"The proudest name in entertainment"
—Slogan of United Artists Records during the 1960's
United Artists is an American film studio.
The company was founded in 1919, one year after the founding of Warner Bros.
They stood out from the other Hollywood studios at the time for two reasons:
1. As the name "United Artists" indicates, UA was founded not by executives, but actors and directors—namely, Charlie Chaplin
, Douglas Fairbanks, D.W. Griffith
, and Mary Pickford, all major names in the era's film industry.note
The founders intended to avoid Executive Meddling
by taking control of their own work. To date, Dreamworks
is the only other big studio formed by creators.
2. UA were little more than backer-distributors for assorted independent producers; the company never owned actual studio facilities of its own. Because of this, they were usually the Butt Monkey
of the studio system during The Golden Age of Hollywood
. In fact, sometimes it was like there were seven big studios and United Artists
Things changed with the Fall of the Studio System
in the 1950's. While the other studios suffered as a result of this (especially
RKO Radio Pictures and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
), UA prospered, with a system that bankrolled outside production companies, giving them more freedom than most of its other rivals wanted to. In the 1960s, this paid off with the company with releasing more hits every year, especially with the James Bond
United Artists was successful enough to diversify during The Fifties
. The company started a TV production division in 1956. UA also launched United Artists Records in 1957; like other labels owned by film studios, it was initially an outlet for soundtrack albums, but evolved into a major name in the music industry.
UA was purchased by Transamerica (an insurance company) in 1967, which they did to strengthen themselves to form a conglomerate in the veins of General Electric, RCA or Gulf + Western (which bought Paramount
the same year). This worked well for them, and soon nearly every studio had been bought up by a larger company (excluding Disney
, who remained independent).
Unfortunately, this idyllic lifestyle came to a screeching halt in 1980, when UA distributed Heaven's Gate
. It had a big budget, but it ended up one of the most notorious creator-killing
failures in history. So much that Transamerica's aforementioned ambition was dashed, and they were forced to sell the studio to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
. Meanwhile, the record label got sold to EMI.
At first, MGM treated UA as an equal in the business. However, they fell out of favor when MGM began getting their hands on other libraries left and right. They then became more of an arthouse distributor.
A comeback was anticipated in 2006, when Tom Cruise
and Paula Wagner joined forced to revitalize UA. Unfortunately, the comeback never materialized due to a combination of MGM's financial problems and Paula Wagner's departure, and MGM has since reclaimed full ownership.
Today, like MGM, United Artists is pretty much little more than a production company, getting its films distributed by other entities. In 2014, United Artists was relaunched as an indie label to be headed by Mark Burnett
and Roma Downey (producers of The Bible
) and will handle multiple platforms such as film, television and Christian media; as such, faith-based films will be among the new UA's product.
United Artists films with TV Tropes pages:
United Artists TV series with TV Tropes pages:
United Artists Records performers with TV Tropes pages: