United Artists

This article is about the film studio. For the cinema chain, see Regal Entertainment Group. For the former record label, see United Artists Records.
United Artists Corporation
In-name-only Subsidiary
Founded February 5, 1919 (1919-02-05)
Headquarters Beverly Hills, California, United States
Key people
Mark Burnett (CEO)
Brian Edwards (COO)
Products Motion pictures
Parent Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.
(MGM Holdings, Inc.)
Website www.unitedartists.com

United Artists (UA) is an American film and television entertainment studio. The studio was founded in 1919 by D. W. Griffith, Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, and Douglas Fairbanks with the intention of controlling their own interests rather than depending upon the powerful commercial studios.[1]

An incarnation of United Artists was formed in November 2006 as a partnership between producer/actor Tom Cruise and his production partner, Paula Wagner, and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Paula Wagner left the studio on August 14, 2008.[2] Cruise owned a small stake in the studio until late 2011.[3]

In September 2014, MGM acquired controlling interest in Mark Burnett and Roma Downey's entertainment companies One Three Media and Lightworkers Media, then merged them to revive United Artists' TV production unit as United Artists Media Group (UAMG). On December 14 of the following year, MGM acquired the 45% stake of UAMG it did not own and folded it into MGM Television.[4]


The early years

The first United Artists logo, used until the 1967 sale to Transamerica

UA was incorporated as a joint venture on February 5, 1919, by four of the leading figures in early Hollywood: Mary Pickford, Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, and D. W. Griffith. Each held a 20% stake, with the remaining 20% held by lawyer William Gibbs McAdoo.[5] 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 America's World War I efforts. Already Hollywood veterans, 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 who were tightening their control over actor salaries and creative decisions, a process that evolved into the rigid studio system. With the addition of Griffith, planning began, but Hart bowed out before anything was 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. Its headquarters was established at 729 Seventh Avenue in New York City.[6]

List of UA stockholders in 1920.

The original terms called for Pickford, Fairbanks, Griffith, and Chaplin to produce five pictures each year independently. But by the time the company was up and running in 1920–1921, feature films were becoming more expensive and 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.

D.W. Griffith, Mary Pickford, Charlie Chaplin (seated) and Douglas Fairbanks at the signing of the contract establishing United Artists motion picture studio in 1919. Lawyers Albert Banzhaf (left) and Dennis F. O'Brien (right) stand in the background.

UA's first film (His Majesty, the American by and starring Fairbanks) was a success. There was limited funding for movies at the time. Without selling stock to the public, like the other studios of the time, all United had to work with was weekly prepayment installments from theater owners for upcoming movies. As a result, production was slow and the company distributed an annual average of five films during the first five years of its existence.[7]

By 1924, Griffith had dropped out, and the company was facing a crisis: either bring in others to help support a costly distribution system or concede defeat. Veteran producer Joseph Schenck was hired as president.[7] Not only had he been producing pictures for a decade, but he brought along commitments for films starring his wife, Norma Talmadge,[7] his sister-in-law, Constance Talmadge, and his brother-in-law, Buster Keaton.[7] Contracts were signed with a number of independent producers, most notably Samuel Goldwyn, and Howard Hughes.[7] In 1933, Schenck organized a new company with Darryl F. Zanuck, Twentieth Century Pictures, which soon provided four pictures a year to UA's schedule and was half the schedule.[7]

Schenck also formed a separate partnership with Pickford and Chaplin to buy and build theaters under the United Artists name. They also began international operations, first in Canada, then in Mexico, and by the end of the 1930s, United Artists was represented in over 40 countries.

When he was denied an ownership share in 1935, Schenck resigned. He set up 20th Century Pictures' merger with Fox Film Corporation to form 20th Century Fox. Al Lichtman succeeded Schenck as company president. A number of other independent producers distributed through United Artists in the 1930s including: Walt Disney Productions, Alexander Korda, Hal Roach, David O. Selznick, and Walter Wanger.[7] As the years passed, and the dynamics of the business changed, these "producing partners" drifted away, Samuel Goldwyn Productions and Disney to RKO, and Wanger to Universal Pictures.

In the late 1930s, UA actually turned a profit. Samuel Goldwyn Productions was providing most of the output for distribution. Goldwyn sued United several times for disputed compensation leading Goldwyn Productions to leave. MGM's 1939 hit Gone with the Wind, the top money maker of all time, was supposed to be a UA release except that Selznick wanted Clark Gable, who was under contract to MGM, to play Rhett Butler. Also that year Fairbanks died.[7]

UA was embroiled again in lawsuits with its top producer, Selznick, over his distribution of some films through RKO. Selznick, considered UA's operation sloppy and left to start his own distribution arm.[7]

In the 1940s, United Artists was losing money because of poor pictures, and cinema attendance continued dropping as television became more popular with viewers.[7] It sold off its Mexican releasing division to Crédito Cinematográfico Mexicano, a local company.

Society of Independent Motion Picture Producers (1940s and 1950s)

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 Hunt Stromberg, William Cagney, Sol Lesser, and Hal Roach.

The Society aimed to advance the interests of independent producers in an industry overwhelmingly controlled by the studio system. SIMPP also fought to end ostensibly anti-competitive practices by the seven major film studios — Loew's (MGM), Columbia Pictures, Paramount Pictures, Universal Pictures, RKO Radio Pictures, 20th Century Fox, and Warner Bros./First National — 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. This was the first antitrust suit brought by producers against exhibitors alleging monopoly and restraint of trade.

In 1948, the U.S. Supreme Court Paramount Decision ordered the major Hollywood movie studiosLoew's/MGM, Paramount, Warner Bros./First National, 20th Century Fox and RKO — 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 objectives that led to the creation of the SIMPP had been achieved, and SIMPP closed its offices that year.

The 1950s and 1960s

Needing a turnaround, Pickford and Chaplin hired Paul V. McNutt, a former governor of Indiana, as chairman and Frank L. McNamee as president. McNutt did not have the skill to solve UA's financial problems and the pair was replaced in a few months by a new management team.[7]

On February 16, 1951, lawyers-turned-producers Arthur Krim (of Eagle-Lion Films) and Robert Benjamin approached Pickford and Chaplin with a wild idea: let them take over United Artists for ten years. If, at the end of those years, UA was profitable, they would be given half the company. Fox Film Corporation president Spyros Skouras extended United Artists a $3 million loan through Krim and Benjamin's efforts.[7]

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 that ran up costs at other studios.

They had two hits, The African Queen and High Noon, thus turned a profit in their first year.[7] Among their first clients were Sam Spiegel and John Huston, whose Horizon Productions gave UA one major hit, The African Queen (1951) and a substantial success, Moulin Rouge (1952), based on the life of Toulouse-Lautrec. Others followed, among them Stanley Kramer, Otto Preminger, Hecht-Hill-Lancaster Productions, and a number of actors, newly freed from studio contracts and anxious to produce or direct their own films.

With the instability in the film industry due to theater holding divestment, the business was considered risky. Additionally, in 1955 movie attendance reached its lowest level since 1923. Chaplin sold his 25% share during this crisis to Krim and Benjamin for $1.1 million, followed a year later by Pickford who sold her share for $3 million.[7]

Public company

United Artists went public in 1957 with a $17 million stock and debenture offering. The company was averaging 50 films a year.[7] In 1958, UA acquired Ilya Lopert's Lopert Pictures Corporation, which released foreign films in the United States, that may have attracted criticism or had censorship problems.[8]

In 1957, United Artists Records Corporation and United Artists Music Corporation were created after UA failed to buy a record company.[9] 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 taken over by EMI and managed by Capitol Records which continues to control the catalog today.

In 1959, after failing to sell several pilots in the previous few years, United Artists offered its first ever television series - The Troubleshooters, an adventure/drama on NBC starring Keenan Wynn and Bob Mathias as employees of an international construction company.[10] United Artists would later have its first sitcom The Dennis O'Keefe Show, which was not a big ratings success.

In the 1960s, mainstream studios fell into decline and some were acquired or diversified. UA prospered while winning 11 Academy Awards, including five for best picture,[7] 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 1960, United Artists purchased Ziv Television Programs and, using the idea of financial backing for television, UA's television division was responsible for shows such as CBS's Gilligan's Island and three ABC programs, the action drama The Fugitive with David Janssen, Outer Limits, a science fiction series, and the situation comedy The Patty Duke Show starred Patty Duke and William Schallert. The television unit also had begun to build up a substantial and profitable rental library, having purchased Associated Artists Productions,[11] owners of Warner Bros. pre-1950[12][note 1] features, shorts and cartoons and the 231 Popeye cartoon shorts purchased from Paramount Pictures in 1958, becoming United Artists Associated, its distribution division. (See note below at Film archives for more on this.)

In 1963 United Artists released two Stanley Kramer films, the epic comedy It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and the drama A Child is Waiting. 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 North Americans in Britain, who had acquired screen rights to Ian Fleming's James Bond novels. For $1 million, UA backed Harry Saltzman and Albert Broccoli's Dr. No (which was a sensation in 1963) and launched the James Bond series.[7] The franchise has outlived UA's time as a major studio, still running half a century 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 1964, the French subsidiary, Les Productions Artistes Associés, released its first production That Man from Rio.

Transamerica Corporation subsidiary

On the basis of its fantastic string of film and television hits in the 1960s, the company was an attractive property, and in 1967, 98% of UA stock was purchased by the San Francisco-based insurance giant, the Transamerica Corporation. Transamerica selected David and Arnold Picker to lead its newly acquired studio.[7] UA debuted a new logo incorporating the parent company's striped T emblem and the tagline "Entertainment from Transamerica Corporation". This wording would later be simplified to "A Transamerica Company". The following year, in 1968, United Artists Associated was reincorporated as United Artists Television Distribution.

UA released another Best Picture Oscar winner in 1967, In the Heat of the Night, starring Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger, and a nominee for Best Picture, The Graduate, an Embassy production that UA distributed overseas.

In 1970, UA lost $35 million; thus the Pickers were pushed aside for the return of Arthur Krim and Robert Benjamin.[7]

For a time, the flow of successful pictures continued, including the 1971 screen version of Fiddler on the Roof. However, the 1972 film version of Man of La Mancha was a failure. 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 in Anglo-America for 10 years,[7] while Cinema International Corporation took over international distribution rights.

In 1975, Harry Saltzman sold UA his 50% stake in Danjaq, the holding-company for the Bond films. UA was to remain a silent partner, putting up money, while Albert Broccoli took producer credit. 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.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest was released by UA in 1975. It won the Best Picture Academy Award and earned $56 million. UA followed with the next two years' Best Picture Oscar winners, Rocky and Woody Allen's Annie Hall.[7]

However, Transamerica was not pleased with UA's frequent releases of films such as Midnight Cowboy and Last Tango in Paris rated X by the Motion Picture Association of America. 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 its desire to phase out the UA name and replace it with Transamerica Films. Arthur Krim tried to convince Transamerica to spin-off United Artists, but he and Transamerica's chairman could not come to an agreement.[13] Finally in 1978, following a dispute with Transamerica chief John R. Beckett[7] over administrative expenses, UA's top executives, including chairman Krim, president Eric Pleskow, Benjamin, and other key officers walked out. Within days they announced the formation of Orion Pictures,[7] with backing from Warner. The departures of Krim, Pleskow and Benjamin concerned several Hollywood figures enough that they took out an ad in a trade paper warning Transamerica that it had made a fatal mistake in letting them go.

Transamerica placed Andy Albeck in as UA's president. United had its most successful year with four hit pictures in 1979: Rocky II, Manhattan, Moonraker, and The Black Stallion.[7]

The new leadership of UA agreed to back Heaven's Gate, the pet project of director Michael Cimino which overran its budget and cost $44 million. This led to the resignation of Albeck who was replaced by Norbert Auerbach.[7] United Artists recorded a major loss for the year due almost entirely to the Heaven's Gate fiasco. To Transamerica, it was only a blip on a multibillion-dollar balance sheet, but it soured the relationship forever. To the greater Hollywood community, it also signaled that UA was a company that could no longer produce bankable pictures. The Heaven's Gate fiasco may have saved the United Artists name, as UA's final head before the sale, Steven Bach, wrote in his book Final Cut that there was talk about renaming United Artists to Transamerica Pictures.

In 1980, the Transamerica leadership decided the company should exit the film making business, and United Artists was put up for sale. Kirk Kerkorian's Tracinda Corp. purchased the company.[14][15] Tracinda also owned Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, which acquired United Artists in 1981.[16]

United Artists Classics

In 1981, United Artists Classics, which had formerly been a division of the company that re-released library titles, was turned into a first-run art film distributor by Nathaniel T. Kwit Jr. Tom Bernard was hired as the division's head of sales and Ira Deutchman[17][18] as its head of marketing. Later the division added Michael Barker and Donna Gigliotti. Deutchman left to form Cinecom, and Barker and Bernard later went 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 and Ivan Passer's Cutter's Way. When Barker and Bernard left to form Orion, the label was briefly rechristened MGM/UA Classics before it was finally shut down in the late 1980s.

MGM/UA Entertainment Company

The merged companies became MGM/UA Entertainment Company and in 1982 began launching new subsidiaries: the MGM/UA Home Entertainment Group, MGM/UA Classics, and the MGM/UA Television Group. Kerkorian also bid for the remaining, outstanding public stock, but dropped his bid after resistance in the form of lawsuits and vocal opposition.[7]

After the purchase of United Artists, David Begelman's duties were transferred from MGM to MGM/UA. Under Begelman, MGM/UA produced a number of unsuccessful films, and he was fired in July 1982. Of the 11 films he put into production, by the time of his termination only one film, Poltergeist, proved to be a clear hit.[19][20]

As part of the consolidation, in 1983 MGM closed and put up for sale United Artists' long time headquarters at 729 Seventh Avenue in New York City.[21]

WarGames and Octopussy in the early 1980s made profits for the new MGM/UA, but were not sufficient for Kerkorian. A 1985 restructuring led to independent MGM and UA production units with the combined studio leaders each placed in charge of a single unit. Speculation from analysts was that one of the studios, most likely UA, would be sold to fund the other's (MGM) stock buy-back to take that studio private. However, soon afterwards, one unit's chief was fired and the remaining executive, Alan Ladd, Jr., took charge of both.[7]


On August 7, 1985, it was announced that Ted Turner's Turner Broadcasting System would buy MGM/UA. As film licensing to television became more complicated, Turner saw the value of acquiring MGM's film library for his superstation WTBS.[22] Under the terms of the deal, Turner would immediately sell United Artists back to Kerkorian.[16]

In anticipation of the MGM sale, Kerkorian installed film producer Jerry Weintraub as the chairman and chief executive of United Artists Corporation in November 1985.[23] Former American Broadcasting Company executive Anthony Thomopoulos was recruited as UA's president[24] Weintraub's tenure at UA was brief; he left the studio in April 1986, and his void was subsequently filled by former Lorimar executive Lee Rich.[25]

On March 25, 1986, the acquisition of MGM/UA by Ted Turner was finalized in a cash-stock deal for $1.5 billion,[22][26][27][28] and was renamed "MGM Entertainment Co.".[29][30] Kerkorian then repurchased United Artists for roughly $480 million.[26][27]

MGM/UA Communications Company

Logo from 1987 to 1994.

Due to concerns within the financial community over the debt load of his companies, Ted Turner was forced to sell MGM's production and distribution assets to United Artists for $300 million on August 26, 1986.[26][27][31][32] The MGM lot and lab facilities were sold to Lorimar-Telepictures.[31] Turner kept the pre-May 1986 MGM film and television library, along with the Associated Artists Productions library, Gilligan's Island and its animated spin-offs, and the RKO Pictures films that United Artists had previously purchased.[31]

United Artists was renamed MGM/UA Communications Company (MUCC) and organized into three main units: one television production and two film units. David Gerber headed up the TV unit with Anthony Thomopoulous at UA, and Alan Ladd, Jr. at MGM. Despite having a resurgence at the box office in 1987 with Spaceballs, The Living Daylights, and Moonstruck, MUCC lost $88 million.[7]

In April 1988, Kerkorian's 82% of MUCC was up for sale, with MGM and UA being split by July. Eventually, 25% of MGM was offered to Burt Sugarman, and producers Jon Peters and Peter Guber, but the plan fell through. Rich, Ladd, Thomopoulous, and other executives grew tired of Kerkorian's inexplicable actions and began to leave the company.[7] By summer 1988, the mass exodus of executives started to affect productions, with many film cancellations. The 1989 sale of MGM/UA to the Australian company Qintex/Australian Television Network (owners of the Hal Roach library both MGM and UA distributed in the 1930s) also fell through, due to the company's bankruptcy later that year. On November 29, 1989, Turner Broadcasting System (the owners of the pre-May 1986 MGM library) attempted to buy entertainment assets from Tracinda Corporation, including MGM/UA Communications Co. (which also included United Artists, MGM/UA Home Video, and MGM/UA Television Productions), but failed.[33] UA was essentially dormant after 1990, releasing no films for several years.

The 1990s

Eventually, in 1990, came the sale to Italian promoter Giancarlo Parretti, who had attempted to purchase Pathé the previous year. Parretti had bought a smaller company and renamed it Pathé Communications anticipating a successful purchase of the original French company, but failed in that attempt, so instead merged MGM/UA with his former company, resulting in MGM-Pathé Communications Co. Having bought MGM/UA by overstating his own financial condition, within a year Parretti had defaulted to his primary bank, Crédit Lyonnais, which foreclosed on the studio[15] in 1992, also resulting in the sale or closure of MGM/UA's string of US theaters. On July 2, 1992, MGM-Pathé Communications Co. was again named Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc. In an effort to make MGM/UA saleable, Credit Lyonnais ramped up production, and convinced John Calley to run UA.[15] Under his supervision, Calley revived two long-running franchises, the Pink Panther and James Bond films,[15] and touched on an aspect of UA's past by giving the widest release ever to a film with an NC-17 rating, Paul Verhoeven and Joe Eszterhas's controversial Showgirls. MGM was sold by Credit Lyonnais in 1996, again to Kirk Kerkorian's Tracinda,[15] resulting in the departure of Calley as UA president.

In 1999, filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola attempted to buy UA from Kerkorian. The deal was rejected, but Coppola signed a production deal with the studio instead.[34]

The 2000s to present

In 1999, UA was repositioned as a specialty studio.[35] MGM had just acquired The Samuel Goldwyn Company, which had been a leading distributor of arthouse films, and after that name was retired, MGM folded UA into Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures. G2 Films, successor to Goldwyn, was renamed United Artists. 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. The first arthouse film to bear the UA name was Things You Can Tell Just by Looking at Her.

UA (re-christened United Artists Films) hired Bingham Ray, who previously founded October Films, to run the company[15] in 2000. Under his supervision, it produced and distributed many "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 Undertow, directed by David Gordon Green, and Terry George's Hotel Rwanda, a co-production of UA and Lions Gate Entertainment.

In 2005, a partnership of Comcast, Sony and several merchant banks bought United Artists and its parent, MGM, for a total of $4.8 billion.[15] Though only a minority investor, Sony closed MGM's distribution system and folded most of its staff into their own studio,[15] and the movies UA had completed and planned for release - Capote, Art School Confidential, The Woods, and Romance and Cigarettes - were reassigned to Sony Pictures Classics.[15]

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 Entertainment and other independent studios, MGM distributed 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 its own distribution company, MGM Distribution.

Sony had a minority stake in MGM but otherwise MGM and UA operated under the direction of Stephen Cooper (CEO of MGM and a minority owner himself).

United Artists Entertainment

On November 2, 2006, MGM announced that actor Tom Cruise and his long-time production partner Paula Wagner were resurrecting UA.[36][37] This announcement came after the duo were released from a fourteen-year production relationship at Viacom-owned Paramount Pictures earlier that year. Cruise, Wagner and MGM Studios created United Artists Entertainment LLC and the producer/actor and his partner owned a 30% stake in the studio,[38] with the approval by MGM's consortium of owners.

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 served 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.[39]

On August 14, 2008, MGM announced Paula Wagner would leave United Artists to produce films independently.[2] Her output as head of UA was two films, both starring Cruise, Lions for Lambs[40] and Valkyrie which, despite mixed reviews, was successful at the box office thanks to $117 million in foreign revenue.[41] Wagner's departure led to speculation that an overhaul at United Artists was imminent.[2]

Since then, United Artists has merely served as a co-producer with MGM for two releases: the 2009 remake of Fame and Hot Tub Time Machine. Throughout 2010, due to continued debt and credit issues for MGM Holdings, Inc., United Artists' parent company had left the future of MGM and UA in doubt until it was resolved near the end of the year.

A 2011 financial report revealed that MGM reacquired its 100% stake in United Artists.[38] MGM stated that it might continue to make new films under the UA brand.[38]

United Artists Media Group

On September 22, 2014, MGM acquired a 55% interest in One Three Media and Lightworkers Media, both operated by married Hollywood producers Mark Burnett and actress Roma Downey and partly owned by Hearst Entertainment. The two companies were consolidated into a new television company, United Artists Media Group, a revival of the UA brand. Burnett became UAMG's CEO and Downey became president of Lightworkers Media, the UAMG family and faith division. UAMG became the distributing studio for Mark Burnett Productions programming such as Survivor. UAMG will also form an over-the-top faith-based channel.[15][42]

On December 14, 2015, MGM announced that it had acquired the remaining 45% stake of UAMG it did not already own and folded UAMG into MGM Television. Hearst, Downey, and Burnett received stakes in MGM collectively valued at $233 million. Additionally, Burnett was promoted to CEO of MGM TV, replacing the outgoing Roma Khanna. The planned over-the-top faith service became a separate entity owned by MGM, Burnett, Downey, and Hearst.[43] With this change, UA once again went dormant.[44]

Today UA continues to exist as a brand-name for the in-house material parent company MGM currently distributes.

Library and historical list of films

A majority of UA's post-1952 library is now owned by MGM, while the pre-1952 films (with few exceptions) are now either owned by other companies or in the public domain. However, throughout the studio's history of releasing its films, UA has acted as more of a distributor rather than a film studio, crediting the copyright to the production company responsible. This explains why certain UA releases, such as High Noon (1952) and The Final Countdown (1980), are still under copyright but not owned by MGM.

UA films on video

UA originally leased the home video rights to its films (including the pre-1950 Warner Bros. classics they owned at the time) to Magnetic Video, the first home video company. Magnetic was purchased by 20th Century Fox in 1981 and was renamed 20th Century-Fox Video that year. In 1982, 20th Century-Fox Video merged with CBS Video Enterprises (which had demerged with MGM/CBS Home Video after MGM merged with UA) giving birth to CBS/Fox Video. Although MGM owned UA around this time, the latter studio's licensing deal with CBS/Fox was still in effect; however, the newly renamed MGM/UA Home Video started releasing some UA product, including UA films originally released in the mid 80s. Prior to MGM's purchase, UA licensed foreign video rights to Warner Bros. through Warner Home Video, in a deal that was set to expire in 1991.[45] In 1986, the pre-1950 WB and the pre-May 1986 MGM film and television libraries were purchased by Ted Turner after its short-lived ownership of MGM/UA, and as a result CBS/Fox lost home video rights to the pre-1950 WB films to MGM/UA Home Video. When the deal with CBS/Fox (inherited from Magnetic Video) expired in 1989, the UA films began to be issued through MGM/UA Home Video.

Before the Magnetic Video and Warner Home Video deals; in 1980, United Artists had exclusive rental contacts with a small video label called VidAmerica in the US[46][47] and another small label called Intervision Video in the UK[48][49] for the home video release of 20 titles from the UA library (e.g. The Great Escape, Some Like It Hot, and Hair, along with a few pre-1950 WB titles).

In 1988, United Artists licensed the video releases for its more obscure titles to a small specialty video distributor called Wood Knapp Video. This deal lasted in effect until 1995.

United Artists Broadcasting

United Artists owned and operated 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.

DMA Market Station Years Owned Current Affiliation Notes
17. ClevelandAkronCanton 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 to 1977 following the closure of crosstown WKBF.
In 1977, Gaylord Entertainment Company acquired WUAB.
NR San JuanPonceMayagüez WRIK-TV 7 1970–1978 Independent station WSTE
owned by Univision
Licensed to Ponce. Operates 3
booster stations throughout
Puerto Rico.

Additionally, United Artists Broadcasting also held the permit to KUAB-TV in Houston, Texas, which would have possibly launched sometime around 1969 on channel 20; the station would eventually launch in 1982 under different ownership as KTXH.[50] United Artists also owned one radio station, WWSH in Philadelphia, from 1970 to 1977.

UAB/Transamerica left the broadcasting business in 1977 by selling WUAB to the Gaylord Broadcasting Company and WWSH to Cox Enterprises.

See also


  1. WB retained a pair of features from 1949 that they merely distributed, and all short subjects released on or after September 1, 1948, in addition to all cartoons released in August 1948.


  1. Woo, Elaine (September 29, 2011). "Mo Rothman dies at 92; found new audience for Chaplin". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-10-01.
  2. 1 2 3 Fleming, Michael (August 14, 2008). "Paula Wagner Leaves UA". Daily Variety. Reed Business Information. Retrieved August 14, 2008.
  3. Lieberman, David (2012-03-22). "MGM Takes A Loss On 'Dragon Tattoo' And Seeks Better Terms For Sequels". Deadline. Retrieved 2015-01-26.
  4. http://variety.com/2015/tv/news/mark-burnett-named-president-of-mgm-television-1201661210/
  5. Siklos, Richard (March 4, 2007). Mission Improbable: Tom Cruise as Mogul. New York Times
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