Creator / Universal

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"When in Southern California, visit Universal City Studios."

Universal Studios is one of the six major American movie studios. Its main motion picture production/distribution arm is called Universal Pictures. Universal Pictures is the longest-lived Hollywood studio, dating all the way back to 1912 (predating Viacom-owned Paramount Pictures by just over a week). Universal's headquarters, Universal City, was one of the first purpose-built studio lots ever built, and is now a major tourist attraction as well as a working studio. Universal is symbolized by an image of a globe, which has undergone many changes, the most recent being in 2012 for its 100th anniversary.

The studio was the brainchild of Carl Laemmle, a German-born Jewish immigrant who played a crucial role in the creation of the star system of film-making. Laemmle, along with a number of film producers in Hollywood, formed the studio with the intent to capitalize on the system. Unlike many other studio heads, Laemmle took a cautious role in film-making, choosing not to open a theater chain and financing the movies himself without putting the studio in debt. After his son, Carl Laemmle Jr., took over from his father in 1928, the studio underwent a major overhaul in order to compete with the other studios in Hollywood. It was during this period that Universal churned up a number of hits such as Show Boat, All Quiet on the Western Front, and the creation of the Universal Horror series, which gave Universal a near-monopoly on the horror film genre.

During The Great Depression, the studio fell in a crisis and narrowly avoided bankruptcy in the 1930s, which caused the Lammles to cede control of the studio to creditors. Universal then merged with International Pictures in the 1940s, and then was bought out by Decca Records in 1952. Despite a few successes with The Killers and the Abbott and Costello films, it wasn't enough to keep them from falling on hard times again following the Fall of the Studio Systemnote , and Decca sold Universal City to talent agency MCA (whose Revue Studios TV production division was a huge success at the time, and needed the space) in 1958. MCA came back for the rest in 1962. MCA's purchase of Universal ended up giving the studio a much-needed boost to its film library, as MCA had purchased most of Paramount's pre-1949 sound features (which includes classics such as Trouble in Paradise, Sullivan's Travels, and Holiday Inn, among others) around the same time. This prevented Universal from selling a large chunk of their library to other companies, making them one of only four major film studios, along with Columbia Pictures, 20th Century Fox and Disney, to not have sold any major portion of their catalog (although Warner Bros. got back their catalog when Time Warner acquired Turner Broadcasting System in 1996).

Thanks to MCA's leadership, Universal was one of the first major film studios to openly embrace the then-fledgling medium of television. Throughout the 1950's and 60's, the studio went on to produce television shows that are today considered classics, including Leave It to Beaver, The Munsters, Dragnet, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, McHale's Navy, Laramie, and The Virginian.

After pretty much inventing the modern blockbuster with Jaws in 1975, as well as producing a whole list of classic TV shows during the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, MCA sold itself to Panasonic (then called Matsushita) in 1990, but Panasonic (which didn't particularly like working with Hollywood and expected more stable profits) sold the company back off in 1997; it also dropped the MCA name at this time.

During this time, their Action Pack was an effort at creating a broadcast network that ended up little more than a syndication package for Xena: Warrior Princess and Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. Universal Interactive Studios was also established around this time, notably creating the Spyro the Dragon and Crash Bandicoot games; as was Universal Cartoon Studios, which mainly churned out DTV sequels to The Land Before Time, although it also made TV series, including cult hits Exosquad and Earthworm Jim.

After several more odd trades (including selling Universal TV and the USA Network to Barry Diller, then turning around and buying them back a few years later), one of which was with the Seagram conglomerate based in Montreal (who in turn merged them with the remnants of Polygram Filmed Entertainment), Universal ended up in the hands of French conglomerate Vivendi SA; during their period of ownership they frequently co-produced movies with another Vivendi-owned firm, StudioCanal (operated by the Canal+ TV network). Eventually, in an effort to stem financial debt, Vivendi sold 80% stock in the studios, theme parks, cable networks (USA, Sci Fi Channel and the now-defunct Trio) and Universal TV to General Electric in 2004, where they were combined with the NBC properties to form NBC Universal, which GE sold more than half of their stock (51%) in 2011 to cable giant Comcast, after purchasing Vivendi's remaining stock (20%). Comcast acquired GE's shares in NBCUniversal (note the removal of the space) in 2013, thus allowing GE to focus more on its industrial and financial businesses and officially making Comcast a media company. Universal Music Group is still owned by Vivendi; Universal Interactive has since been absorbed into Vivendi-owned Activision.

Universal established a reputation in the 1930s and 1940s for the production of horror films. Most of the "classic" movie monsters, such as Dracula, Frankenstein's Monster, the Wolf Man, the Mummy, The Invisible Man, the Bride of Frankenstein, The Phantom of the Opera and the Gill Man (aka the Creature from the Black Lagoon), are best known in their Universal incarnations. Another mainstay in this period was the Comedy Duo, Abbott and Costello, with both franchises combining in the late 1940s onward. In addition, Universal was the primary distributor of Walter Lantz's cartoons such as Woody Woodpecker. Its "art house" subsidiary, Focus Features (including Gramercy Pictures), is responsible for distributing acclaimed films such as Brokeback Mountain, Being John Malkovich and Milk.

It was formerly the worldwide home entertainment distributor of DreamWorks films, from 1997 to 2005, when DreamWorks merged with Paramountnote , a merger that ultimately fell apart after three years. As part of DreamWorks splitting from Paramount, the studio attempted to reach a deal with Universal to distribute their movies. The negotiations fell apart and DreamWorks instead went to Disney (through Touchstone Pictures) for distribution in 2009. In December 2015, with DreamWorks' deal with Disney expiring the following year, DreamWorks and Universal kissed and made up and struck a new distribution deal as part of DreamWorks' reorganization efforts. Universal's first film under the DreamWorks deal, The Girl on the Train, was released on October 7, 2016. Universal acquired a minority stake in DreamWorks' parent company Amblin Partners in February 2017.

In April 2016, former DreamWorks division DreamWorks Animation was bought by Universal parent company Comcast/NBCUniversal for $3.8 billion, which will make Universal the second Hollywood studio to own two distinct feature animation studios, with Disney being the first after their purchase of Pixar in 2006. With the expiration of 20th Century Fox's distribution contract with DWA in 2017, Universal is expected to assume permanent distribution rights to all DreamWorks Animation works, past and present, as a result.

On June 23rd, 2015, it was announced that Universal entered a multi year distribution deal with FUNimation, in which it will manage the distribution of all Funimation DVD and Blu-ray releases.

Not to be confused with Universal Studios, the parks based on the studio's properties (the company is legally known as "Universal Studios LLC" though).


Films produced include:

Live-Action TV series produced by Universal (and predecessor Revue Studios):

Animated Series and shorts produced by Universal Cartoon/Animation Studios


Alternative Title(s): Universal Pictures

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