Paramount Pictures

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File:Paramount logo.jpg
The Paramount Pictures logo used since 2003.
File:Paramount883.JPG
The Paramount Pictures logo used from 1988 to 1989.
File:Paramount1999.jpg
The Paramount Pictures logo used from 1999 to 2002.

Paramount Pictures Corporation is a US motion picture production and distribution company, based in Hollywood, California. Controlled by Viacom, Paramount and its subsidiares are also involved in television production, theme parks, international film and television distribution, and theater operations in Canada and western Europe.

Early History

Paramount Pictures can trace its beginnings to the creation in May, 1912, of the Famous Players Film Company. Founder Adolph Zukor. who had been an early investor in nickelodeons, saw that movies appealed mainly to working-class immigrants. With partners Daniel Frohman and Charles Frohman he planned to offer feature-length films that would appeal to the middle class by featuring the leading theatrical players of the time. By mid-1913, Famous Players had completed five films, and Zukor was on his way to success.

That same year, another aspiring producer, Jesse L. Lasky, opened his "Lasky Feature Play Company" with money borrowed from his brother-in-law, Samuel Goldfish (later to be known as Samuel Goldwyn.) As their first employee, the Lasky company hired a stage director with no film experience, Cecil B. DeMille, who would find a suitable location-site in Hollywood, near Los Angeles for his first film, The Squaw Man.

Beginning in 1914, both Lasky and Famous Players released their films through a start-up company, "Paramount Pictures". Organized early that year by a Utah theater-owner, W. W. Hodkinson, who had bought and merged several smaller firms, Paramount was the first successful nation-wide distributor. Until this time films were sold on a state-wide or regional basis; not only was this inefficient, but it had proved costly to film producers.

Soon the ambitious Zukor, un-used to taking a secondary role, began courting Hodkinson and Lasky. In 1916, Zukor maneuvered a three-way merger of his Famous Players, the Lasky company, and Paramount. The new company, "Famous Players-Lasky", grew quickly, with Lasky and his partners Goldfish and DeMille running the production side, Hodkinson in charge of distribution, and Zukor making great plans. With only the exhibitor-owned First National as a rival, Famous Players-Lasky and its 'Paramount Pictures' soon dominated the business.

Zukor believed in stars - after all, he had begun by offering "Famous Players in Famous Plays," as his first slogan put it. He signed and developed many of the leading early stars, among them Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Gloria Swanson, Rudolph Valentino and Wallace Reid. With so many important players, Paramount was able to introduce "block-booking", which meant that an exhibitor who wanted a particular star's films had to buy a years'-worth of other Paramount productions. It was this system which gave Paramount a leading position in the 1920s and 1930s, but which led the government to pursue it on anti-trust grounds for more than twenty years.

The driving force behind Paramount's rise was Zukor. All through the 'teens and 'twenties, he built a mighty theatrical chain of nearly 2,000 screens, ran two production studios, and became an early investor in radio, taking a 50% interest in the new Columbia Broadcasting System in 1928. By acquiring the successful Balaban & Katz chain in 1926, he gained the services of both Barney Balaban, who became Paramount's president, and Sam Katz, who ran the Paramount-Publix theater chain. Zukor also hired independent producer B.P. Schulberg, an un-erring eye for new talent, to run the west-coast studio. In 1927, Famous Players-Lasky officially took on the name by which it was known, becoming Paramount Pictures Corporation.

Eventually Zukor shed most of his early partners, the Frohman brothers, Hodkinson and Goldfish/Goldwyn were out by 1917 while Lasky hung on until 1932, when, blamed for the near-collapse of Paramount in the depression years, he too was tossed out. Zukor's over-expansion and use of over-valued Paramount stock for purchases led the company into receivership in the mid-1930s. A bank-mandated reorganization team, led by John Hertz and Otto Kahn kept the company intact, and miraculously, kept Zukor on. He was bumped up to an honorary 'chairman emeritus' role in 1935, while Barney Balaban became chairman.

As always, Paramount films continued to emphasize stars; in the 1920s there were Swanson, Valentino and Clara Bow. By the 1930s, talkies brought in a range of powerful new draws: Marlene Dietrich, Mae West, Gary Cooper, Claudette Colbert, the Marx Brothers, and Bing Crosby among them. In this period Paramount can truly be described as a movie factory, turning out sixty and seventy pictures a year. Such were the benefits of having a huge theater chain to fill, and of block-booking to pursuade other chains to go along.

In 1940, Paramount agreed to a government-instituted consent decree: block-booking and 'pre-selling' (the practice of collecting up-front money for films not yet in production) would end. Immediately Paramount cut back on production, from sixty-plus pictures to a more modest twenty annually in the war years. Still, with more new stars (like Bob Hope, Alan Ladd and Betty Hutton), and with war-time attendance at astronomical numbers, Paramount and the other integrated studio-theater combines made more money than ever. At this, the Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department decided to re-open their case against the five integrated studios. This led to the Supreme Court decision of 1948 which broke up Adolph Zukor's amazing creation.

The 1950s to the 1970s

As movie attendance declined after World War II, Paramount and the others struggled to keep the audience. Hovering nearby were the Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department, still pursuing restraint-of-trade allegations. This case finally came before the Supreme Court as U.S. vs. Paramount Pictures, et al., and in May, 1948, the court agreed with the government, finding restraint of competition, and calling for the separation of production and exhibition. Paramount was split in two, with the 1,500-screen theater chain handed to the new United Paramount Theaters on December 31, 1949. Cash-rich and controlling prime downtown real estate, UPT-head Leonard Goldenson began looking for investments; barred from film-making, he acquired the struggling ABC in February, 1953.

Paramount Pictures had been an early backer of television, launching experimental stations in 1939 in Los Angeles (later to become KTLA) and Chicago's WBKB. It was also an early investor in the pioneer DuMont Laratories and through that, the DuMont Television Network, but because of anti-trust concerns after the 1948 ruling, proved to be a timid and obstructionist partner, refusing to aid DuMont as it sank in the mid-1950s.

With the loss of the theater chain, Paramount Pictures went into a decline, cutting studio-backed production, releasing its contract players, and making production deals with independents. By the mid-1950s, all the great names were gone; only C.B. DeMille, associated with Paramount since 1913, kept making pictures in the grand old style. Like some other studios, Paramount saw little value in its film library. When the talent agency MCA, then wielding major influence on Paramount policy, offered $50 million for 750 pre-1948 features (with payment to be spread over many years), it was thought that Paramount had made the best possible deal. To address anti-trust concerns, MCA set up a separate company, EMKA, Ltd., to peddle these films to television. MCA later admitted that over the next forty years it took in more than a billion dollars in rentals of these supposedly worthless pictures.

By the early 1960s Paramount's future was doubtful. The high-risk movie business was wobbly; the theater chain was long gone; investments in DuMont and in early pay-television came to nothing. Even the flagship Paramount building in Times Square was sold to raise cash, as was KTLA (sold to Gene Autry in 1964 for a then-phenomenal $12.5 million). Founding-father Adolph Zukor, born in 1873, was still chairman emeritus; he referred to chairman Barney Balaban (born 1888) as 'the boy'. Such aged leadership was incapable of keeping up with the changing times, and in 1966, a sinking Paramount was sold to the Charles Bluhdorn's industrial conglomerate Gulf and Western Industries. Bluhdorn immediately put his stamp on the studio, installing a virtually unknown producer, Robert Evans, as head of production. Despite some rough times, Evans held the job for eight years, restoring Paramount's reputation for commercial success with The Odd Couple, Love Story, Rosemary's Baby and The Godfather.

Gulf and Western Industries also bought the neighboring Desilu television studio (once the lot of RKO Pictures) from Lucille Ball in 1967. Using Desilu's established shows like Star Trek, Mission: Impossible and Mannix as a foot in the door at the networks, Paramount Television eventually became known as a specialist in half-hour situation comedies.

Robert Evans quit as head of production in 1974; his successor Richard Sylbert, was too literary and tasteful for G+W's Bluhdorn. By 1976, a new, televison-trained team was in place: Barry Diller, and his 'killer-Dillers,' associates Michael Eisner, Jeffrey Katzenberg and Don Simpson. The specialty now was simpler, 'high concept' pictures like Saturday Night Fever, and Grease. With his television background, Diller kept pitching an idea of his to the board: a fourth commercial network. But the board, and Bluhdorn, wouldn't bite. Neither would Bluhdorn's successor, Martin Davis. When Bluhdorn died unexpectedly, Davis dumped all of G+W's industrial, mining, and sugar-growing subsidiaries and refocused the company, renaming it Paramount Communications. Diller took his fourth-network idea with him when he moved to Twentieth Century-Fox in 1984, where the new proprietor, Rupert Murdoch, was a more interested listener.

Paramount Pictures was unconnected to Paramount Records, until it purchased the rights to use Paramount Records' name (but not its catalogue) in the late 1960s. The Paramount name was used for soundtrack albums and some pop re-issues from the Dot Records catalogue. Paramount had acquired the pop-oriented Dot in 1958, but by 1970 Dot had become an all-country label [1]. In 1974, Paramount sold all of its record holdings to ABC Records, which in turn was sold to MCA in 1978.

From the 1980s to the present day

Paramount's successful run of lightweight pictures extended into the 1980s and 1990s, generating hits like Flashdance, the Friday the 13th slasher series; Raiders of the Lost Ark and its sequels; Beverly Hills Cop and a string of films starring comedian Eddie Murphy; and the Star Trek features. While the emphasis was decidedly on the commercial, there were occasional quality efforts like Atlantic City and Forrest Gump. During this period responsibility for running the studio passed from Eisner and Katzenberg to Don Simpson to Stanley Jaffe and Sherry Lansing and, late in 2005, Brad Grey. More so than most, Paramount's slate of films included many remakes and television spinoffs; while sometimes commercially successful, there have been few compelling films of the kind that once made Paramount the industry leader.

With the influx of cash from the sale of G+W's industrial properties in the mid-1980s, Paramount bought a string of television stations and KECO Entertainment's theme park operations, renaming them Paramount Parks. In 1993, Sumner Redstone's entertainment conglomerate Viacom made a bid for Paramount; this quickly escalated into a bidding war with Barry Diller. But Viacom prevailed, ultimately paying $10 billion for the Paramount holdings. In 1995, Viacom and Chris-Craft Industries' United Television launched United Paramount Network (UPN), fulfilling Diller's 1970s plan for a Paramount network. In 1999 Viacom bought out United Television's interests, and handed responsibility for the shaky UPN to its more-established CBS unit.

Reflecting in part the troubles of the broadcasting business, Viacom announced early in 2005 that it would split itself in two; the CBS television and radio networks, the Infinity radio-station chain, the Paramount Television production unit and UPN would make up one part. Paramount Pictures would be lumped in with MTV and Viacom's other highly profitable cable channels.

Paramount is the last major film studio located in Hollywood proper. When Paramount moved to its present home in 1927, it was in the heart of the film community. Since then, former next-door neighbor RKO closed up shop in 1957; Warner Brothers (whose old Sunset Boulevard studio was sold to Paramount in 1949 as a home for KTLA) moved to Burbank in 1930; Columbia joined Warners in Burbank in 1973 then moved again to Culver City in 1989; and the Pickford-Fairbanks-Goldwyn-United Artists lot, after a lively history, has been turned into a music-scoring facility for Warners. For a time the semi-industrial neighborhood around Paramount was in decline, but has now come back. The recently refurbished studio has come to symbolize Hollywood for many visitors, and its studio tour is a popular attraction.

Notable Paramount movies

1920s

1930s

1940s

1950s

1960s

1970s

1980s

1990s

2000s

Notable Paramount TV Shows

1960s

1970s

1980s

1990s

Company legend attributes creation of the well-known mountain-and-stars logo to W.W. Hodkinson in 1914. Nostalgic for the Wasatch range of Utah, he sketched a mountain as the symbol for his new company, which he named for the New York apartment building in which he lived, The Paramount.

While the logo went through occasional touch-ups, it was essentially unchanged until the introduction of Paramount's VistaVision wide screen process in 1954, at which time a bit of animation was added by having clouds scud past the famous mountain.

The First Television Version

With the move into television, a stylized version of the logo was introduced in January 1968. For this version, the mountain peak was reduced to allow for the addition of the word "Television". The musical underscore is a remix of Wilbur Hatch's familiar Desilu jingle. Paramount's mountain was black with the Gulf + Western byline positioned on a single line at the bottommost of the mountain, surrounded by an animated white circle, this in turn encircled by white stars. The copyright notice also appeared (and in the later split box logo), with the words 'Paramount Pictures (Corporation)' in their familiar logo font. This version was retired in September 1968, to be replaced by the first of two versions of the so-called 'split box.'

The Split Box

This version features a split box on a yellow background, with the PARAMOUNT TELEVISION in a rectangle on a blue foreground (with the sub-head 'A DIVISION OF PARAMOUNT PICTURES (CORPORATION)') in white lettering. The mountain was also on a blue foreground, with a white mountain (with the Gulf + Western sub-head) and the Paramount circle logo in a pale blue, encircled by white stars. When the animation ends, the copyright notice appears, with the additional byline 'Paramount Pictures (Corporation)' in its familiar logo font. The musical underscore was a seven-note horn-driven jingle, written by Leith Stevens, the music supervisor of PT. This version was used for about one year, until late 1969, although a limited number of Mission: Impossible episodes from the 1969-70 season used this logo (but with the later jingle) because the copyright notice wasn't yet in the end credits of these episodes.

Later in 1969, the Stevens jingle was replaced with the "Closet Killer" theme, written by Dominic Frontiere. The music was an eight-note horn-driven jingle (with four notes of the horn section overlapped by the four you initially hear) ending with a piccolo glissandi. In September 1969, the split box was changed to a red background (the Paramount Television rectangle was still blue with white lettering, but the mountain side was now on a white foreground, with the Paramount circle now a dark blue instead of the pale blue used in 1968; its 22 encircling stars were also blue. The copyright notice was moved to the respective shows' end credits, although certain shows from the 1970-71 season, such as The Brady Bunch, still had the 1970 copyright notice appearing as the animation ends (even though before this variant of the closing logo appears, the copyright notice is already in the end credits).

In late 1970, the Closet Killer jingle was replaced by a new piece of music written by Lalo Schifrin (the composer of the theme music for Mission: Impossible) and Robert Drasnin, which was far more identified with the company's television arm and would also be heard as the jingle in the later TV Blue Mountain logos (of which more information can be found below). This music was called "Color I.D." and was an eight-note horn-and-xylophone-driven jingle assisted by several timpani beats. A slow variation on this theme as used in the 1969 Split Box was used from 1972-1974, and an even slower variation was used from 1974-1975. This logo/jingle combo was used until 1975.

The Return of the Mountain Logo in Television

A remixed version of the Schifrin/Drasnin jingle was used for the late 1975 updating of the TV mountain logo; arrangements were by Peter Matz (1978-1982) and Fred Mollin (1982-1987), of which there were four and two variants of respectively by composer. Drasnin himself arranged the music to the 1975-1976 jingle. There was even an entirely different eight-note jingle used from 1976-1978 that was written by Jerry Goldsmith, of which there was a different version of every season. A shortened version of the 1982 jingle was also used in some shows produced from 1982-1987, it being the last six notes as heard in shows "in association with" Paramount Television, which had been used for both the 1982-1985 and 1985-1987 TV mountain logos.

The 1975 TV mountain uses the familiar Paramount corporate logo in a dark blue circle encircled by white stars, on a pale blue background (and thus this logo was nicknamed the "TV Blue Mountain"). The mountain is also pale blue in color and features the byline 'A Gulf + Western Company' arranged on three lines (which was to continue up to the 1988-1989 season CGI Mountain). The animation is limited, as the word "Television" moves into place.

Four variants followed in 1976, 1979, 1982 and 1985 respectively: The 1976-1979 logo had the pale blue parts in a slightly greener shade, yet the mountain peak was still the short one (although in the 1979-1982 version, the registered mark was missing); while the 1982-1985 version was largely borrowed from the second phase of the 1975 movie version -- which was why after the word "Television" shot in, it overlapped the movie mountain peak. This variant was seen (for one) at the end of the 1983 made-for-TV movie production of The Winds of War, and in such sitcoms like Cheers and Webster.

The third and final variant for 1985-1987, though digitized, is similar to the original 1975 TV logo except for the use of two freeze frames. One of these occurs before the word "Television" moves into place, and a second one is used following this animation. This logo/jingle combo lasted until late 1987, when Paramount unveiled a computer-generated imagery version of the mountain set against a purple sky (which looks to have been shot at late sunset) and had a new Star Wars-inspired six-note horn-driven jingle, written by Richard Krizman (who also wrote the music to the Paramount Home Video logo jingle from that timeframe, which of course bears some resemblance to the TV logo jingle).

Logo Timeline

  • Mountain Logo (I) - Blue background with black mountain and white Paramount Television circle logo, with 1968 copyright notice and bylines 'A Gulf + Western Company' (positioned at bottommost inside mountain, above copyright) and 'Paramount Pictures (Corporation)' (below copyright) in their familiar logo fonts. (January-August 1968)
  • Split Box Logo (1968-1975)
    • Yellow background with PARAMOUNT TELEVISION and byline A DIVISION OF PARAMOUNT PICTURES (CORPORATION) in the left rectangular part of the blue foreground. The Paramount mountain logo is also on a blue foreground, with the corporate circle logo in pale blue with a white mountain, with the byline 'A Gulf + Western Company' again on a single line. The 1968 or 1969 copyright notice is at the bottommost in the mountain as before, with its above byline. (1968-1969)
    • Red background with PARAMOUNT TELEVISION and byline A DIVISION OF PARAMOUNT PICTURES CORPORATION in the left rectangular part of the blue foreground. The Paramount corporate mountain logo, now all blue in color, is now on a white foreground, with its above byline and position. (1969-1975)
  • Mountain Logo (II) - Pale blue background with pale blue mountain and dark blue Paramount circle logo encircled by white stars, with the byline 'A Gulf + Western Company' arranged on three lines. The word "Television" shoots in from the right. (1975-1987)
    • First version had a standard pale blue background and mountain. (1975-1976)
    • Another variant of this logo had the pale blue parts in a greener shade. (1976-1979)
    • Variant of the 1976 logo did not have the registered mark. (1979-1982)
    • Third variant of this logo was borrowed from the second phase of the 1975 movie version, which was why the word "Television" overlapped the movie mountain peak and appeared partially obscure when it shot in. (1982-1985)
    • Fourth and final 'digitized' variant of this logo begins as a still version of the original 1975 TV logo, with the Paramount name, the 22 stars and the Gulf + Western byline already in place as usual. The film rolls just long enough for the sliding in of the word "Television", and then returns to being a still image. (1985-1987)
  • Mountain Logo (III) - This non-animated CGI version was set against a sunset sky. (1987-2002)
    • Logo with byline 'A Gulf + Western Company' and '75th Anniversary' citation. (1987-1988)
    • Logo with above byline, no citation. (1988-1989)
    • Logo with byline 'A Paramount Communications Company.' The 1989-1990 version had this byline in gold, and was switched to white in late 1990. (1989-1994)
    • Logo with byline 'A Viacom Company.' The 1994-1999 version's close-up was the same as for the 1990-1994 version. The 1999-2002 version's close-up was slightly larger. (1994-2002)

Notes on Sources

  • Mordden, Ethan. The Hollywood Studios. New York: Fireside, 1989.
  • Sklar, Robert. Movie-Made America. New York: Vintage, 1989.
  • Schatz, Thomas. The Genius of the System. New York: Pantheon, 1988.
  • Evans, Robert. The Kid Stays in the Picture. New York: Hyperion Press, 1994.
  • Berg, A.Scott. Goldwyn. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1989.
  • Gabler, Neal. An Empire of Their Own: How the Jews Invented Hollywood. New York: Crown Publishers, 1988.
  • Lasky, Jesse L. with Don Weldon, I Blow My Own Horn. Garden City NY: Doubleday, 1957.
  • Zukor, Adolph. The Public is Always Right. New York: G.P. Putnams's, 1953.
  • DeMille, Cecil B. Autobiography. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1959.

See also

External links

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