- Warner Bros.
company_name = Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc.
Subsidiaryof Time Warner
Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, USA (1923)
Jack Warner Harry Warner Albert Warner Sam Warner
Burbank, Californiaand New York City
location_country = USA
Barry Meyer, Chairman and CEO Alan F. Horn, President and COO Edward A. RomanoEVP and CFO
industry = Entertainment
Motion pictures, television programs
revenue = profit$11.7 billion USD (2007) [cite web |url=http://news.moneycentral.msn.com/ticker/article.aspx?Feed=BW&Date=20080206&ID=8146081&Symbol=TWX |title=Time Warner Inc. Reports Results for 2007 Full Year and Fourth Quarter] |
operating_income = profit$845 million USD (2007)
homepage = [http://www.wb.com/ wb.com]
It is a subsidiary of
Time Warner, with its headquarters in Burbank, Californiaand New York City. Warner Bros. has several subsidiary companies, including Warner Bros. Studios, Warner Bros. Pictures, Warner Bros. Games, Warner Bros. Television, Warner Bros. Animation, Warner Home Video, DC Comicsand New Line Cinema. Warner owns half of The CW Television Network.
Founded in 1918 by Polish immigrants, Warner Bros. is the third-oldest American movie studio in continuous operation, after
Paramount Pictures, founded in 1912 as Famous Players, and Universal Studios, also founded in 1912.
The corporate name honors the four founding Warner brothers,
Harry Warner(1881-1958), originally Hirsz Eichelbaum, Albert Warner(1884-1967), originally Aaron Eichelbaum, Sam Warner(1887-1927), originally Szmul Eichelbaum and Jack L. Warner (1892-1978), originally Itzhak Eichelbaum, Polish Jewish brothers who emigrated from Polandto Ontario, Canada. The three elder brothers began in the exhibition business in 1903, having acquired a projector with which they showed films in the mining towns of Pennsylvania and Ohio. They opened their first theatre, the Cascade, in New Castle, Pennsylvaniain 1903. (The original theater is still standing, and is being renovated as the centerpiece of the ongoing downtown revitalization in New Castle, hoping to attract tourists. [http://www.firstwarnertheatre.com/index2.ivnu] ) In 1904, the Warners founded the Pittsburgh-based Duquesne Amusement & Supply Company(the precursor to Warner Bros. Pictures) to distribute films. Within a few years this led to the distribution of pictures across a four-state area. In 1912 Harry Warner hired an auditor named Paul Ashley Chase. By the time of World War Ithey had begun producing films, and in 1918 the brothers opened the Warner Bros. studio on Sunset Boulevardin Hollywood. Sam and Jack Warner produced the pictures, while Harry and Albert Warner and their auditor and now controller Paul Ashley Chasehandled finance and distribution in New York. On April 4, 1923, with help from a loan given to Harry Warner by his banker Motley Flint, Sperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), p. 77.] they formally incorporated as Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
The first important deal for the company was the acquisition of the rights to
Avery Hopwood's 1919 Broadway play, "The Gold Diggers" from theatrical impresario David Belasco. However, what really put Warner Bros. on the Hollywood map was a dog, Rin Tin Tin,Sperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), p. 81.] brought from Franceafter World War Iby an American soldier.Sperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), p. 80.] He debuted in the short " Where the North Begins". The short was so successful that Jack Warner agreed to sign the dog to star in more short films for a $1,000-per-week salary. Rin Tin Tin became the top star at the studio. Jack Warner nicknamed him "The Mortgage Lifter" and the success boosted Darryl Zanuck's career. Zanuck eventually became a top producer for the studioSperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), p. 101.] and between 1928 and 1933 served as Jack Warner's right-hand man and executive producer, with responsibilities including the day-to-day production of films.Behlmer (1985), p. xii.] More success came after Ernst Lubitschwas hired as head director; Harry Rapfleft the studio and accepted an offer to work at MGM.cite book|last=Thomas|first=Bob|title=Clown Prince of Hollywood: The Antic Life and Times of Jack L. Warner|publisher=McGraw-Hill|date=1990|pages=46, 47|isbn=0-070-64259-1] Lubitsch's film " The Marriage Circle" was the studio's most successful film of 1924, and was on the "New York Times" best list for the year.Sperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), p. 82.]
Despite the success of Rin Tin Tin and Lubitsch, they were still unable to achieve star power.Sperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), p. 83.] As a result, Sam and Jack decided to offer Broadway actor
John Barrymorethe lead role in "Beau Brummell". The film was so successful that Harry Warner agreed to sign Barrymore to a generous long-term contract;Sperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), p. 84.] like "The Marriage Circle", "Beau Brummell" was named one of the ten best films of the year by the "New York Times". By the end of 1924, Warner Bros. was arguably the most successful independent studio in Hollywood, but it still competed with "The Big Three" Studios (First National, Paramount, and MGM).cite newspaper|title="Theatre Owners Open War on Hays"|publisher=New York Times|pages=14|date=May 12, 1925] As a result, Harry Warner — while speaking at a convention of 1,500 independent exhibitors in Milwaukee, Wisconsin — was able to convince the filmmakers to spend $500,000 in newspaper advertising.Sperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), p. 86.] As a result, Harry saw this as an opportunity to finally be able to establish theaters in big cities like New York and Los Angeles.
As the studio prospered, it gained backing from Wall Street, and in 1924
Goldman Sachsarranged a major loan. With this new money, the Warners bought the pioneer Vitagraph Company which had a nation-wide distribution system. In 1925, the Warners also plunged into radio, and established a successful radio station, KFWB, in Los Angeles.Sperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), p. 88.]
1925–1935: Sound, color, style
Warner Bros. was a pioneer of "talking pictures".
In 1925, at the urging of Sam Warner, the Warners agreed to expand their operations by adding
synchronized soundto their productions.Sperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), p. 95.] Harry Warner, however, did not want this.Sperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), p. 94.] By February 1926, the studio suffered a reported net loss of $333,413.cite book|last=Freedland|first=Michael|title=The Warner Brothers|publisher=St. Martin's Press|pages=119|isbn=0-312-85620-2]
After a long period of refusing to accept Sam's request for sound, Harry Warner now agreed to accept Sam's demands, as long as studio's usage of synchronized sound was for background music purposes only. The Warners then signed a contract with the sound engineer company
Western Electricand established Vitaphone.Sperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), p. 96.] In 1926, Vitaphone began making films with music and effects tracks, most notably, in the feature "Don Juan"; the film was silent, but it featured a large number of Vitaphones at the beginning. To hype "Don Juan"'s release, Harry Warner also acquired the large Piccadilly Theater in Manhattan, New York and renamed it the Warner Theater.Thomas (1990), p. 56.]
"Don Juan" premiered at the Warner Theater in New York on
August 6, 1926. Throughout the early history of film distribution, theater owners hired orchestras to attend film showings and provide soundtracks. Through Vitaphone, however, Warner Bros. produced eight Vitaphone shorts (which aired at the beginning of every showing of "Don Juan" across the country) in 1926, and got many film production companies to question whether or not it was still necessary to hire theater orchestras.Thomas (1990), p. 57.] While "Don Juan" was a success at the box office,Sperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), p. 113.] it did not earn back its production cost and Lubsitch left Warner for MGM. By April 1927, the Big Five studios (First National, Paramount, MGM, Universal, and Producers Distributing) had put the Warner brothers in financial ruin,Thomas (1990), p. 59.] and Western Electric renewed Warner's Vitaphone contract with terms that allowed other film companies to test sound.
As a result of the financial problems the studio was having, the Warners took the next step and released, "The Jazz Singer" starring
Al Jolson. This movie, which has no sound dialog but does feature sound segments of Al Jolson singing, was a sensation. This movie signaled the beginning of the era of "talking pictures" and the twilight of the silent movies. However, the brothers could not make it to the premiere, as Sam died and the brothers were at his funeral. Jack Warner became sole head of production.Warner and Jennings (1964), pp. 180–181.] Sam's death also had a great effect on Jack's emotional status,cite web | url = http://www.jewishmag.com/75mag/hollywood/hollywood.htm | title = Jews in Hollywood | publisher = Jewishmag.com | accessdate = 2007-12-30] as Sam was arguably Jack's inspiration and favorite brother.Thomas (1990), p. 62.] In the years to come, Jack Warner ran the studio with an iron fist. Firing of studio employees soon became a trademark of his.Thomas (1990), p. 100-101.] Among those whom Jack fired were Rin Tin Tin (in 1929) and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. (who had served as First National's top star since the brothers acquired the studio in 1928) in 1933.
Thanks to the success of "The Jazz Singer", the studio was suddenly flush with cash. Al Jolson's next film for the company, "
The Singing Fool" was also a success.Sperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), p. 141.] With the success of the talkie films ("The Jazz Singer", "Lights of New York", " The Singing Fool", and "The Terror"), Warner Bros. became one of the top studios in Hollywood and the brothers were now able to move out from the Poverty Rowsection of Hollywood and acquire a big studio in Burbank, California. [cite book|last=Warner-Sperling|first=Cass |coauthors=Millner, Cork; Warner, Jack; Warner, Jack Jr.|title=Hollywood Be Thy Name: The Warner Brothers Story|publisher=University Press of Kentucky|pages=142-145|isbn=0-813-10958-2] They were also able to expand studio operations by acquiring the Stanley Corporation, a major theater chain.Sperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), p. 144.] This gave them a share in rival First National Pictures, of which Stanley owned one-third.Thomas (1990), p. 65.] In a bidding war with William Fox, Warner bought more First National shares on September 13, 1928;Sperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), p. 147.] Jack Warner also appointed producer Darryl Zanuck as the studio's manager of First National Pictures.
In 1929 Warner also bought the
Skouras Brothers, a theater chain based in St. Louis. Following this take-over Spyros Skouras, the driving force of the chain, became general manager of the Warner Brothers Theater Circuit in America. He worked successfully in that post for two years and managed to eliminate the losses and eventually even increase the profits. This was a welcome gain given the financial hardships occasioned by the depression.
In addition to this, Harry Warner was also able to acquire a string of music publishers and form
Warner Bros. Music. Despite also failing to purchase Brunswick Records, Harry was still able to purchase a string of radio companies, foreign sound patents, and even a lithograph company; After establishing Warner Bros. Music, Harry Warner appointed his son, Lewis Warner, to serve as the company's head manager.Thomas (1990), p. 66.]
In 1929, Harry Warner was also able to produce an adaption of a
Cole Portermusical titled " Fifty Million Frenchmen".Sperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), p. 148.] Through First National, the studio's profit increased greatly.cite book|last=Thomas|first=Bob|title=Clown Prince of Hollywood: The Antic Life and Times of Jack L. Warner|publisher=McGraw-Hill|date=1990|pages=4|isbn=0-070-64259-1] After the success of the studio's 1929 First National film "Noah's Ark", Harry Warner also agreed to make Michael Curtiza major director at the Burbank studio.cite book|last=Thomas|first=Bob|title=Clown Prince of Hollywood: The Antic Life and Times of Jack L. Warner|publisher=McGraw-Hill|date=1990|pages=127|isbn=0-070-64259-1] Mort Blumenstock, a First National screenwriter, became a top writer at the brothers' New York headquarters.cite book|last=Thomas|first=Bob|title=Clown Prince of Hollywood: The Antic Life and Times of Jack L. Warner|publisher=McGraw-Hill|date=1990|pages=208|isbn=0-070-64259-1]
In the third quarter of 1929, the Warners gained complete control of First National, when Harry purchased the company's remaining one-third share from Fox.Sperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), p. 147.] The Justice Department agreed to allow the purchase if First National was maintained as a separate company.cite book|last=Thomas|first=Bob|title=Clown Prince of Hollywood: The Antic Life and Times of Jack L. Warner|publisher=McGraw-Hill|date=1990|pages=67|isbn=0-070-64259-1] But when the
Great Depressionhit, Warner asked for and got permission to merge the two studios; soon afterward Warner Bros. moved to the First National lot in Burbank. Though the companies merged, the Justice Department required Warner to produce and release a few films each year under the First National name until 1938. For thirty years, certain Warner productions were identified (mainly for tax purposes) as 'A Warner Bros. - First National Picture.'
Around 1931, Warner Bros. head producer Daryl Zanuck hired screenwriter Wilson Mizner to work as a screenwriter for the studio's films.Thomas (1990), pp. 89–92.] While at the studio, Mizner had hardly any respect for authority and found it difficult to work with studio boss Jack Warner. Mizner, however, became a valuable asset to the studio. As time went by, Warner became more tolerant of Mizner and helped invest in Mizner's Brown Derby restaurant. On
April 3, 1933, Mizner died from a heart attack.Thomas (1990), pp. 93.]
In the latter part of 1929, Jack Warner hired sixty-one year old actor
George Arlissto star in " Disraeli",Thomas (1990), p. 77.] which was a surprise success. Arliss won an Oscar for Best Actorand went on to star in nine more movies with the studio. In 1930, Harry acquired more theaters in Atlantic City, despite the beginning of the Great Depression. [cite web|url = http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,739489,00.html |title = Warner Week - TIME |accessdate = 2008-07-09 |date = Monday, Jun. 09, 1930 |author = Monday |coauthors = Jun. 09, 1930] But in July 1930, the studio's banker, Motley Flint, was murdered by a disgruntled investor in another company.Thomas (1990), pp. 72.]
By 1931, however, the studio began to feel the effects of the Depression as the general public became unable to afford the price for movie tickets. In 1931, the studio reportedly suffered a net loss of $8 million,Sperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), p. 160.] and suffered an additional $14 million net loss the following year. In 1931, Warner Bros. Music head Lewis Warner died from an infection.Thomas (1990), p. 72.]
In 1928, the Warner Bros. released "Lights of New York", the first all-talking feature. Due to its success, the movie industry converted entirely to sound almost overnight. By the end of 1929, all the major studios were making sound films exclusively. In 1929, National Pictures released their first film with Warner Bros., "
Noah's Ark".Sperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), p. 151.] Despite its expensive budget, "Noah's Ark" was profitable.Sperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), p. 150.] In 1929, the Warners released "On with the Show", the first all-color all-talking feature. This was followed by " Gold Diggers of Broadway" which was so popular that it played in theatres until 1939. The success of these two color pictures caused a color revolution (just as the first all-talkie had created one for talkies). Warner Bros. released a large number of color films in 1929-1931, including "The Show of Shows" (1929), "Sally" (1929), "Bright Lights" (1930), "Golden Dawn" (1930), "Hold Everything" (1930), " Song of the Flame" (1930), "Song of the West" (1930), "The Life of the Party" (1930), " Sweet Kitty Bellairs" (1930), " Under A Texas Moon" (1930), " The Bride of the Regiment" (1930), "Viennese Nights" (1931), "Woman Hungry" (1931), " Kiss Me Again" (1931), "Fifty Million Frenchmen" (1931) and " Manhattan Parade" (1932). In addition to these, scores of features were released with Technicolorsequences as well as a numerous variety of short subjects. The majority of these color films were musicals.
By 1931 the country had grown so tired of musicals that the studio was forced to cut the numbers of many of the productions and advertise them as straight comedies. The public had begun to associate musicals with color and thus the movie studios began to abandon its use. Warner Bros. had a contract with
Technicolorto produce two more pictures in that process. As a result, the first mysteries in color were produced and released by the studio: "Doctor X" (1932) and " Mystery of the Wax Museum" (1933). In the latter part of 1931, Harry Warner rented the Teddington Studiosin London, England.cite book|last=Thomas|first=Bob|title=Clown Prince of Hollywood: The Antic Life and Times of Jack L. Warner|publisher=McGraw-Hill|date=1990|pages=110|isbn=0-070-64259-1] The studio focused on making films for the London market, and Irving Asherwas appointed as the studio's head producer. In 1934, Harry Warner officially purchased the Teddington Studios.
In February 1933, Warner Bros., however, produced "42nd Street", a very successful musicalSperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), p. 190.] that saved the company from bankruptcy. [cite book|last=Thomas|first=Bob|title=Clown Prince of Hollywood: The Antic Life and Times of Jack L. Warner|publisher=McGraw-Hill|date=1990|pages=85|isbn=0-070-64259-1] In the wake of "42nd Street"'s success, the studio's produced further musicals that were able to bring the studio profits once again.Sperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), p. 194.] These new musicals featured
Ruby Keelerand Dick Powellas the stars, and were mostly directed by Busby Berkeley.Sperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), p. 192.] In 1935, the studio's revived musicals suffered a major blow after Berkeley was arrested after killing three people while driving drunk one night.cite book|last=Thomas|first=Bob|title=Clown Prince of Hollywood: The Antic Life and Times of Jack L. Warner|publisher=McGraw-Hill|date=1990|pages=86|isbn=0-070-64259-1] By the end of the year, people got tired of Warner Bros. musicals, and the studio — after the huge profits made by the 1935 film "Captain Blood" — shifted its focus on producing Errol Flynn swashbucklersSperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), p. 195.]
1931–1935: Pre-code realistic period
With the collapse of the market for musicals, Warner Bros., under production head
Darryl F. Zanuck, turned to more realistic and gritty storylines, 'torn from the headlines' pictures that some said glorified gangsters; Warner Bros. soon became known as a "gangster studio. [cite web|url = http://www.cnn.com/2004/SHOWBIZ/books/08/24/mob.movies/index.html |title = CNN.com - The mobster and the movies - Aug 24, 2004 |accessdate = 2008-07-09] The studio's first gangster film "Little Caesar" was a great success at the box office.Sperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), p. 184.] and Edward G. Robinsonwas a star in many of the wave of gangster films the studio produced after that.Thomas (1990), pp. 77–79.] The studio's next gangster film, " The Public Enemy",Sperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), p. 185] made James Cagney arguably the studio's new top star,Thomas (1990), pp. 81.] and the Warners were now convinced to make more gangster films.
Another gangster film the studio produced was the critically acclaimed "
I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang", starring Paul Muni.Thomas (1990), pp. 83.] In addition to Cagney and Robinson, Paul Muni was also given a big push as one the studio's top gangster starsSperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), p. 186.] after appearing in the successful film, which got audiences to question the legal system in the United States. [cite web|url = http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,744829,00.html |title = Fugitive - TIME |accessdate = 2008-07-09 |date = Monday, Dec. 26, 1932 |author = Monday |coauthors = Dec. 26, 1932] By January 1933, the film's protagonist Robert Elliot Burns — who was still imprisoned in New Jersey — and a number of different chain gang prisoners nationwide in the United States were able to appeal and were released. [cite web|url = http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,847110,00.html |title = Fugitive Free - TIME |accessdate = 2008-07-09 |date = Monday, Jan. 02, 1933 |author = Monday |coauthors = Jan. 02, 1933] In January 1933, Georgia chain gang warden J Harold Hardy — who was also made into a character in the film — sued the studio for displaying "vicious, brutual and false attacks" against him in the film. [cite web|url = http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,744920,00.html |title = TIME |accessdate = 2008-07-09 |date = Monday, Jan. 16, 1933 |author = Monday |coauthors = Jan. 16, 1933] After appearing in the film " The Man Who Played God", Bette Davisbecame a top star for the studio.Thomas (1990), pp. 82–83.]
In 1933, relief for the studio came after Franklin Roosevelt became president in 1933 and was able to rebound the economy with the
New Deal;Sperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), p. 161.] because of this economic rebound, box office profits for Warner Bros. existed once again. This same year, however, the studio's longtime head producer Darryl F. Zanuckquit. One reason was that Harry Warner's relationship with Zanuck became strained after Harry was strongly against allowing Zanuck's film "Baby Face" to step outside the Hays Code boundaries. [cite news|url=http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,745754-2,00.html|title=Musicomedies of the Week|date=1933-07-03|publisher="Time"|pages=2] Also, the studio reduced Zanuck's salary as a result of the losses as a result of the Great Depression, [cite book|last=Warner-Sperling|first=Cass |coauthors=Millner, Cork; Warner, Jack; Warner, Jack Jr.|title=Hollywood Be Thy Name: The Warner Brothers Story|publisher=University Press of Kentucky|pages=182,183|isbn=0-813-10958-2] and Harry still refused to raise his salary in the wake of the New Deal's rebound.cite news|url=http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,847255,00.html|title=New Deal in Hollywood|date=1933-05-01|publisher="Time"|pages=2] Zanuck produced his letter of resignation to Jack Warner,Behlmer (1985), p. 12.] and went on to establish his own company In the wake of Zanuck's resignation, Harry Warner agreed to again raise the salary for the studio's employees.
In 1933, Warner was also able to bring newspaper tycoon
William Randolph Hearst's Cosmopolitan films into the Warner Bros. fold.cite book|last=Thomas|first=Bob|title=Clown Prince of Hollywood: The Antic Life and Times of Jack L. Warner|publisher=McGraw-Hill|date=1990|pages=96|isbn=0-070-64259-1] Hearst had previously been signed with MGM, [cite book|last=Thomas|first=Bob|title=Clown Prince of Hollywood: The Antic Life and Times of Jack L. Warner|publisher=McGraw-Hill|date=1990|pages=95|isbn=0-070-64259-1] but he ended his ties with the company after a dispute with the company's head producer Irving Thalberg over the treatment of Marion Davies;cite book|last=Thomas|first=Bob|title=Clown Prince of Hollywood: The Antic Life and Times of Jack L. Warner|publisher=McGraw-Hill|date=1990|pages=95, 96|isbn=0-070-64259-1] Davies was a longtime mistress of Hearst, and was now struggling to draw box office success. Through his partnership with Hearst, Warner was able to sign Davies to a studio contract. Hearst's company and Davies' films, however, could not increase the studio's profits. [cite book|last=Thomas|first=Bob|title=Clown Prince of Hollywood: The Antic Life and Times of Jack L. Warner|publisher=McGraw-Hill|date=1990|pages=95|isbn=0-070-64259-1]
In 1934, the studio lost over $2.5 million [Sperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), p. 209] of which $500,000 was the result of a fire at the Warner Bros. Burbank studio at the end of 1934, destroying twenty years worth of early Vitagraph, Warner Bros., and First National films.Sperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), p. 209] The following year, Hearst's film adaption of William Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" failed at the box office and the studio's net loss increased. [cite book|last=Thomas|first=Bob|title=Clown Prince of Hollywood: The Antic Life and Times of Jack L. Warner|publisher=McGraw-Hill|date=1990|pages=99|isbn=0-070-64259-1] During this time, Warner Bros. President Harry Warner and six other movie studio figures were indicted of conspiracy to violate the Sherman Antitrust Act,Sperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), p. 209] through an attempt to gain a monopoly over theaters in the St Louis area. [cite web|url = http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,787960,00.html |title = St. Louis Suit - TIME |accessdate = 2008-07-09 |date = Monday, Jan. 21, 1935 |author = Monday |coauthors = Jan. 21, 1935] In 1935, Harry was put on trial for this charge. After a mistrial occurred, Harry sold the company's movie theaters, at least for a short time, and the case was never reopened.Sperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), p. 211] The year 1935 also saw the studio rebound with a net profit of $674,158.00.
By 1936, contracts of musical and silent stars were not renewed and new talent, tough-talking, working-class types, were hired who more suitably fit in with these sort of pictures. Stars such as
Dorothy Mackaill, Bebe Daniels, Frank Fay, Winnie Lightner, Bernice Claire, Alexander Gray, Alice Whiteand Jack Mulhallthat had characterized the urban, modern and sophisticated attitude of the 1920s gave way to stars such James Cagney, Joan Blondell, Edward G. Robinson, Warren Williamand Barbara Stanwyckwho would be more acceptable to the common man. The studio was one of the most prolific producers of Pre-Codepictures and had a lot of trouble with the censors once they started clamping down on what they considered indecency (around 1934).Sperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), p. 188-189.] As a result, Warner Bros. turned out a number of historical pictures from around 1935 in order to avoid confrontations with the Breen office. In 1936, following the success of " The Petrified Forest", Jack Warner also signed Humphrey Bogartto a studio contract.cite book|last=Thomas|first=Bob|title=Clown Prince of Hollywood: The Antic Life and Times of Jack L. Warner|publisher=McGraw-Hill|date=1990|pages=109|isbn=0-070-64259-1] . Warner, however, did not think Bogart was star material,cite book|last=Thomas|first=Bob|title=Clown Prince of Hollywood: The Antic Life and Times of Jack L. Warner|publisher=McGraw-Hill|date=1990|pages=109, 110|isbn=0-070-64259-1] and decided to only cast Bogart in seldom roles as a villain to either a James Cagney or Edward Robinson character in his twenty-eight follow-up films over the next five years..
After Zanuck was succeeded by
Hal B. Wallisin 1933,cite book|last=Thomas|first=Bob|title=Clown Prince of Hollywood: The Antic Life and Times of Jack L. Warner|publisher=McGraw-Hill|date=1990|pages=88|isbn=0-070-64259-1] and the Hays code began to be enforced in 1935, the studio was forced to abandon this realistic approach in order to produce more moralistic idealized pictures. The studio naturally turned to historical dramas which would not cause any problems with the censors. Other offerings included melodramas(or 'women's pictures'), swashbucklers, and adaptations of best-sellers, with stars like Bette Davis, Olivia de Havilland, Paul Muniand Errol Flynn. In 1936, Bette Davis, by now arguably the studio's top star,Sperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), p. 219-221.] was unhappy with the roles Warner was giving her and fled to England and tried to break out of her contract with Warner. Davis lost the lawsuit and soon returned to America to continue her work for the studio.cite book|last=Thomas|first=Bob|title=Clown Prince of Hollywood: The Antic Life and Times of Jack L. Warner|publisher=McGraw-Hill|date=1990|pages=115|isbn=0-070-64259-1]
This period also saw the disappearance of a large number of actors and actresses who had characterized the realistic
Pre-Codeera but who were not suited to the new trend into moral and idealized pictures. Warner Bros. remained a top studio in Hollywood since the dawn of talkies, but this changed after 1935 as other studios, notably MGM, quickly overshadowed the prestige and glamour that previously characterized Warner Bros. However, in the late 1930s, Bette Davis became recognized as the studio's top draw, and was even dubbed as "The Fifth Warner Brother." [ [http://www.watchmojo.com/women/bette_davis.php WatchMojo.com - Daily Video Clips - Bette Davis ] ]
In 1935, James Cagney sued Jack Warner for breach of contract.cite book|last=Thomas|first=Bob|title=Clown Prince of Hollywood: The Antic Life and Times of Jack L. Warner|publisher=McGraw-Hill|date=1990|pages=104 106|isbn=0-070-64259-1] Cagney claimed Warner had forced him to star in more films than his contract required. Cagney eventually dropped his lawsuit after Warner gave him a cash settlement.cite book|last=Thomas|first=Bob|title=Clown Prince of Hollywood: The Antic Life and Times of Jack L. Warner|publisher=McGraw-Hill|date=1990|pages=105|isbn=0-070-64259-1] However, Cagney was now fed up with Warner and left the studio to establish an independent film company, Grand National Films, with his brother Bill.cite book|last=Thomas|first=Bob|title=Clown Prince of Hollywood: The Antic Life and Times of Jack L. Warner|publisher=McGraw-Hill|date=1990|pages=106|isbn=0-070-64259-1] The Cagneys, however, were not able to put much money into their productions, and ran out of money after producing their third film. Cagney then agreed to return to Warner Bros., after Jack Warner agreed to sign him a contract that guaranteed Cagney would be treated to his own terms. After the success of "
Yankee Doodle Dandy" at the box office, Cagney again questioned if the studio would meet the salary demanded by his contract,cite book|last=Thomas|first=Bob|title=Clown Prince of Hollywood: The Antic Life and Times of Jack L. Warner|publisher=McGraw-Hill|date=1990|pages=144|isbn=0-070-64259-1] and again left Warner Bros. to form his own film production and distribution company with his brother Bill.
Another employee with whom Warner had troubles was studio producer
Bryan Foy.cite book|last=Thomas|first=Bob|title=Clown Prince of Hollywood: The Antic Life and Times of Jack L. Warner|publisher=McGraw-Hill|date=1990|pages=116|isbn=0-070-64259-1] In 1936, Wallis hired Foy as a producer for the studio's low budget B-films. Foy was able to garnish arguably more profits than any other B-film producer at the time. During Foy's time at the studio, however, Warner released him on seven different occasions.
During the year 1936, the studio's film "
The Story of Louis Pasteur" proved to be a success at the box officecite book|last=Thomas|first=Bob|title=Clown Prince of Hollywood: The Antic Life and Times of Jack L. Warner|publisher=McGraw-Hill|date=1990|pages=114|isbn=0-070-64259-1] and Paul Muni, the film's star, won the Oscar for Best Actor in March 1937. The studio's 1937 film " The Life of Emile Zola" gave the studio its first Best Picture Oscar.
In 1937, the studio hired Midwestern radio announcer and future US President Ronald Reagan to a small contract.cite book|last=Thomas|first=Bob|title=Clown Prince of Hollywood: The Antic Life and Times of Jack L. Warner|publisher=McGraw-Hill|date=1990|pages=117|isbn=0-070-64259-1] Although Reagan was initially a small-time B-film actor, Warner was impressed by his performance in the final scene of the studio's film "
Knute Rockne, All American", and agreed to pair Reagan with Errol Flynn in the studio's 1940 film "Sante Fe Trail". Reagan then returned to staring in B-films for the studio. After his performance in the studio's 1942 film " King's Row", Warner decided to make Reagan a top star for the studio and signed him on with a new studio contract tripling his salary.cite book|last=Thomas|first=Bob|title=Clown Prince of Hollywood: The Antic Life and Times of Jack L. Warner|publisher=McGraw-Hill|date=1990|pages=117 118|isbn=0-070-64259-1]
In the late 1930s, Harry Warner's daughter Doris read a copy of Margaret Mitchell's "Gone With the Wind" and was interested in making a film adaptation of the book for the studio.cite book|last=Warner-Sperling|first=Cass |coauthors=Millner, Cork; Warner, Jack; Warner, Jack Jr.|title=Hollywood Be Thy Name: The Warner Brothers Story|publisher=University Press of Kentucky|pages=235|isbn=0-813-10958-2] Doris then offered the book's author, Margaret Mitchell, $50,000 for the book's screen rights. Jack, however, refused to allow the deal to take place, upon realizing that the film would be an expensive production.
Another studio actor who proved to be a problem for Jack Warner was
George Raft.cite book|last=Thomas|first=Bob|title=Clown Prince of Hollywood: The Antic Life and Times of Jack L. Warner|publisher=McGraw-Hill|date=1990|pages=123 125|isbn=0-070-64259-1] Warner had signed Raft to a studio contract in 1939, hoping he could fill in as a substitute star in the studio's gangster picturs when either Robinson or Cagney were on suspension.cite book|last=Thomas|first=Bob|title=Clown Prince of Hollywood: The Antic Life and Times of Jack L. Warner|publisher=McGraw-Hill|date=1990|pages=123 125|isbn=0-070-64259-1] Raft had difficulty working with Humphrey Bogart, and refused to co-star in any film in which Bogart had a part.cite book|last=Thomas|first=Bob|title=Clown Prince of Hollywood: The Antic Life and Times of Jack L. Warner|publisher=McGraw-Hill|date=1990|pages=124|isbn=0-070-64259-1] Eventually, Jack Warner agreed to release Raft from his contract.cite book|last=Thomas|first=Bob|title=Clown Prince of Hollywood: The Antic Life and Times of Jack L. Warner|publisher=McGraw-Hill|date=1990|pages=125|isbn=0-070-64259-1] Following Raft's depature, the studio gave Humphrey Bogart the role of Roy Earl in the 1941 film " High Sierra". Bogart's role in the film helped establish him as one of the studio's top stars;cite book|last=Thomas|first=Bob|title=Clown Prince of Hollywood: The Antic Life and Times of Jack L. Warner|publisher=McGraw-Hill|date=1990|pages=125 126|isbn=0-070-64259-1] following "High Sierra", Bogart was also given a role in John Huston's successful 1941 remake of the studio's 1931 failure, "The Maltese Falcon".cite book|last=Thomas|first=Bob|title=Clown Prince of Hollywood: The Antic Life and Times of Jack L. Warner|publisher=McGraw-Hill|date=1990|pages=126 127|isbn=0-070-64259-1]
1930: Birth of Warner's cartoons
Warner's cartoon unit had its roots in the independent
Harman and Isingstudio. From 1930 to 1933, Disneyalumni Hugh Harmanand Rudolf Isingproduced a series of musical cartoons for Leon Schlesinger, who sold the shorts to Warner. Harman and Ising introduced their character Boskoin the first " Looney Tunes" cartoon, " Sinkin' in the Bathtub", and created a sister series, " Merrie Melodies", in 1931.Sperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), p. 187.]
Harman and Ising broke away from Schlesinger in 1933 due to a contractual dispute, taking Bosko with them. As a result, Schlesinger started his own studio, Leon Schlesinger Productions, which continued with the "Merrie Melodies" while starting production on "Looney Tunes" starring Buddy, a Bosko clone. By the end of the decade, a new Schlesinger production team, including directors
Friz Freleng, Tex Avery, Robert Clampett and Chuck Joneswas formed. Schlesinger's staff developed a fast-paced, irreverent style that made their cartoons immensely popular world-wide.
In 1936, Avery directing a string of cartoons, staring Porky Pig, which established the character as the studio's first bona fide star.Barrier, Michael (1999). Pg. 329-333.] In addition to Porky Pig, Warner Bros. cartoon characters Daffy Duck(who debuted in the 1937 short "
Porky's Duck Hunt") and Bugs Bunny (who debuted in the 1940 short " A Wild Hare") also achieved star power. [cite web|url = http://www.milechai.com/product2/children_books/porky-pig-and-the-small-dog.html |title = Porky Pig and Small Dog - Looney Tunes All Hebrew - 800-830-8660 |accessdate = 2008-07-09] By 1942, the Schlesinger studio had surpassed Walt Disney Studios as the most successful producer of animated shorts in the United States. [" [http://www.animationusa.com/resources/aboutwb.html Warner Bros. Studio biography] ". "AnimationUSA.com". Retrieved June 17, 2007.]
Jack Warner eventually bought Schlesinger's cartoon unit in 1944, and in subsequent decades characters such as
Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Tweety Bird, and Porky Pigbecame central to the company's image. Bugs in particular remains a mascot to Warner Bros.' various divisions and Six Flags (which Time Warner previously owned). The studio's 1947 cartoon " Tweetie Pie" was a phenomenal success, and the duo, Sylvester & Tweety, were together in all of their future cartoons with star power as a result.Sperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), p. 187-188.]
World War II
Prior to the United States entering World War II, Harry Warner produced the successful anti-German film
The Life of Emile ZolaSperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), p. 225] After that, Harry supervised the production of several more anti-German films, including " Confessions of a Nazi Spy" (1939),Sperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), p. 233] "The Sea Hawk" (which mirrored King Phillip II as an equivalent to Hitler),Sperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), p. 247] " Sergeant York",Sperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), p. 246] and " You're In The Army Now".Sperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), p. 247] After the United States officially entered World War II after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Harry Warner decided to focus on producing war films.Sperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), p. 240] Also, one-fourth of the studio's employees, including Jack Warner and his son Jack Jr., were drafted.
Among the films the studio made during the war were "Casablanca", "
Now, Voyager", "Yankee Doodle Dandy", " This Is the Army", and the controversial film " Mission to Moscow".cite book|last=Warner-Sperling|first=Cass |coauthors=Millner, Cork; Warner, Jack; Warner, Jack Jr.|title=Hollywood Be Thy Name: The Warner Brothers Story|publisher=University Press of Kentucky|pages=247-255|isbn=0-813-10958-2] At the premieres of "Yankee Doodle Dandy" (in Los Angeles, New York, and London), audiences for the film purchased $15.6 million in war bonds for the governments of England and the United States. By the middle of 1943, however, it became clear that audiences were tired of war films. Despite the growing pressure to abandon production of war films, Warner continued to produce them, losing money in the process. Eventually, in honor of the studio's contributions to the war cause, the United States Government named a Liberty Shipafter the brothers' father, Benjamin Warner, and Harry Warner was given the honor of christening the ship. By the time the war ended, $20 million in war bonds were purchased through the studio, the Red Cross collected 5,200 pints of plasma from studio employees, and 763 of the studio's employees served as in the armed forces, including Harry Warner's son-in-law Milton Sperling.
Following a dispute over ownership of "Casablanca"'s Oscar for Best Picture, head producer Hal B. Wallis broke with Warner and resigned from the studio.Thomas (1990), p. 141-143.] After "Casablanca" made Humphrey Bogart arguably the studio's top star,Thomas (1990), p. 144.] Bogart found that his relationship with Jack Warner was deteriorating. In 1943, Olivia de Haviland (whom Warner was now loaning to different companies) sued Warner for breach of contract.Thomas (1990), p. 145.]
De Haviland had refused to accept an offer to portray famed abolitionist Elizabeth Blackwell in an upcoming film for Columbia Pictures, and Warner responded by mailing 150 telegrams to different film production companies, warning them not to hire her for any role. Afterwards, de Haviland discovered that employer contracts in the United States could only serve a duration of seven years; de Haviland had been under contract with the studio since 1935.Thomas (1990), p. 98.] The courts ruled in de Haviland's favor, and she was now free from her contract and left the studio. Through de Haviland's victory many of the studio's longtime actors now free from their contracts, Harry Warner then decided to terminate the studio's suspension policy.Thomas (1990), p. 148.]
In 1943, Jack Warner also hired newly-released MGM actress
Joan Crawford, who was once a top star for the MGM studio but now found her career fading,Thomas (1990), p. 150.] to a studio contract. Crawford's first role with the studio was in the 1944 film "Hollywood Canteen".Thomas (1990), p. 151.] Crawford's first starring role at the studio, as the title role in " Mildred Pierce", helped her career rebound and earned her an Oscar for Best Actress.Thomas (1990), p. 152.]
Post–World War II: Changing hands
The record attendance figures of the
World War IIyears made the Warner brothers rich. The gritty Warner image of the 1930s gave way to a glossier look, especially in women's pictures starring Davis, de Havilland and Joan Crawford. The 1940s also saw the rise of Humphrey Bogartfrom supporting player to major star. In the post-war years, the Warners continued to create new stars, like Lauren Bacalland Doris Day. The studio prospered greatly after the war. [Sperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), p. 258-279] By 1946, company payroll reached $600,000 a weekcite book|last=Warner-Sperling|first=Cass |coauthors=Millner, Cork; Warner, Jack; Warner, Jack Jr.|title=Hollywood Be Thy Name: The Warner Brothers Story|publisher=University Press of Kentucky|pages=258-279|isbn=0-813-10958-2] and the net profit reached $19.4 million.
One problem for the Warners, however, was Jack Warner's refusal to meet the
Screen Actors Guild's salary demands.Thomas (1990), p. 163.] In September 1946, the employees engaged in a month-long strike.Thomas (1990), p. 163.] In retaliation to the Guild's union demands, Jack Warner-during his 1947 defense testmony before Congress, for making to 1942 Russian propaganda film Mission to Moscow- ratted a number of the studio's employees out for having alleged ties to Communists.Thomas (1990), p. 164.] By the end of 1947, the studio reached a record net profit of $22 million.Sperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), p. 279] Unfortunately, the company's net profit decreased 50% the following year.
January 5, 1948, Warner offered the first color newsreel, covering the Tournament of Roses Paradeand the Rose Bowl Game. In 1948, Bette Davis, still the studio's top actress and now fed up with Jack Warner, was a big problem for Harry after she and a number of her fellow colleagues left the studio after completing the film " Beyond the Forest".cite book|last=Thomas|first=Bob|title=Clown Prince of Hollywood: The Antic Life and Times of Jack L. Warner|publisher=McGraw-Hill|date=1990|pages=175, 176|isbn=0-070-64259-1]
Warner was a party to the
United States v. Paramount Pictures, Inc.anti-trust case of the 1940s. This action, brought by the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission, claimed that the five integrated studio-theater chain combinations restrained competition. The Supreme Court heard the case in 1948, and ruled for the government. As a result Warner and four other major studios were forced to separate production from exhibition. In 1949, the studio's net profit was now only $10 million.
By 1949, with the success of television threatening the film industry more and more, Harry Warner decided to shift his focus towards television production.Sperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), p. 286] However, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) would not allow Harry to do so. After an unsuccessful attempt to convince other movie studio bosses to which their focus to television, Harry abandoned his television efforts.Sperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), p. 287] In the early 1950s, the threat of television had grown greatly, and in 1953, Jack Warner decided to take a new approach to compete with the rising threat television now represented for the studio. In the wake of United Artist's successful 3-D film "
Bwana Devil", Jack decided to expand into 3-D films with the studio's 1953 film "House of Wax". [Sperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), p. 287.] Unfortunately, despite the success of "House of Wax", 3-D films soon lost their appeal among moviegoers.Thomas (1990), p. 191.]
After the downfall of 3-D films, Harry Warner decided to use
CinemaScopein future Warner Bros. films.Sperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), p. 287-288.] One of the studio's first CinemaScope films, " The High and Mighty", was able to give the studio some profit.Sperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), p. 288.] In 1954, the studio was finally able engage in the new television medium, by providing ABC with a weekly show, " Warner Bros. Presents";Thomas (1990), p. 192.] ; the show was not a success.Thomas (1990), p. 193.] The studio's next show, "Cheyenne", whould be an instant success.Thomas (1990), p. 194.] The studio then followed up with a series of popular Western dramas, such as "Maverick", "Bronco", and "Colt .45". The success of these series helped to make up for the losses on the film side. As a result, Jack Warner decided to emphasize television series.Thomas (1990), p. 195.] Within a few years, the studio, accustomed to dealing with actors in a high-handed manner, provoked hostility among emerging TV stars like James Garner, who filed a lawsuit against Warner Bros. over a contract dispute.Thomas (1990), pp. 196–198.] Jack Warner was angered by the perceived ingratitude of television actors, who evidently showed more independence than film actors, and this deepened his contempt for the new medium.Thomas (1990), p. 199.]
Early in 1953, the Warner theater holdings were spun off as
Stanley Warner Theaters, and were sold to Simon Fabian Enterprises.cite web|url = http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,808529,00.html |title = Boston to Hollywood - TIME |accessdate = 2008-07-09 |date = Monday, May. 21, 1956 |author = Monday |coauthors = May. 21, 1956] By 1956, however, the studio was losing money.Sperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), p. 303.] By the end of 1953, the studio's net profit was a staggering $2.9 millioncite book|last=Thomas|first=Bob|title=Clown Prince of Hollywood: The Antic Life and Times of Jack L. Warner|publisher=McGraw-Hill|date=1990|pages=190|isbn=0-070-64259-1] and ranged between $2 and $4 million for the next two years.cite book|last=Thomas|first=Bob|title=Clown Prince of Hollywood: The Antic Life and Times of Jack L. Warner|publisher=McGraw-Hill|date=1990|pages=225|isbn=0-070-64259-1] In February 1956, Jack Warner sold the rights to all of the brother's pre-1949 films to United Artists Television.
In May 1956, the brothers announced they were putting Warner Bros. on the market.cite news|url=http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,808529,00.html|title=Boston to Hollywood|date=1956-05-21|publisher="Time"|pages=2] Jack, however, secretly organized a
syndicate— headed by Boston banker Serge Semenenko — that purchased 90% (800,000 shares) of the company's stock. After the three brothers sold their stock, Jack — through his under-the-table deal with Sememenko — joined Semenenko's syndicateSperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), p. 308.] and bought back all his stock, which consisted of 200,000 shares. Shortly after the deal was completed in July,cite book|last=Thomas|first=Bob|title=Clown Prince of Hollywood: The Antic Life and Times of Jack L. Warner|publisher=McGraw-Hill|date=1990|pages=226|isbn=0-070-64259-1] Jack — now the company's largest stockholder — appointed himself as the new company president.Sperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), p. 306.] By the time Harry and Albert learned of their brother's dealings, it was too late.Thomas (1990), p. 226.] Shortly after the deal was closed, Jack Warner announced that the company and its subsidiaries would be "directed more vigorously to the acquisition of the most important story properties, talents, and to the production of the finest motion pictures possible."cite news
title = 2 Warners Sell Most of Stock in Film Firm: Harry and Albert Dispose of Shares to Banker; Jack to Be President
author = The United Press
work = The Youngstown Vindicator
July 12, 1956
page = 22]
Warner Bros. rebounded in the late 1950s, specializing in adaptations of popular plays like "The Bad Seed" (1956), "
No Time for Sergeants" (1958), and "Gypsy" (1962). There was also a successful television unit run by William T. Orr, Jack Warner's son-in-law, offering popular series like "Maverick" (1957–62) and " 77 Sunset Strip" (1958–64). Already the owner of extensive music-publishing holdings, in 1958 the studio launched Warner Bros. Records.With his health slowly recovering from a car accident he was in while vactioning in France in 1958, Jack returned to the studio and made sure his name was featured in press releases regarding Warner Bros.Sperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), "Hollywood Be Thy Name," Prima Publishing, ISN:559858346 p. 325.] In each of the first three years of the 1960s, the studio's net profit was only worth a little over $7 million. Warner paid an unprecedented $5.5 million for the film rights to the Broadway musical " My Fair Lady" in February 1962. The previous owner, CBSdirector William S. Paley, set terms that included fifty percent of the distributor's gross profits "plus ownership of the negative at the end of the contract."Thomas (1990), p. 259.] In 1963, the net profit dropped to a dismal $3.7 million. By the mid-1960s, motion picture production was in decline. There were few studio-produced films and many more co-productions (for which Warner provided facilities, money, and distribution), and pickups of independently made pictures.
In 1963, Jack Warner agreed to merger Warner Bros. Music with Frank Sinatra's Reprise Records.Thomas (1990), p. 255.] Through this partnership, Warner Bros. Records was established. In 1964, upon seeing the profits record companies made from music from Warner Bros., Jack Warner decided to claim ownership of the studio's film soundtracks and focus on making profits through Warner Bros. Records.Thomas (1990), p. 264-265.] For its first eighteen months in existence, Warner Bros. Records lost around $2 million.Thomas (1990), p. 265.] With the success of the studio's 1965 Broadway play "
The Great Race", as well as its soundtrack, Warner Bros. Records was now a profitable subsidiary for the studio. The studio's 1966 film "Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf" was a huge success at the box office.Thomas (1990), p. 278.]
In November 1966, Jack gave in to advancing age and the changing times,Thomas (1990), p. 280.] selling control of the studio and its music business for $32 million to
Seven Arts Productions, run by the Canadian investors Elliot and Kenneth Hyman.Thomas (1990), p. 279.] The company, including the studio, was renamed Warner Bros.-Seven Arts. Jack Warner did, however, remain the studio's President until the summer of 1967, when "Camelot" failed at the box office and Warner succeeded his position to the studio's longtime publicity director Ben Kalmenson;Thomas (1990), p. 279-280.] Warner did, however, remain with the studio as an independent producer and vice-president. With the success of the studio's 1967 film "Bonnie and Clyde", Warner Bros was making profits once again.Thomas (1990), p. 288.]
Two years later the Hymans, now fed up with Jack Warner, accepted a cash-and-stock offer from an odd conglomerate called
Kinney National Companyfor more than $64 million. Kinney was formed through a merger of a parking lot operator and an office cleaning company. It also owned a Hollywood talent agency, Ashley-Famous, [William Poundstone, " Fortune's Formula"] and it was Ted Ashleywho led Kinney head Steve Ross to the purchase of Warners. Ashley became the new head of the studio, and the name was changed to Warner Bros., Inc. once again. Jack Warner, however, was outraged by the Hymans' sale, and decided to retire from the studio.
Although the moviegoing audience had shrunk, Warner's new management believed in the drawing-power of stars, signing co-production deals with several of the biggest names of the day, among them
Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Barbra Streisand, and Clint Eastwood, carrying the studio successfully through the 1970s and 1980s. Warners also made major profits on films built around the characters of Supermanand Batman, owned by Warners subsidiary DC Comics.
Abandoning the mundane parking lots and funeral homes, the re-focused Kinney renamed itself in honor of its best-known holding,
Warner Communications. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s Warner Communications branched out into other business, such as its acquiring of video game company Atari, Incin 1976, and later the Six Flagstheme parks.
From 1971 until the end of 1987, Warner's international distribution operations were a joint venture with
Columbia Pictures, and in some countries, this joint venture also distributed films from other companies (like EMI Filmsand Cannon Films in the UK). Warner ended the venture in 1988 and joined up with Walt Disney Pictures, this joint venture lasted until 1993, when Disney created Buena Vista International.
To the surprise of many, flashy, star-driven Warner Communications merged in 1989 with the
white-shoepublishing company Time Inc.Though Time and its magazines claimed a higher tone, it was the Warner Bros. film and music units which provided the profits. However, the Time Warnermerger was almost derailed when Paramount Communications(Formerly Gulf+Western, later sold to Viacom), launched a $12.2 billion dollar hostile bid for Time Inc., forcing Time to acquire Warner for $14.9 billion dollar cash/stock offer. Paramount responded with a lawsuit filed in Delawarecourt to break up the merger. Paramount lost both the case and the appeal and the merger proceeded.
In 1997, Time Warner sold the Six Flags unit. The takeover of Time Warner in 2000 by then-high-flying
AOLdid not prove a good match, and following the collapse in "dot-com" stocks, the AOL name was banished from the corporate nameplate.
In 1995, Warner and station-owner
Tribune Companyof Chicagolaunched The WB Network, finding a niche market in teenagers. The WB's early programming included an abundance of teenage fare like "Buffy the Vampire Slayer", "Smallville" and " Dawson's Creek". Two extremely successful family dramas, " 7th Heaven" and " Charmed" also helped bring The WB into the spotlight, with Charmed going for eight seasons and being the longest running drama with female leads and 7th Heaven going for eleven seasons and being the longest running family drama and longest running show for The WB. In 2006 Warner and CBS Corporationdecided to close The WB and CBS's UPNand jointly launch The CW Television Network.
In the late 1990s, Warner obtained rights to the
Harry Potternovels, and released feature film adaptations of the first in 2001, the second in 2002, the third in June 2004, the fourth in November 2005, and the fifth on July 11, 2007. The sixth was slated for November 2008, but Warner moved it to July 2009 only three months before the movie was supposed to come out, citing the lack of summer blockbusters in 2009 (due to the Writer's Strike) as the reason. [http://www.timewarner.com/corp/newsroom/pr/0,20812,1833086,00.html] The decision was purely financial, and Alan Horn was quoted as saying: "There were no delays. I’ve seen the movie. It is fabulous. We would have been perfectly able to have it out in November.” [http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/26205933/] This resulted in a massive fan backlash. The seventh and final adaptation, to be shown in two parts, has been announced for 2010 and 2011.
Over the years, Warner Bros has had distribution and/or co-production deals with a number of small companies. These include (but are not limited to)
Amblin Entertainment, Morgan Creek Productions(now working with Universal Studios), Regency Enterprises(now working with 20th Century Fox), Village Roadshow Pictures, Legendary Pictures, Silver Pictures(which includes Dark Castle Entertainment), The Ladd Company, and The Geffen Film Company.
Warner Bros. played a large part in the discontinuation of the
HD DVDformat. On January 4, 2008, Warner Bros. announced that they would drop support of HD DVDin favor of Blu-ray Disc. [ [http://www.consolewatcher.com/warner-bros-goes-blu-ray-exclusive/ Warner Bros Goes Blu Ray Exclusive] "Console Watcher"] HD DVDs would continue to be released through May 2008 (when their contract with the HD DVD promotion group will expire), but only after Blu-ray and DVD releases. This started a chain of events which resulted in HD DVD development and production being halted by Toshibaon February 16, 2008, ending the format war.
Warner Bros. and
National CineMediahave formed a partnership to provide pre-feature entertainment and advertising in movie theaters nationwide. [ [http://biz.yahoo.com/bw/080114/20080114006177.html Warner Bros. and National CineMedia Form Marketing Partnership] , "Yahoo!", January 14, 2008]
Warner Bros. celebrated its 90th anniversary on
June 1, 2008even though the company celebrated for its 85th anniversary for films only.
Over the years, a series of mergers and acquisitions have helped Warners (the present-day Time Warner subsidiary) to accumulate a diverse collection of movies, cartoons, and television programs.
In the aftermath of the 1948 anti-trust suit, uncertain times led Warners in 1956 to sell its 650 of its pre-1948 films and cartoons to a holding company which became
Associated Artists Productions(AAP). Two years later, AAP sold its holdings to United Artists(UA), which held them until 1981, when MGM bought UA.
Three years later,
Turner Broadcasting System, having failed to buy MGM, settled for ownership of the MGM/UA library. This included almost all pre-1986 MGM features (with a few exceptions as noted below), as well as the pre-1948 Warner material. Ownership of the classic Warner films came full-circle when Time Warner bought Turner, although technically they are held by Turner Entertainmentwhile Warner is responsible for sales and distribution.
These acquisitions, among others, mean that Warner owns almost every film they have made since its inception, excepting certain films Warner merely distributed. Much of the United States Pictures catalog (with certain exceptions, like "Battle of the Bulge", which WB still owns) is now owned by Republic/
Paramount Pictures(Republic/Paramount also now owns "Cujo", produced by a division of Taft Broadcasting, with video licensee Lions Gate Entertainmenthandling USA DVD rights).
Seven years after its 1964 release, rights to "My Fair Lady" reverted to
CBS, which had backed the theatrical production, although ironically Warner now owns the DVD rights under license from CBS (Interestingly, 35 years after that, CBS and Warner Bros. formed The CW Television Network, as mentioned above).
In addition Warner (via Turner) has acquired most of the Hanna-Barbera Productions library (including the 1982 film "
Heidi's Song"), alongside most of the pre-1990 Ruby-Spears Productionslibrary. This does not including shows based on other licensed properties (ex., the animated versions of "Happy Days", "Mork and Mindy" and "Laverne and Shirley" are owned by CBS Paramount Television).
Previously owned by
Hit Entertainment/Lyric Studios, and Playhouse Disney, since 2007, Warner Bros. now owns the rights to produce The Wiggleswith the first production "Getting Strong" DVD and "Pop Goes the Wiggles" and future DVD's
In 2007, Warner Bros. added the "
Peanuts"/Charlie Brown library to its collection (this includes all the television specials and series outside of the theatrical library, which continues to be owned by CBS and Paramount through United Feature Syndicate, licensor and owner of the "Peanuts" material).
Peculiarities resulting from building this library
A result of WB building up its library is that they own many works of certain people. For example, they own seven of the films directed by
Stanley Kubrick(including five released by WB themselves and two originally from MGM), most of the films that Joan Crawfordstarred in (all her MGM and WB films), and all but four theatrical cartoons directed by Tex Avery(those four are owned by Universal), in addition to his final creation, " The Kwicky Koala Show".
Material owned by WB
In addition to a majority of its own post-1948 film library, WB owns:
* Most of Lorimar's television and film holdings (including most of the
Allied Artists/ Monogram and post-1974 Rankin/Basslibraries, as well as several films made by Lorimar themselves which were released originally by Paramount Pictures, among other studios);
* The National General Pictures library (except those produced with Cinema Center Films, which are owned by CBS and Paramount Pictures)
* Most ancillary rights to
Castle Hill Productions' library (which includes early UA material)
* The 1956 version of "Around the World in Eighty Days"
* Most of the pre-1991
Morgan Creek Productionslibrary
* Most of the pre-1990
Saul Zaentzfilm library
* The 1978-1982
* The non-Japan rights to the first three
Castle Rock Entertainmentfilms made after Turner acquired Castle Rock (except the Region 1 rights to " The Story of Us" and " The Last Days of Disco", as well as the international rights to "The American President", all owned by Universal)
* Nearly all pre-1986 MGM titles and cartoons
* The US/Canadian and Region 4 rights to a majority of the RKO Radio Pictures library
* The 1933-1957 "
Popeye" theatrical animated shorts produced by Paramount
* A portion of United Artists material (including "
* The 1952 film "The Star" (originally released by
20th Century Fox)
* The 1993 film "Mr. Wonderful", produced by
The Samuel Goldwyn Company
* The 1931 version of "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde", "
Seven Days in May" (1964), and " Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory" (1971), originally released by Paramount.
* The 1931 version of "Waterloo Bridge" and the 1936 version of "Show Boat", originally from Universal.
* Certain John Wayne Warner films are owned by Batjac, Wayne's company, as are other Batjac productions not starring Wayne - Paramount owns distribution rights to these films. Warner and Paramount cross-licensed each others' logos for DVD distribution of both these films and the Paramount produced Popeye cartoons Warner controls, as well as sharing distribution rights to "Watchmen", as well as other films they worked and/or working on.
* One film by
Alfred Hitchcockthat was originally released by WB, "Rope", is now owned by Universal Studios
* One Warner film from the post-1948 era, the 1956 version of "Moby Dick", is now owned by UA.
* One film that was originally released by Warner in 1957, "
Sayonara", is now owned by MGM.
* The ancillary rights to
ITC Entertainmentfilms originally distributed by WB (including "The Medusa Touch", " Movie Movie", and " Capricorn One") are now owned by Granada International, while MGM owns theatrical distribution rights.
* The 1951 western "
Only the Valiant" is owned by Republic/ Paramount Pictures, while CBS Television Distributionholds television rights and Lionsgateholds video rights.
* Warner Bros' rights to the characters of Hanna-Barbera are co-owned with
Universal Studiosvia their theatrical film appearances.
* WB/Turner owns theatrical and television rights to "
Pink Floyd The Wall" (while video rights rest with Sony BMG Music Entertainment)
March of the Wooden Soldiers" has now gone back to MGM as a result of their acquisition of former owners The Samuel Goldwyn Company
* The original Hal Roach "
Our Gang" shorts distributed by MGM before the studio took control of the series is owned by RHI Entertainmentand CBS Television Distribution, while RHI solely owns much of the MGM/Roach shorts and features, with few exceptions.
Frank Capra's film, "State of the Union," was released by MGM in 1948, but the rights belonged to Capra's Liberty Films, which was bought out by Paramount Picturesin 1955. In 1957, MCA bought the rights to most of Paramount's sound movies released before 1950, which includes "State of the Union." These films would go to EMKA, Ltd./ Universal Studiosin 1962 when that studio was sold to MCA.
Force of Evil", also released in 1948 by MGM, is now owned by Republic Picturesvia Paramount (coincidentally also the owners of " It's a Wonderful Life" - the only other film produced by Liberty Films, and coincidentally was originally released by RKO).
* RKO's 1946 film "
The Spiral Staircase" belongs to ABC, while MGM holds the video rights.
The WB Archives
University of Southern CaliforniaWarner Bros. Archives is the largest single studio collection in the world. Donated in 1977 to USC's School of Cinema-Television by Warner Communications, the WBA houses departmental records that detail Warner Bros. activities from the studio's first major feature, My Four Years in Germany (1918), to its sale to Seven Arts in 1968.
UA donated pre-1949 Warner Bros. nitrates to the
Library of Congressand post-1951 negatives to UCLA's film library. Most of the company's legal files, scripts and production materials were donated to the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Warner Brothers is now dueted with Sony Pictures.
Warner Bros. Franchises
Looney Tunes(featuring Bugs Bunny).
* Hanna-Barbera with
Universal Studiosfor select titles.
The Matrix Series
Ace Ventura Pet Detective(Jim Carrey reprise his role as the title character Ace Ventura. This is the only sequel to a film starring Jim Carrey in which Carrey reprised his role).
The Lord of the Ringsafter the takeover of New Line Cinema
* Austin Powers after the
New Line Cinematakeover
* Blade after the takeover of
New Line Cinema
* Harold & Kumar after the takeover of
New Line Cinema
A Nightmare on Elm Streetafter the takeover of New Line Cinema
* Friday the 13th after the takeover of
New Line Cinema
Mortal Kombatafter the takeover of New Line Cinema
Rush Hourafter the takeover of New Line Cinema
The Maskafter the takeover of New Line Cinema
Dumb and Dumberafter the takeover of New Line Cinema
Final Destinationafter the takeover of New Line Cinema
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtlesafter the takeover of New Line Cinema(New Line Cinema produced the live-action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies, but Warner Bros. produced the animated TMNT movie)
* Friday after the takeover of
New Line Cinema
Tom & Jerryafter Time Warner's takeover of Turner Entertainment
Warner Village Theme Parks
List of Warner Bros. films
Major film studios
* Mordden, Ethan. "The Hollywood Studios." New York: Simon & Schuster, 1988.
* Schatz, Robert. "The Genius of the System: Hollywood Filmmaking in the Studio Era." New York: Pantheon, 1988.
* Sklar, Robert. "Movie-Made America." New York: Vintage, 1994.
* Warner, Jack L. "My First Hundred Years in Hollywood."
* Gabler, Neal. "An Empire of Their Own: How the Jews Invented Hollywood." New York: Crown Publishers, 1988.
* [http://www2.warnerbros.com/ WarnerBros official site]
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