United Artists

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The logo of the film company

United Artists ( UA ) - also known as United Artists Pictures , United Artists Films or (after the IPO in 1957) United Artists Corporation - is an American film company. It was founded in 1919 with the intention of giving filmmakers more creative freedom and independence from, for example, film producers. Today it is a subsidiary of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer .


Photomontage: Signing of the founding agreement of United Artists; v. l. To the right: DW Griffith , Mary Pickford , Charlie Chaplin and Douglas Fairbanks , two lawyers in the background
List of United Artists shareholders on March 16, 1920


United Artists (UA) was founded on April 17, 1919 by the silent film greats Charles Chaplin , Douglas Fairbanks Sr. , Mary Pickford and David Wark Griffith . At first the United Artists was only a distributor for independent film productions of the participating artists - hence the company name - which, without the dependencies on producers, e.g. B. wanted to shoot in the studio system . However, in the 1950s, the UA eventually developed into a studio that produced films itself. The new owners under the leadership of Arthur Krim and Robert Benjamin were responsible for the change in business policy .

Until 1967 UA was an independent company under the direction of various managers and a changing ownership structure. In 1957 the studio went public, ten years later the insurance company Transamerica Corporation acquired the majority of the film company. After the financial failure of the film Heaven's Gate , UA was sold to Kirk Kerkorians Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) in 1981 . Since then, the studio has been controlled as a subsidiary by MGM and its changing owners. This was accompanied by a change in UA's corporate policy.

In 2005, a consortium led by Sony Corporation of America acquired MGM and thus also UA. Since then, the studio has been part of the Sony Pictures Entertainment division . As of 2007, UA was directed by actor Tom Cruise and producer Paula Wagner . Wagner left the studio in August 2008.

Foundation of the rental company

first UA logo from 1919

The founding of United Artists was a reaction to attempts by the then leading American film producers to form a cartel and to reduce what they saw as the excessive fees of actors and directors. When Charles Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks Sr., Mary Pickford and David Griffith found out about these plans in 1918, the idea of ​​setting up a company was born that would give artists control over their own films and sell their independent film productions. The formal establishment took place on April 17, 1919. Hiram Abrams became the company's first president.

It was agreed that UA would distribute all future films by the four founding members. But before that could happen, they first had to fulfill their obligations to their previous studios. The first contract stipulated that each partner in the company should produce five new films per year. The growing effort and the associated rising costs of film productions made this an illusion. In addition to the small number of exclusive productions, there were the high fixed costs of film rental. So in 1924 David Griffith sold his stake in UA to the three remaining partners.

In 1925, Joseph Schenck, an experienced producer, was appointed president of the company. In the same year he signed contracts with independent film producers such as Samuel Goldwyn , Howard Hughes , Walt Disney , Alexander Korda , Walter Wanger and Darryl F. Zanuck , who have now brought their films to UA for distribution. In addition, Schenck's family connections - including his wife Norma Talmadge , her sisters Constance Talmadge and Natalie Talmadge, and her husband Buster Keaton - should help to increase the annual film output.

UA received a film rental fee that was lower than any other Hollywood film company. Unlike UA, these were also mostly owned by cinema theaters. Schenck convinced the company owners of the need to operate their own cinemas and founded the independent subsidiary United Artists Theater .

Together with Darryl F. Zanuck, Schenck founded 20th Century Productions in 1930 . Their films were also awarded through United Artists until the merger with Fox Film Corporation to form 20th Century Fox in 1935.

Between the three remaining founders, differences arose in the 20s and 30s about the direction of the company. With the invention of talkies, the careers of Fairbanks and Pickford ended. Chaplin took a lot of time for new film productions and did not make his first pure sound film until 1940 with The Great Dictator .

Transformation phase

In the 1940s, many independent producers left the distribution company. As a result, the number of films on loan decreased and UA was losing money.

In February 1951, two new managers took over the running of the film company: Arthur Krim and Robert Benjamin agreed with the remaining owners, Mary Pickford and Charlie Chaplin, that they would run the business of UA for five years. Then, if the rental company was profitable, both should be given the opportunity to acquire it. Since Mary Pickford had nothing to lose after the end of her acting career, she agreed to this agreement. Chaplin only sold his shares in UA after he ran into problems with the US immigration authorities and feared for his fortune in the US.

With the realignment of the company by Krim and Benjamin, the number of new productions increased each year. There were also new economic and artistic relationships with producers such as Walter Mirisch , Alberto Grimaldi , Michael Todd and Harold Hecht , and with directors such as Stanley Kramer , Billy Wilder , Stanley Kubrick , John Frankenheimer , Norman Jewison , Joseph L. Mankiewicz , Sergio Leone and John Huston as well as actors such as Burt Lancaster , Steve McQueen and Gregory Peck .

In 1957 UA went public and has been trading as United Artists Corporation ever since . The money raised through the IPO was put into the development of a music and a TV division - United Artists Records and United Artists Television . In 1966, music producers Sonny Lester and Phil Ramone built the Solid State sub-label , which existed until 1969.

With a distribution contract initially designed for six films with producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman and their production company Eon Productions Ltd. the symbiosis between United Artists and James Bond began . Another film series also originated in this decade: the Pink Panther series (the first two parts were produced by the Mirisch Corporation and only loaned out by UA).

With the establishment of subsidiaries in France ( Les Productions Artistes Associés ) and Italy ( Produzioni Europee Associati (PEA)), which were also dedicated to the production of local theatrical films as well as the distribution of these and other films (for which UA had concluded distribution agreements), the company's market power also grew on the European continent .

Change of ownership

In 1967 the group acquired Transamerica Corporation UA ​​with the aim of creating a conglomerate whose subsidiaries have different value chains and are not in competition with one another. On the other hand, the glamorous image of the film company should radiate onto the parent company.

In 1973 UA sales manager Eric Pleskow moved to the post of president of the film company. Mike Medavoy became the company's head of production. Medavoy replaced David Picker . As an independent producer, he was responsible for the films Lenny , Lauter Nette Mädchen and 18 Hours to Eternity for the UA.

The managers of the film company UA gave up their autonomy with the takeover. The management of the film company deeply regretted the sale to the Transamerica Corporation. Time and again attempts have been made in vain to convince the management of the parent company to split up. When an article about the failure of the separation negotiations and the cooperation between the two companies appeared in Fortune magazine on January 16, 1978 , the five-man leadership of the UA resigned a few days later. Together with Warner Bros. , the founding of Orion Pictures Corporation was announced immediately .

From 1951 until the year he left the company, UA was chaired by Arthur Krim. The following management relied heavily on the collaboration with director Michael Cimino (whose last film Die durch die Hölle won several Oscars ) in the production of the film Heaven's Gate . The protracted shooting drove up the budget of the western , and the new crew on board the UA did not want to interfere with the filmmaker's autonomy - with serious consequences for the future of the company.

During the 1970s, UA named the Oscar winner in the Best Picture category for three consecutive years :

The old UA regime under Arthur Krim, Robert Benjamin, Eric Pleskow, Mike Medavoy and Bill Bernstein was still responsible for this film output .

Takeover by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)

In 1980 the company was sold to MGM after the flop with Heaven's Gate and a return to its core areas of insurance and finance by the company owner Transamerica Corporation . The new company traded as MGM / UA Communications Co .; United Artists (UA) had to give up its international sales network because MGM had already signed a sales contract for non-American countries with Cinema International Corporation (CIC). Production activities in Europe were also discontinued.

The Cinema International Corporation was renamed United International Pictures in 1981 and took care of the theatrical distribution of the films of MGM and its subsidiaries UA, Universal Pictures and Paramount Pictures . The three partners were equal shareholders who, with United International Pictures, had market power over cinema theaters. The European Community wanted to prevent this, and the two contracting parties UIP and EG agreed on an exemption for film distribution.

The business relationship with MGM began in 1973. In that year UA signed a ten-year contract for the distribution of MGM films in North American cinemas. The Heaven's Gate fiasco and the attempt on the part of the Transamerica Corporation to part with its film company came at the right time for MGM. The company was again in possession of a distribution system and was able to participate in the economic success of the upcoming film series.

United Artists under Kirk Kerkorian

Through purchases and sales of the MGM, UA was also controlled by various owners.

Kirk Kerkorian sold MGM / UA to Ted Turner in 1986 and bought it back a little later. All titles produced by MGM prior to 1986 remained with Turner. The UA's film library was not one of them. In 1990 Kerkorian sold MGM / UA again - this time to the Italian Giancarlo Parretti and his Pathé . In the years that followed, the company was a shadow of itself. Since Parretti failed to meet its financial obligations to the French bank Crédit Lyonnais , the financial institution took control of MGM and thus also of UA in 1992.

From 1993 John Calley served as president of the UA. During the years of his tenure, Calley brought the film company, which had been shut down for several years, to life. The films Rob Roy , James Bond - GoldenEye and The Birdcage - A paradise for shrill birds were made . After Kirk Kerkorian and the Australian Seven Network acquired MGM in 1996 from Credit Lyonnais and thus also UA, Calley switched to Sony Pictures Entertainment and became head of Columbia Pictures . The reason given for his change was that the bonus payments made during the acquisition were too low. When Kevin McClory and Columbia Pictures announced a competing James Bond film in 1999 , MGM filed a lawsuit. One point of the complaint related to Calley's inside knowledge of the legal situation of the film series, which he acquired during his time at UA.

John Calley's successor was Lindsay Doran in 1996 . As President and CEO of UA, she oversaw the production of the two James Bond films Tomorrow Never Dies and The World Is Not Enough , The Man in the Iron Mask and Ronin during her tenure . In 1999, Doran resigned from her position and concentrated on the independent production of motion pictures. Your production company Three Strange Angels Inc. had an exclusive contract with MGM and UA. No works have emerged from this economic cooperation.

Until 1999 UA produced films alongside MGM that differed greatly neither artistically nor financially. From this year on, UA was to take care of low-cost film productions and the purchase of foreign language films. UA entered direct competition with the companies Lions Gate Films , Sony Pictures Classics (independent label from Sony Pictures Entertainment), Warner Independent Pictures (independent label from Warner Bros.), Fox Searchlight Pictures (independent label from 20th Century Fox), Paramount Classics (independent label from Paramount Pictures), Miramax Films and Dimension Films (independent label from The Walt Disney Company ) and Focus Features (formed in 2002 from the merger of USA Films and Good Machine and is the independent label of Universal Pictures).

In contrast to the orientation of UA, MGM relies on more expensive productions for the mass taste. The James Bond films have been appearing since James Bond 007 - The World Is Not Enough, also under the MGM logo.

From September 1, 2001, Bingham Ray was President of United Artists and responsible for their business policy. The company headquarters was relocated to New York . The company wanted to be physically closer to the artists on the east coast of the United States. During this time UA had some successes. These included the success at the US box office with Jeepers Creepers , the cheaply acquired Bowling for Columbine and the Oscar wins for the same and No Man's Land . The comic book version Ghost World received several awards at film festivals, but the productions City of Ghosts and Nicholas Nickleby flopped at the box office. In 2004 Ray left the film company when he could not agree on the further direction with MGM managing directors Alex Yemenidjian and Chris McGurk .

In 2000, MGM ended its partnership with distribution company United International Pictures. For the next few years, 20th Century Fox acted as an international distributor of MGM and UA products for both cinema and home entertainment products.

Sale of the parent company

With the acquisition of the parent company MGM by Sony in 2005, the future of United Artists is unclear, as several labels are under the umbrella of Sony Pictures Entertainment ( Columbia Pictures , TriStar Pictures , Screen Gems , Sony Pictures Classics and now MGM, Orion Pictures Corporation and United Artists).

The pre-sale films Capote , Romance & Cigarettes , Art School Confidential and The Woods were brought to North American cinemas with Sony Pictures Classics. The national branches of Sony Pictures Entertainment are responsible for international film distribution.

No new film projects have been launched by UA since the sale of MGM. At the beginning of October 2006, however, it became known that the actor and film producer Tom Cruise and his business partner Paula Wagner had been commissioned to run the film studio. The plan was for Cruise to work on up to four company films per year and for Wagner to lead the UA as managing director. Wagner left the studio in August 2008. Since 2011, MGM has again owned 100 percent of the shares in United Artists, after the share was bought up by Tom Cruise and Paula Wagner.

United Artists Media Group

After the bankruptcy of the parent company MGM and the takeover of the company shares by former creditors, the name United Artists was used in 2014 for the establishment of the new subsidiary United Artists Media Group (UAMG). UAMG was owned by MGM (55 percent), Hearst Corp. (23 percent) and Mark Burnett and Romy Downey (both together: 22 percent) and produced scripted and non-scripted formats. MGM bought the 45 percent stake in Burnett, Downey and Hearst Corp a year later. and UAMG has now become part of MGM Television Group and Digital, with Burnett as President.

United Artists economic and artistic relationships

Eon Productions Ltd.

The producer Harry Saltzman bought the film rights to the novels by Ian Fleming , but needed Albert R. Broccoli to finance the business. Both founded the company Eon Productions Ltd. for the production of the first film and negotiated a distribution agreement with both UA and Columbia Pictures. After the success of the first film adaptations, the two producers launched the company Danjaq , SA (this is now Eon Productions Ltd. parent company, it was later renamed Danjaq, LLC.). It holds all the exploitation rights to the James Bond - films . Her name is made up of parts of the names of the producers' wives: Dan a Broccoli and Ja c q ueline Saltzman.

The contract between Eon Productions Ltd. and UA was initially designed for six films. On the one hand, the producers had to do with the growing interest in James Bond and the film adaptations of the spy novels - UA, as a distributor, also benefited from the high audience figures. On the other hand, there were more and more differences of opinion between the two - the main reason for this was Saltzman's involvement in other film projects ( Battle of Britain , Harry Palmer films). Due to financial problems, Saltzman sold its 50% stake in Danjaq SA (and thus also in Eon Productions Ltd.) to UA in 1975. The previous distributor also became a co-owner of the rights company and the production company and has since shared the copyright on the films produced.

After the death of producer Albert R. Broccoli in 1996, his daughter Barbara Broccoli and stepson Michael G. Wilson took over the business of Danjaq, LLC and Eon Productions Ltd. Both have worked on previous Bond films and they closely watch over every creative decision to be made, while the respective studios - first UA, then MGM and now Sony - primarily set the budget for the respective productions.

As a brand, James Bond is one of the best known and most valuable in the entertainment industry . The series changed UA a lot with its economic success. A relationship of dependency arose: in the event that other film productions could not find their audience, United Artists could rely on its MI6 agent.

James Bond 007 - Tomorrow Never Dies was the last film to appear under the UA logo . The two films James Bond 007 - The World Is Not Enough and James Bond 007 - Die Another Day were presented with the MGM lion. UA only appears as a copyright co-owner.

Mirisch Corporation

The US-American production company Mirisch Corporation , founded by Walter Mirisch together with his brothers Harold and Marvin , produced feature films for the United Artists (UA) from the end of the 1950s.

Before founding their independent production company in August 1957, the Mirisch brothers worked for Allied Artists . Relationships with famous directors, who were to contribute to her late success, date from this time. They were involved in the production of the following films on behalf of the Allied Artists: Moby Dick , Ariane - Liebe am Afternoon . Alluring temptation and some like it hot .

By allowing directors the greatest possible artistic freedom and allowing them to participate in the box office of their films, the Mirisch Corporation forged longstanding relationships with Billy Wilder, Blake Edwards , John Sturges and Robert Wise . The contract signed in 1957 between UA and the Mirisch Corporation comprised twelve feature films. In 1959 the quota was increased to 20. The Mirisch brothers produced a total of 68 films for the premiere. In 1974 , they moved their production company to Universal Pictures.

The films produced by the Mirisch Corporation were nominated for a total of 79 Oscars , and the golden statuette was won 23 times.

European filmmakers

UA had a constructive collaboration with the following filmmakers: François Truffaut , Federico Fellini , Sergio Leone , Bernardo Bertolucci and Ingmar Bergman .

American Zoetrope

The American production company American Zoetrope , founded by Francis Ford Coppola in the late 1960s, has had an eventful collaboration with UA.

UA acquired the North American rights to the war film Apocalypse Now from Coppola's production company for a fixed price and secured its production by granting loans to American Zoetrope. The production, which lasted several years, led to conflicts between the two actors. In 1979, UA's American Zoetrope production The Black Stallion was released .

In 1999 American Zoetrope and UA signed a contract for the production and distribution of ten titles. Coppola's company took care of the financing of these works, and UA acted as a North American rental company. The following seven titles come from this collaboration:

Walt Disney

Walt Disney limited himself to the production of cartoons at the beginning of his career and left the distribution of the works to others. For this he used, among other things, the UA's rental machine. UA was responsible for sales until the 1930s; the business relationship was discontinued on the part of Disney because their necessity had been underestimated. Then RKO Pictures acted as a distributor of the Disney films.

Saul Zaentz

Producer Saul Zaentz brought UA to great commercial and artistic success with the drama One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest . He also produced Three Warriors and the cartoon The Lord of the Rings for distribution by the UA. The distribution rights are now owned by Warner Bros.

The film rights to the literary work of JRR Tolkien are owned by the filmmaker Zaentz. A film adaptation of the Lord of the Rings novels had been planned together with UA since the late 1960s . This only became possible at the end of the 1990s, and the three films that were made also developed into great commercial and artistic success - but now for the New Line Cinema company .

Film awards

Golden Globe Award

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association has been awarding this film award since 1944 . Film titles produced or awarded by United Artists that have received a Golden Globe Award in the Best Picture category (in both the Drama and Comedy categories ) are:

Berlin International Film Festival (Berlinale)

The Berlinale awards by the decision of a competition jury a Golden Bear . The following UA films were rewarded with the highest award of the film festival :

Academy Awards

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is the organizer of the annual award ceremony. UA films that have won an Oscar for Best Picture are:

Milestones in film history from United Artists










Since 2000

United Artists film archive

The value of media company-controlled film libraries has grown exponentially in recent years. Few film companies had this foresight and were not only involved in the production and distribution of a movie, but also the rights holders of that product.

United Artists (UA) was founded in 1919 as a pure sales organization. Independent film producers financed and produced their cinematic products and had them distributed to cinema theaters via the UA distribution system. In return, it received part of the income and was able to cover its marketing and administrative costs with these. The rights to the products sold were mostly held by the producers or their production companies.

  • The rights to the Charlie Chaplin films and short films distributed by the UA were first held by the artist himself and later by the Roy Export Company Establishment, which was controlled by his heirs .
  • Mary Pickford also held the rights to her feature films. After her withdrawal from the film business in 1933, all works were to be destroyed. Pickford feared that posterity might make fun of her. Fortunately, she was convinced of the artistic and historical value of her films. Today the rights to her films are held by the Pickford Foundation .
  • All rights to the Walt Disney short films distributed by the UA during the 1930s are held by The Walt Disney Company .
  • The rights to the films produced by Samuel Goldwyn and distributed by UA to theaters are now owned by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), the later parent company of UA and the company now affiliated with Sony Pictures Entertainment.

When Arthur Krim and Robert Benjamin took over the business of the UA in 1951, the business policy changed only gradually. UA rented the films made by independent producers and the rights mostly remained with them.

With the spread of television , the distribution of films to the new medium became a new source of income. UA recognized the potential as one of the first film companies and viewed television not as a competitor, but as an additional sales channel.

1958 the Associated Artists Productions (AAP) was bought. In 1956 this acquired the rights to all films produced by Warner Bros. before 1948. In the same year AAP acquired the rights to the black and white Popeye short films and in 1957 the rights to the colored ones from Paramount Pictures . In addition, the rights to the productions of RKO Pictures were bought. With this, UA expanded its film library in one fell swoop and generated income from the sale of the broadcasting rights to television. United Artists Television was founded for this in 1957. In purely legal terms, this was also the owner of the products of the AAP film library that had been bought up. The subsidiary also produced television films and series itself and also sold their broadcasting rights and those of the UA's film library. The rights to the former AAP film library and part of the television production of the UA were taken over in 1986 by Ted Turner's Turner Entertainment and are now exploited by Warner Bros., even if they are still legally controlled by Turner Entertainment.

  • The rights to the Beatles films are held by their company, the Apple Corps . The exploitation rights to Yellow Submarine are still held by UA and its parent company. The exploitation rights to A Hard Day's Night have been controlled by Miramax Films since the late 1990s . This licensed the exploitation of the music film for the German-speaking area to Kinowelt Medien AG and is now controlled by its successor company.
  • The films and series produced by the Mirisch Corporation are now held by United Artists parent company MGM.
  • Warner Bros. now owns the rights to the Saul Zaentz productions.

The UA film library today consists of most of the cinema films and television series produced after 1951 or by third parties. These rights are exploited by MGM (affiliated to Sony Pictures Entertainment since 2005) as the UA parent company.


  • Tino Balio: United Artists: The Company Built by the Stars. University of Wisconsin Press, Madison, Wisconsin 1976, ISBN 0-299-06940-0
  • Tino Balio: United Artists: The Company That Changed the Film Industry. University of Wisconsin Press, Madison, Wisconsin 1987, ISBN 0-299-11440-6
  • Steven Bach : Final cut: art, money, and ego in the making of Heaven's gate, the film that sank United Artists. Newmarket Press, New York 1999, ISBN 1-55704-374-4
  • Mike Walsh: Options for American Foreign Distribution: United Artists in Europe, 1919-1930. In: Andrew Higson and Richard Maltby (Eds.): Film Europe and Film America . University of Exeter Press, Exeter 1999, pp. 132-156, ISBN 0-85989-546-7

Web links

Commons : United Artists  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Paula Wagner plans to step down at United Artists , article by Claudia Eller in the Los Angeles Times of August 14, 2008, accessed November 1, 2008
  2. Tom Cruise wants to rebuild United Artists Studio, FAZ, November 3, 2006
  3. Paula Wagner plans to step down at United Artists , article by Claudia Eller in the Los Angeles Times on August 14, 2008
  4. ^ MGM regains full control of United Artists , Los Angeles Times - Article by Ben Fritz from March 23, 2012
  5. MGM Buys 55% Of Roma Downey And Mark Burnett's Empire; Relaunches United Artists , Deadline Hollywood - Article by Mike Fleming Jr. and Anita Busch dated September 22, 2014
  6. MGM Taps Mark Burnett To Run TV Operation After Buying Out JV Partners , Deadline Hollywood article by David Lieberman dated December 14, 2015

Coordinates: 34 ° 3 '25.4 "  N , 118 ° 25' 3.2"  W.