I see a lot of movies, and that means that for me some names of Hollywood studios are household names. Still, ever since reading “Easy Riders, Raging Bulls“, I’m also curious about the stories behind those companies: who started them, what kind of movies did they make in the past. Some of that information can be found on Wikipedia. Here’s a first batch (I’ve not included the really big ones like MGM, Paramount, just some of the ‘smaller’ names I recognize):
Hollywood studios

  • Lions Gate Entertainment (Canada): originally founded by Robert Altman. During the 90s known as Cinépix Film Properties. Revived as Lionsgate in 1997 by Frank Guistra. Have bought Artisan Entertainment in 2003 (The Blair Witch Project, Requiem for a Dream …) which also owned Vestron Pictures (Dirty Dancing). Bring out ‘daring’ movies: Fahrenheit 9/11, Irreversible, Saw, Hostel.
  • Touchstone Pictures (USA): started in 1984 as division of Disney in order to bring movies that were for more mature audiences. First release: Splash! Last year’s releases: The Guardian, The Prestige and Deja Vu. Also has TV division: ABC Television Studio (Desperate Housewives, Lost and Grey’s Anatomy)
  • Focus Features (USA): art house films division of Universal Studios (since 2002). Produced recent gems like Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, Motorcycle Diaries, The Constant Gardener and Brokeback Mountain. Also does action/horror movies under the brand Rogue Films: Assault on Precinct 13, Shaun Of The Dead …
  • Castle Rock Entertainment: started by Rob Reiner (Spinal Tap, When Harry Met Sally) et al in 1987 with funding from Columbia Pictures (Sony). Name inspired by “The Dead Zone” by Stephen King. Apart from Reiners films, not very successful. Sold in 1994 to Turner Broadcasting, later Time/Warner. Biggest success: animation movie Polar Express (2004).
  • Miramax films: started in 1987 by the Weinstein brothers. Sold in 1993 to Disney. Under the Weinsteins, Miramax had a history of buying the rights to Asian films (e.g. Hero), only to sit on them without releasing them for some years. The Weinsteins left in 2005. Famous movies: The Crying Game, Sex, Lies and Videotape, Pulp Fiction, Chicago.
  • The Weinstein Company: founded in 2005 by the above cited Harvey and Bob Weinstein. First release: Derailed. Most recent release: Hannibal Rising. Next Release: Grind House (Tarantino). They also have a subsiduary Dimension Films: Scary Movie 4.
  • New Line Cinema: founded in 1967 by Robert Shaye and Michael Lynne. Sold in 1994 to Turner Broadcast, later Time/Warner. First hit movie: A Nightmare on Elm Street. Lots of good movies: Lord of The Rings trilogy, Austin Powers, Magnolia, The Mask. Recent hits: Snakes on a Plane and Wedding Crashers.
  • TriStar Pictures: founded in 1982 as joint-venture of Columbia (then a subsidiary of Coca-Cola), HBO, and CBS. When the latter 2 dropped out, became Columbia Pictures in 1987, which was taken over by Sony in 1989. Famous movies: Terminator 2, Basic Instinct, Jerry Maguire, Seven Years in Tibet. Not making very successful movies last couple of years.
  • United Artists: found in 1919(!!) by Charles Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, and D. W. Griffith. The company did not do too well and was almost dead in the late 1940s. In 1951 Arthur Krim and Robert Benjamin offered to run the company for 5 years and if profitable, buy it. That worked and they went public in 1956. They releases the Beatles’ movies in 1964/1965 and also backed the first James Bond movie. The company was sold to TransAmerica in 1967 and continued to prosper, working with Woody Allen, Robert Altman and Brian De Palma. Krim and Benjamin left in 1978, and the first project by the new management, Heaven’s Gate, completely bombed. It was sold to Kirk Kerkorian (MGM). In 1990 it was sold to Giancarlo Parretti, who went bankrupt within the year. Taken over by Credit Lyonnais, it was sold again in 1997, again to Kerkorian. MGM took over most of its titles and franchises. In 2005 it was bought (along with MGM) by a consortium including Sony and Comcast. On November 2, 2006, MGM announced that actor Tom Cruise and his long-time production partner Paula Wagner were resurrecting United Artists. Some famous movies (and this is really a hard choice): the Rocky series, the Bond series, the Pink Panter series, The Graduate, Apocalypse Now, Bowling for Columbine, Capote.
  • Orion Pictures: founded in 1978 by the above mentioned ex-management of UA together with Warners Bros. While it started out strong (10, Life of Brian) and did well in the 80s (Terminator, Amadeus, Platoon), it went into bankruptcy from 1992 till 1996 and was sold to MGM in 1998.