Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation (Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation, with hyphen, from 1935 to 1985)—also known as 20th Century Fox, 20th Century Fox Pictures, or simply Fox, is an American film studio and one of the six major American film studios. Located in the Century City area of Los Angeles, just west of Beverly Hills, the studio used to be a subsidiary of News Corporation, but now it is currently a subsidiary of 21st Century Fox. It's the world's second largest major film studio, after Warner Bros.
The company as we know today, was formed on May 31, 1935, as the result of the merger between Fox Film Corporation, founded by William Fox in 1915, and Twentieth Century Pictures, founded in 1933 by Darryl F. Zanuck and Joseph M. Schenck.
20th Century Fox has distributed various commercially successful film series, including Avatar, the first two Star Wars trilogies, Ice Age, X-Men, Die Hard, Planet of the Apes, Night at the Museum, Fantastic Four, Alien, Predator, and the live action Alvin and the Chipmunks. Television series produced by Fox include The Simpsons, M*A*S*H, The X-Files, Bones, House, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Futurama, How I Met Your Mother, Glee, Modern Family, New Girl, and 24. Among the most famous actresses to come out of this studio were Shirley Temple, who was 20th Century Fox's first film star, Alice Faye, Betty Grable, Gene Tierney, Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield. The studio also contracted the first African-American cinema star, Dorothy Dandridge. 20th Century Fox is a member of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA)
History of Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation Edit
Fox Film Corporation
The Fox Film Corporation was formed in 1915 by 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 (or Box, depending on the source) Office Attractions Company, a production company. This merging of companies of two different types
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 technology, 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 (1.2 km2) 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 was not included in the deal and fought back. Using political connections, Mayer called on the Justice Department's antitrust unit to delay giving final approval to the merger. 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, ending any chance of the merger going through even without the Justice Department's objections.
Overextended and close to bankruptcy, Fox was stripped of his empire in 1930 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 soon became apparent that despite its size, Fox could not stand on its own. Under 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 created in 1932 by Joseph Schenck (the former president of United Artists) and Darryl F. Zanuck from Warner Brothers. Financial backing came from Schenck's younger brother Nicholas Schenck, president of Loew's, the theater chain that owned M-G-M, and Louis B. Mayer of M-G-M, who wanted a position for his son-in-law, William Goetz. The company product was distributed by United Artists (UA), and leased space at Samuel Goldwyn Studios.
Schenck was President of 20th Century, while Zanuck was named Production Chief and Goetz and Raymond Griffith served as vice-presidents. Their initial stars under contract were George Arliss, Constance Bennett, and Loretta Young however the Goetz connection meant that talent could be borrowed from MGM. The company was successful right from the very beginning - out of their first 18 films only one, Born to Be Bad - was not a financial success. 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. Early in the late
winter of 1934, Zanuck began negotiate with the UA board to acquire stock of the company and become a board member, but became outraged by UA's co-founder Mary Pickford's
refusal to reward Twentieth Century with the company's 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; thus began discussions with other distributors, which have led to talks with the bankrupt Fox Studios.
The Twentieth Century/Fox Film Corp. Merger Edit
Schenck and Zanuck began merger talks with Fox management Kent and Spyros Skouras, then manager of the Fox West Coast Theaters, helped make it happen (and later became president of the new company). Although it was still much smaller than Fox, Twentieth Century was the senior partner in the merger. 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 and promising leading men James Dunn and Spencer Tracy had been dropped because of heavy drinking. At first, it was expected that the new company was originally to be called "Fox-Twentieth Century". However, 20th Century brought more to the bargaining table besides Schenck and Zanuck; it was more profitable than Fox and had considerably more talent. The new company, The Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation, 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.
The company's films retained the 20th Century Films searchlight logo on their opening credits as well as the 20th Century opening fanfare, but with the name changed to 20th Century-Fox.
After the merger was completed, 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 MGM (Hollywood's biggest studio) to become the third most
profitable film studio. While Zanuck went off for eighteen months' war service, junior partner William Goetz
kept profits high by going for light entertainment. The studio's —
indeed the industry's — biggest star was creamy blonde Betty Grable.
In 1942, Spyros Skouras succeeded Kent 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 such as Ben Ames Williams' Leave Her to Heaven (1945), starring Gene Tierney, which was the highest-grossing Fox film of the 1940s. Fox also produced film versions of Broadway musicals, including the Rodgers and Hammerstein films, beginning with the musical version of State Fair, the only work that the famous team wrote especially for films, in 1945, and continuing years later with Carousel in 1956, The King and I, and The Sound of Music. They also made the 1958 film version of South Pacific. Fox released B pictures made by producers Edward L. Alperson from the mid-1940s and Robert L. Lippert (Regal and later Associated Pictures Inc.) in the mid 50s.
After the war, and with the advent of television, audiences slowly 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 film studios 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 (but "branded" RegalScope).
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. 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 Edit
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 new version of 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, the surrounding media frenzy, and Skouras'
selfish preferences and inexperienced micromanagement on the film's production. Not even his showmanship made up for his considerable lack of filmmaking in speeding up production on Cleopatra.
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 entitled Something's Got to Give paired Marilyn Monroe, Fox's most bankable star of the 1950s, with Dean Martin, and director (George Cukor). 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, settling somewhere around $40 million, Fox sold its back lot (now the site of Century City)
to Alcoa in 1961 to raise cash. After several weeks of script rewrites
on the Monroe picture and very little progress, mostly due to the director George Cukor's slow and repetitive filming, in addition to Monroe's chronic sinusitus, Marilyn Monroe was fired from Something's Got to Give and two months later she was found dead, although controversially to this day. According to Fox files she was rehired within weeks for a two-picture deal totaling one million dollars, $500K to finish Something's Got To Give, plus a bonus at completion, and $500K for What a Way to Go. Elizabeth Taylor's highly disruptive reign on the Cleopatra set continued unchallenged from 1960 into 1962, though three Fox executives went to Rome in June 1962 to fire her. They learned that director Joseph L. Mankiewicz
had filmed out of sequence and had only done interiors, so Fox was then forced to allow Taylor several more weeks of filming. In the meantime
that summer of '62, Fox released nearly all of its contract stars, including Jayne Mansfield.
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 (Martin had refused to work with anyone else), 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 picture resumed filming as Move Over, Darling, with Doris Day and James Garner in the leads. Released in 1963, the film was a hit. 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 (1965), an expensive and handsomely produced film adaptation of the highly acclaimed Rodgers and Hammerstein Broadway musical, which became one of the all-time greatest box office hits and went on to win five Academy Awards, including Best Director (Robert Wise) and Best Picture of the Year.
Fox also had two big science-fiction hits in the 1960s: Fantastic Voyage (which introduced Racquel Welch to film audiences) in 1966, and the original Planet of the Apes, starring Charlton Heston, Kim Hunter, and Roddy McDowall, in 1968. Fantastic Voyage was the last film made in CinemaScope, which was ultimately replaced by Panavision lenses.
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. Foreshadowing a pattern of film production still yet to come, in late 1973 Twentieth Century-Fox joined forces with Warner Bros. to co-produce The Towering Inferno (1974), an all-star action blockbuster from Producer Irwin Allen.
Both studios found themselves owning the rights to books about burning
skyscrapers. Allen insisted on a meeting with the heads of both studios and announced that as Fox was already in the lead with their property it
would be career suicide to have competing movies. And so the first
joint venture studio deal was struck. In hindsight whilst it may be common place now, back in the 1970s it was a risky, but revolutionary idea that paid off handsomely at both the domestic and international box
offices around the world.
In 1977, Fox's success reached new heights and produced the most profitable film made up to that time, Star Wars.
The film, which - at the time - was thought by many as an unmitigated
disaster to begin with, is considered to be a landmark film in cinema history, thanks to its imaginative and visionary direction and storytelling by George Lucas, groundbreaking visual effects and production values, John Williams' musical score, and the acting led by newcomers Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, and Carrie Fisher.
Marvin Davis and Rupert Murdoch Edit
With financial stability came new owners, and in 1978 control passed to the investors Marc Rich and Marvin Davis. Fox's assets included Pebble Beach Golf Links, the Aspen Skiing Company, and a Century City property upon which Davis built and twice sold Fox Plaza.
By 1985 Rich was a fugitive from U.S. justice, and Davis bought out his interest in Fox for $116 million. Davis sold this interest to Rupert Murdoch for $250 million in March 1984. Davis later backed out of a deal with Murdoch to purchase John Kluge's Metromedia television stations. Murdoch went alone and bought the stations, and later bought out Davis' remaining stake in Fox for $325 million.
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 U.S. citizen. He did so in 1985, 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. 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.
As of 2012, in Australia, 20th Century Fox have an expanded movie deals to replay movie and television content from television broadcasters, Network Ten, Eleven and One.
In August 2012, 20th Century Fox signed a five-year deal with DreamWorks Animation to distribute on domestic and international markets. However, the deal did not include the distribution rights of previously released films which DreamWorks Animation acquired from Paramount Pictures later in 2014. Now they will distribute the old DreamWorks Animation films.
In 2012, Rupert Murdoch announced that News Corp. would be split into two publishing and media-oriented companies; a new News Corporation, and 21st Century Fox, which houses Fox Entertainment Group and 20th Century Fox. Murdoch considered the name of the new company a way to maintain the 20th Century Fox's heritage as the group advances into the future.