Pictures Corporation is an American motion picture
production and distribution company, located on
Melrose Avenue in Hollywood, California. Founded
in 1912, it is the oldest movie studio in Hollywood,
beating Universal Studios by a month. Paramount
is owned by media conglomerate Viacom.
CBS Corporation/Viacom split
Reflecting in part the troubles of the broadcasting
business, in 2005 Viacom wrote off over $28 billion
from its radio acquisitions and, early that year,
announced that it would split itself in two. The
split was completed in January 2006.
The CBS television and radio networks, the Infinity
radio-station chain (now called CBS Radio), the
Paramount Television production unit (known as
CBS Paramount (Network) Television) and the network
UPN (replaced by The CW Television Network, co-owned
with rival Time Warner's Warner Bros.) are part
of CBS Corporation, as was Paramount Parks prior
to its June 2006 sale by CBS to the Cedar Fair
Entertainment Company. CBS Corporation also merged
its television distribution arms, KingWorld, CBS
Paramount International Television and CBS Paramount
Television, into CBS Television Distribution in
Paramount Pictures is now lumped in with MTV,
BET, and other highly profitable channels owned
by the new Viacom.
With the announcement of the split of Viacom,
Dolgen and Lansing were replaced by former television
executives Brad Grey and Gail Berman. The decision
was made to split Viacom into two companies, which
in turn led to a dismantling of the Paramount
Studio/Paramount TV infrastructure. The current
Paramount is about one-quarter the size it was
under Dolgen and Lansing and consists only of
the movie studio. The famed Paramount Television
studio was made part of CBS in the split. The
remaining businesses were sold off or parceled
out to other operating groups. Paramount's home
entertainment unit continues to distribute the
Paramount TV library through CBS DVD, as both
Viacom and CBS Corporation are controlled by National
On December 11, 2005, Paramount announced that
it had purchased DreamWorks SKG (which was co-founded
by former Paramount executive Jeffrey Katzenberg)
in a deal worth $1.6 billion. The announcement
was made by Brad Grey, chairman and CEO of Paramount
Pictures, who noted that enhancing Paramount's
pipeline of pictures is a "key strategic
objective in restoring Paramount's stature as
a leader in filmed entertainment." The agreement
doesn't include DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc.,
the most profitable part of the company that went
public last year.
Under the deal, Paramount is required to distribute
the DreamWorks animated films for a small fee
intended only to cover Paramount's out of pocket
costs with no profit to the studio, including
the Shrek franchise (and ending for the 2004 installment,
Shrek 2). The first film distributed under this
deal is Over the Hedge.
The deal closed on February 6, 2006. This acquisition
was seen at the time as a stopgap measure as Brad
Grey had been unsuccessful in assembling sufficient
films for production and distribution and the
DreamWorks films would fill the gap.
DreamWorks and Paramount are now parting ways.
UIP, Famous Music and Digital Entertainment
Grey also broke up the famous UIP international
distribution company, the most successful international
film distributor in history, after a 25-year partnership
with Universal Studios and has started up a new
international group. As a consequence Paramount
fell from #1 in the international markets to the
lowest ranked major studio in 2006 but recovered
in 2007 if the Dreamworks films, acquired by Paramount,
are included in Paramount's market share.
Grey has also launched a Digital Entertainment
division to take advantage of emerging digital
distribution technologies. This led to Paramount
becoming the 2nd movie studio to sign a deal with
Apple to sell its films through the iTunes store.
They also signed an exclusive agreement with the
failed HD-DVD consortium and subsequently gave
up the guarantees they had received and will now
release in the Blu Ray format.
Also, in 2007, Paramount sold another one of its
"heritage" units, Famous Music, to Sony-ATV
Music Publishing (best known for publishing many
songs by The Beatles), ending a nearly-eight decade
run as a division of Paramount, being the studio's
music publishing arm since the period when the
entire company went by the name "Famous Players."
This inexplicable sale is considered in the industry
a sign of the emerging role of Philippe Daumann,
Viacom's CEO since 2006, whose lack of knowledge
of the movie, TV and music industries and consequent
preference for cable TV drives the company's strategy.
Paramount Home Entertainment
Paramount Home Entertainment (formerly Paramount
Home Video and Paramount Video) is the division
of Paramount Pictures dealing with home video
and was founded in 1976.
PHE distributes films by Paramount (under its
own label) and DreamWorks (under the DreamWorks
Pictures Home Entertainment label), shows from
MTV Networks (under the MTV DVD, Nickelodeon DVD,
Nickelodeon Movies DVD, Comedy Central DVD and
Spike DVD labels), PBS (under the PBS Home Video
label), Showtime (under its own label), and CBS-owned
programs (under the CBS Home Entertainment label)
on DVD. Films from Republic Pictures, Paramount's
other subsidiary, are not distributed on video
and DVD by PHE (with some exceptions), but are
distributed on video and DVD by Lionsgate Home
Entertainment, which recently signed a deal to
distribute some of Paramount's own films on DVD
(in addition to the aforementioned Republic library).
Also, as a result of this deal, Lionsgate has
recently relased "triple features" of
their own library of films on DVD using the package
design originated by Paramount.
PHE have developed a well-known trademark, by
giving their Special Edition/Director's Cut editions
different names rather than the usual "Special
Edition," or "Director's Edition".
Paramount Home Entertainment gives them different
names such as Grease: The Rockin' Rydell Edition,
Beavis & Butthead Do America: The Edition
That Doesn't Suck and Airplane!: The "Don't
Call Me Shirley" Edition.
Internationally, PHE holds the DVD rights to several
shows on HBO. PHE also distributes in Germany
the DVD releases of films distributed theatrically
by Prokino Filmverleih.
As Paramount Home Video, the company once distributed
several Miramax releases on video - the video
rights to some of these films (such as Hellraiser
III: Hell on Earth) are still owned by Paramount.
Recently, PHE launched a direct-to-video label,
Paramount Famous Productions (with the "Famous"
part of the name a throwback to the days when
the company was called Famous Players).
HD DVD & Blu-ray support
Paramount brands the majority of its HD content
under the label 'Paramount High Definition' which
is seen both on the title box cover and as an
in-movie opening. Films from Paramount subsidiaries
such as Nickelodeon Movies and MTV Films as well
as from sister studio DreamWorks SKG use no special
branding, Paramount Vantage (another subsidiary)
releases only select titles under the Paramount
High Definition banner such as Babel.
In October 2005, Paramount announced that it would
be supporting the HD video format Blu-ray Disc
in addition to rival format HD DVD, becoming the
first studio to release on both formats. Its first
four HD DVD releases came in July 2006, and
it released four titles on Blu-ray two months
later. In August 2007, Paramount (along with DreamWorks
SKG and DreamWorks Animation) announced their
exclusive support for HD DVD. However, when other
studios eventually dropped HD DVD and players
for the technology stopped being manufactured,
Paramount switched to Blu-ray. In May 2008, it
released 3 titles on Blu-ray and continues to
release its high-definition discs in that format
The Paramount library
a series of mergers and acquisitions, many of
Paramount's early cartoons, shorts, and feature
films are owned by numerous entities.
In 1955, Paramount acquired Frank Capra's production
company, Liberty Films, which produced only 2
films in the late 1940s: It's a Wonderful Life,
released originally by RKO Radio Pictures, and
State of the Union, released originally by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.
Around that same time, as mentioned before, Paramount
saw little value in its library, and decided to
sell off its back catalog.
The Paramount cartoons and shorts went to various
television distributors, with U.M.&M. T.V.
Corp. acquiring the majority of the cartoons and
live action short subjects made before 1951. Some
lesser known features were included in this deal
as well, as was It's a Wonderful Life. However,
the Popeye cartoons were sold to Associated Artists
Productions, and the Superman cartoons went to
Motion Pictures for Television, producers of the
Superman television series. U.M.&M. was later
sold to National Telefilm Associates (or NTA).
NTA changed its name to Republic Pictures (which
was previously the name of a minor film studio,
whose backlog had been sold to NTA) in 1984, and
was sold to Viacom in 1999, hence all the material
sold to U.M.&M. would return to Paramount.
The Popeye cartoons passed on to United Artists
after its purchase of a.a.p., then to MGM after
they purchased UA. After Ted Turner failed in
an attempt to buy MGM/UA in 1986, he settled for
ownership of the library, which included the a.a.p.
material. Turner Entertainment, the holding company
for Turner's film library, would later be sold
to Time Warner. Turner technically holds the rights
to the Popeye cartoons today, but sales and distribution
is in the hands of Warner Bros. Entertainment.
WB also owns Superman's publisher, DC Comics,
and although the Superman cartoons are now in
the public domain, WB owns the original film elements.
The rest of the cartoons made from 1950-1962,
were sold to Harvey Comics and are now owned by
Classic Media. Except for the Superman cartoons
and the features sold to MCA (to end up with Universal),
most television prints of these films have had
their titles remade to remove most traces of their
connection to Paramount (The original copyright
lines were left intact on Popeye cartoons). The
Popeye cartoons have been restored for DVD release
with the original Paramount titles.
When the talent agency Music Corporation of America
(better known as MCA), then wielding major influence
on Paramount policy, offered $50 million for 750
pre-1949 features (with payment to be spread over
many years), a cash-strapped Paramount thought
it had made the best possible deal. To address
anti-trust concerns, MCA set up a separate company,
EMKA, Ltd., to sell these films to television.
The deal included such notable Paramount films
as the early Marx Brothers films, most of the
Bob Hope-Bing Crosby "Road" pictures,
and such Oscar contenders as Double Indemnity,
The Lost Weekend, and The Heiress. MCA later admitted
that over the next forty years it took in more
than a billion dollars in rentals of these supposedly
"worthless" pictures. MCA later purchased
the US branch of Decca Records, which owned Universal
Studios (now a part of NBC Universal), and thus
Universal now owns these films, though EMKA continues
to hold the copyright.
Several other feature films ended up in Republic
Pictures's possession, yet others had been retained
by Paramount due to other rights issues (such
as The Miracle of Morgan's Creek). As for Paramount's
silent features, some still are under Paramount
ownership -- for example, 1927's Wings, the first
"Best Picture" Academy Award winner
-- but many others are either lost or in the public
domain. Also, one additional pre-1950 film, the
1931 version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, was sold
to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1941 who filmed a remake
that same year - this film is also now owned by
Rights to some of Paramount's films from 1950
onward would also change hands. Most notably,
the rights to five Paramount films directed by
Alfred Hitchcock -- Rear Window, The Trouble with
Harry, The Man Who Knew Too Much, Vertigo and
Psycho - eventually reverted to ownership by the
director himself with the exception of Psycho,
which was sold directly to Universal in 1968.
Following Hitchcock's death, Universal eventually
acquired the rights to the four other films in
1983 from the Hitchcock estate (which is overseen
by his daughter, Patricia). However, one Hichcock
film, To Catch A Thief, is still under Paramount's
The later Bob Hope films originally released by
Paramount (including The Seven Little Foys and
The Lemon Drop Kid) are now co-owned by Sony Pictures
Television and FremantleMedia, both successors-in-interest
to a joint venture called Colex Enterprises, which
had consisted of respective predecessor companies
Columbia Pictures Television and LBS Communications.
A number of films merely distributed by Paramount
would also end up with other companies - for example,
the 1971 film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate
Factory was produced by Wolper Productions; Warner
Bros. gained the copyright to the film when they
acquired Wolper Productions in 1977. WB also owns
the rights to several films originally distributed
by Paramount that were produced by Lorimar Productions,
which was sold to WB in 1989. Some other films
from 1950 onward went into the public domain as
Paramount's association with the comedian Jerry
Lewis, which produced The Nutty Professor among
other films ended in the 1970s, and the rights
to these films were given back to Lewis. As a
consequence, the hit remakes starring Eddie Murphy
were released by Universal Pictures. This reversion
to Jerry Lewis resulted from a promise made by
then-Paramount CEO Barney Balaban who gratuitously
offered to give the rights back to Lewis as a
birthday present. Paramount, however, has retained
full distribution rights to the Lewis films.
Balaban, consistent with his other decisions to
sell off rights and dismantle Paramount's library,
was of the opinion that there was no future economic
value to 'old' movies. This "strategy"
of gradual dismantling Paramount's assets and
library has continued under current Viacom CEO
Philippe Dauman who not only split the company
in half and gave the television library and distribution
rights to the feature films to CBS, but also sold
off the Company's music library, Famous Music.
In the 1970s, Paramount acquired the rights to
the Frank Capra film Broadway Bill, which was
originally released by Columbia Pictures. Paramount
had remade the film as Riding High in 1950. Then
in 2004, Paramount bought all worldwide rights
to the original 1975 version of The Stepford Wives
(also released by Columbia), in connection with
the release of the remake.
Paramount owns DVD rights to many films produced
by Full Moon Entertainment, due to a deal made
with the company years before. Paramount also
owns DVD rights to several films released by Miramax
Films prior to that firm's acquisition by Disney
in 1993, also a result of a deal.
Paramount now represents independent company Hollywood
Classics in the theatrical distribution of all
the films produced by the various motion picture
divisions of CBS over the years, as a result of
the Viacom/CBS merger. This also includes US rights
to the 1951 film The African Queen, originally
distributed by United Artists (the international
rights are with Granada International). Paramount
(via CBS DVD) has outright video distribution
to the aforementioned CBS library with few exceptions-for
example, the original Twilight Zone DVDs are handled
by Image Entertainment, while the video rights
to My Fair Lady are now with original theatrical
distributor Warner Bros., both above titles under
license from CBS.
As for distribution of the material Paramount
itself still owns, it has been split in half,
with Paramount themselves owning theatrical rights,
while what became CBS Paramount Television handles
television distribution (under CBS Television
In early 2008, Paramount partnered with Los Angeles-based
developer FanRocket to make short scenes taken
from its film library available to users on Facebook.
application, called VooZoo, allows users to send
movie clips to other Facebook users and to post
clips on their profile pages. Paramount engineered
a similar deal with Makena Technologies to allow
users of vMTV and There.com to view and send movie
Pictures has a business arrangement in place with
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