstone Pictures brand and increasing attention to the adult market in the mid-1980s, Disney/Buena Vista secured acknowledgment as a full-fledged major.[32] Film historian Joel Finler identifies 1986 as the breakthrough year, when Disney rose to third place in market share and remained consistently competitive for a leading position thereafter.[73] The two contenders were both newly formed companies. In 1978, Krim, Benjamin, and three other studio executives departed UA to found Orion Pictures as a joint venture with Warner Bros. It was announced optimistically as the "first major new film company in 50 years".[74] Tri-Star Pictures was created in 1982 as a joint venture of Columbia Pictures (then owned by the Coca-Cola Company), HBO (then owned by Time Inc.), and CBS. In 1985, Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation acquired 20th Century-Fox, the last of the five relatively healthy Golden Age majors to remain independent throughout the entire Golden Age and after.

In 1986, the combined share of the six classic majors—at that point Paramount, Warner Bros., Columbia, Universal, Fox, and MGM/UA—fell to 64%, the lowest since the beginning of the Golden Age. Disney was in third place, behind only Paramount and Warners. Even including it as a seventh major and adding its 10% share, the majors' control of the North American market was at a historic ebb. Orion, now completely independent of Warner Bros., and Tri-Star were well positioned as mini-majors, each with North American market shares of around 6% and regarded by industry observers as "fully competitive with the majors".[75] Smaller independents garnered 13%—more than any studio aside from Paramount. In 1964, by comparison, all of the companies beside the then seven majors and Disney had combined for a grand total of 1%. In the first edition of Finler's The Hollywood Story (1988), he wrote, "It will be interesting to see whether the old-established studios will be able to bounce back in the future, as they have done so many times before, or whether the newest developments really do reflect a fundamental change in the US movie industry for the first times since the 20s."[76]


With the exception of MGM/UA—whose position was effectively filled by Disney—the old-established studios did bounce back. The purchase of Fox by Murdoch's News Corp. presaged a new round of corporate acquisitions. Between 1989 and 1994, Paramount, Warners, Columbia, and Universal all changed ownership in a series of conglomerate purchases and mergers that brought them new financial and marketing muscle. Paramount's parent company Gulf+Western was renamed Paramount Communications in 1989 and was merged with Viacom five years later. Warners merged with Time Inc. to give birth to the conglomerate Time Warner. Coke sold Columbia to Japanese electronics firm Sony also in 1989. And Universal's parent MCA was purchased by Matsushita. By the early 1990s, both Tri-Star and Orion were essentially out of business: the former consolidated into Columbia, the latter bankrupt and sold to MGM. The most important contenders to emerge during the 1990s, New Line, the Weinsteins' Miramax, and DreamWorks SKG, were likewise sooner or later brought into the majors' fold, though DreamWorks and the Weinstein brothers are now independent again.

The development of in-house pseudo-indie subsidiaries by the conglomerates—sparked by the 1992 establishment of Sony Pictures Classics and the success of Pulp Fiction (1994), Miramax's first project under Disney ownership—significantly undermined the position of the true independents. The majors' release schedule rebounded: the six primary studio subsidiaries alone put out a total of 124 films during 2006; the three largest secondary subsidiaries (New Line, Fox Searchlight, and Focus Features) accounted for another 30. Box-office domination was fully restored: in 2006, the six major movie conglomerates combined for 89.8% of the North American market; Lionsgate and Weinstein were almost exactly half as successful as their 1986 mini-major counterparts, sharing 6.1%; MGM came in at 1.8%; and all of the remaining independent companies split a pool totaling 2.3%.[77]

Only one of the major studios changed corporate hands during the first decade of the 2000s, though it did so three times: Universal was acquired by Vivendi in 2000, then by General Electric four years later, and finally by Comcast in 2011. More developments took place among the majors' subsidiaries. The very successful animation production house Pixar, whose films were distributed by Buena Vista, was acquired by Disney in 2006. In 2008, New Line Cinema lost its independent status within Time Warner and became a subsidiary of Warner Bros. Time Warner also announced that it would be shutting down its two specialty units, Warner Independent and Picturehouse.[78] In 2008 as well, Paramount Vantage's production, marketing, and distribution departments were folded into the parent studio,[79] though it retained the brand for release purposes.[80][81] Universal sold off its genre specialty division, Rogue Pictures, to Relativity Media in 2009.[82] Disney closed down Miramax's operations in January 2010,[83] and sold off the unit and its library that July to an investor group led by Ronald N. Tutor of the Tutor Perini construction firm and Tom Barrack of the Colony Capital private equity firm.[84]

Organizational lineage

The eight Golden Age majors

The eight major film studios of the Golden Age have gone through the following significant ownership changes ("independent" meaning customarily identified as the primary commercial entity in its corporate structure; "purchased" meaning acquired anything from majority to total ownership):

Columbia Pictures

For more details on this topic, see Columbia Pictures.

20th Century Fox

For more details on this topic, see 20th Century Fox.

Warner Bros.

For more details on this topic, see Warner Bros..

Paramount Pictures

For more details on this topic, see Paramount Pictures.

Universal Pictures

For more details on this topic, see Universal Studios.


For more details on this topic, see Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

United Artists (merged into MGM)

For more details on this topic, see United Artists.

RKO Radio Pictures (defunct 1960–80, dormant 1993–97)

For more details on this topic, see RKO Pictures.

See also


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