Paramount Pictures

Paramount Pictures website profile

Paramount Pictures Corporation is an American motion picture production and distribution company, located on Melrose Avenue in Hollywood, California. Founded in 1912, it is the oldest movie studio in Hollywood, beating Universal Studios by a month. Paramount is owned by media conglomerate Viacom.

2005 to present
CBS Corporation/Viacom split
Reflecting in part the troubles of the broadcasting business, in 2005 Viacom wrote off over $28 billion from its radio acquisitions and, early that year, announced that it would split itself in two. The split was completed in January 2006.

The CBS television and radio networks, the Infinity radio-station chain (now called CBS Radio), the Paramount Television production unit (known as CBS Paramount (Network) Television) and the network UPN (replaced by The CW Television Network, co-owned with rival Time Warner's Warner Bros.) are part of CBS Corporation, as was Paramount Parks prior to its June 2006 sale by CBS to the Cedar Fair Entertainment Company. CBS Corporation also merged its television distribution arms, KingWorld, CBS Paramount International Television and CBS Paramount Television, into CBS Television Distribution in 2006.

Paramount Pictures is now lumped in with MTV, BET, and other highly profitable channels owned by the new Viacom.

With the announcement of the split of Viacom, Dolgen and Lansing were replaced by former television executives Brad Grey and Gail Berman. The decision was made to split Viacom into two companies, which in turn led to a dismantling of the Paramount Studio/Paramount TV infrastructure. The current Paramount is about one-quarter the size it was under Dolgen and Lansing and consists only of the movie studio. The famed Paramount Television studio was made part of CBS in the split. The remaining businesses were sold off or parceled out to other operating groups. Paramount's home entertainment unit continues to distribute the Paramount TV library through CBS DVD, as both Viacom and CBS Corporation are controlled by National Amusements.

DreamWorks, LLC
On December 11, 2005, Paramount announced that it had purchased DreamWorks SKG (which was co-founded by former Paramount executive Jeffrey Katzenberg) in a deal worth $1.6 billion. The announcement was made by Brad Grey, chairman and CEO of Paramount Pictures, who noted that enhancing Paramount's pipeline of pictures is a "key strategic objective in restoring Paramount's stature as a leader in filmed entertainment." The agreement doesn't include DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc., the most profitable part of the company that went public last year.

Under the deal, Paramount is required to distribute the DreamWorks animated films for a small fee intended only to cover Paramount's out of pocket costs with no profit to the studio, including the Shrek franchise (and ending for the 2004 installment, Shrek 2). The first film distributed under this deal is Over the Hedge.
The deal closed on February 6, 2006. This acquisition was seen at the time as a stopgap measure as Brad Grey had been unsuccessful in assembling sufficient films for production and distribution and the DreamWorks films would fill the gap.
DreamWorks and Paramount are now parting ways.

UIP, Famous Music and Digital Entertainment
Grey also broke up the famous UIP international distribution company, the most successful international film distributor in history, after a 25-year partnership with Universal Studios and has started up a new international group. As a consequence Paramount fell from #1 in the international markets to the lowest ranked major studio in 2006 but recovered in 2007 if the Dreamworks films, acquired by Paramount, are included in Paramount's market share.

Grey has also launched a Digital Entertainment division to take advantage of emerging digital distribution technologies. This led to Paramount becoming the 2nd movie studio to sign a deal with Apple to sell its films through the iTunes store. They also signed an exclusive agreement with the failed HD-DVD consortium and subsequently gave up the guarantees they had received and will now release in the Blu Ray format.

Also, in 2007, Paramount sold another one of its "heritage" units, Famous Music, to Sony-ATV Music Publishing (best known for publishing many songs by The Beatles), ending a nearly-eight decade run as a division of Paramount, being the studio's music publishing arm since the period when the entire company went by the name "Famous Players."

This inexplicable sale is considered in the industry a sign of the emerging role of Philippe Daumann, Viacom's CEO since 2006, whose lack of knowledge of the movie, TV and music industries and consequent preference for cable TV drives the company's strategy.

Paramount Home Entertainment

Paramount Home Entertainment (formerly Paramount Home Video and Paramount Video) is the division of Paramount Pictures dealing with home video and was founded in 1976.

PHE distributes films by Paramount (under its own label) and DreamWorks (under the DreamWorks Pictures Home Entertainment label), shows from MTV Networks (under the MTV DVD, Nickelodeon DVD, Nickelodeon Movies DVD, Comedy Central DVD and Spike DVD labels), PBS (under the PBS Home Video label), Showtime (under its own label), and CBS-owned programs (under the CBS Home Entertainment label) on DVD. Films from Republic Pictures, Paramount's other subsidiary, are not distributed on video and DVD by PHE (with some exceptions), but are distributed on video and DVD by Lionsgate Home Entertainment, which recently signed a deal to distribute some of Paramount's own films on DVD (in addition to the aforementioned Republic library). Also, as a result of this deal, Lionsgate has recently relased "triple features" of their own library of films on DVD using the package design originated by Paramount.

PHE have developed a well-known trademark, by giving their Special Edition/Director's Cut editions different names rather than the usual "Special Edition," or "Director's Edition". Paramount Home Entertainment gives them different names such as Grease: The Rockin' Rydell Edition, Beavis & Butthead Do America: The Edition That Doesn't Suck and Airplane!: The "Don't Call Me Shirley" Edition.

Internationally, PHE holds the DVD rights to several shows on HBO. PHE also distributes in Germany the DVD releases of films distributed theatrically by Prokino Filmverleih.

As Paramount Home Video, the company once distributed several Miramax releases on video - the video rights to some of these films (such as Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth) are still owned by Paramount.

Recently, PHE launched a direct-to-video label, Paramount Famous Productions (with the "Famous" part of the name a throwback to the days when the company was called Famous Players).

HD DVD & Blu-ray support
Paramount brands the majority of its HD content under the label 'Paramount High Definition' which is seen both on the title box cover and as an in-movie opening. Films from Paramount subsidiaries such as Nickelodeon Movies and MTV Films as well as from sister studio DreamWorks SKG use no special branding, Paramount Vantage (another subsidiary) releases only select titles under the Paramount High Definition banner such as Babel.

In October 2005, Paramount announced that it would be supporting the HD video format Blu-ray Disc in addition to rival format HD DVD, becoming the first studio to release on both formats. Its first four HD DVD releases came in July 2006,[6] and it released four titles on Blu-ray two months later. In August 2007, Paramount (along with DreamWorks SKG and DreamWorks Animation) announced their exclusive support for HD DVD. However, when other studios eventually dropped HD DVD and players for the technology stopped being manufactured, Paramount switched to Blu-ray. In May 2008, it released 3 titles on Blu-ray and continues to release its high-definition discs in that format exclusively.

The Paramount library

Through a series of mergers and acquisitions, many of Paramount's early cartoons, shorts, and feature films are owned by numerous entities.

In 1955, Paramount acquired Frank Capra's production company, Liberty Films, which produced only 2 films in the late 1940s: It's a Wonderful Life, released originally by RKO Radio Pictures, and State of the Union, released originally by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Around that same time, as mentioned before, Paramount saw little value in its library, and decided to sell off its back catalog.

The Paramount cartoons and shorts went to various television distributors, with U.M.&M. T.V. Corp. acquiring the majority of the cartoons and live action short subjects made before 1951. Some lesser known features were included in this deal as well, as was It's a Wonderful Life. However, the Popeye cartoons were sold to Associated Artists Productions, and the Superman cartoons went to Motion Pictures for Television, producers of the Superman television series. U.M.&M. was later sold to National Telefilm Associates (or NTA). NTA changed its name to Republic Pictures (which was previously the name of a minor film studio, whose backlog had been sold to NTA) in 1984, and was sold to Viacom in 1999, hence all the material sold to U.M.&M. would return to Paramount.

The Popeye cartoons passed on to United Artists after its purchase of a.a.p., then to MGM after they purchased UA. After Ted Turner failed in an attempt to buy MGM/UA in 1986, he settled for ownership of the library, which included the a.a.p. material. Turner Entertainment, the holding company for Turner's film library, would later be sold to Time Warner. Turner technically holds the rights to the Popeye cartoons today, but sales and distribution is in the hands of Warner Bros. Entertainment. WB also owns Superman's publisher, DC Comics, and although the Superman cartoons are now in the public domain, WB owns the original film elements.

The rest of the cartoons made from 1950-1962, were sold to Harvey Comics and are now owned by Classic Media. Except for the Superman cartoons and the features sold to MCA (to end up with Universal), most television prints of these films have had their titles remade to remove most traces of their connection to Paramount (The original copyright lines were left intact on Popeye cartoons). The Popeye cartoons have been restored for DVD release with the original Paramount titles.

When the talent agency Music Corporation of America (better known as MCA), then wielding major influence on Paramount policy, offered $50 million for 750 pre-1949 features (with payment to be spread over many years), a cash-strapped Paramount thought it had made the best possible deal. To address anti-trust concerns, MCA set up a separate company, EMKA, Ltd., to sell these films to television. The deal included such notable Paramount films as the early Marx Brothers films, most of the Bob Hope-Bing Crosby "Road" pictures, and such Oscar contenders as Double Indemnity, The Lost Weekend, and The Heiress. MCA later admitted that over the next forty years it took in more than a billion dollars in rentals of these supposedly "worthless" pictures. MCA later purchased the US branch of Decca Records, which owned Universal Studios (now a part of NBC Universal), and thus Universal now owns these films, though EMKA continues to hold the copyright.

Several other feature films ended up in Republic Pictures's possession, yet others had been retained by Paramount due to other rights issues (such as The Miracle of Morgan's Creek). As for Paramount's silent features, some still are under Paramount ownership -- for example, 1927's Wings, the first "Best Picture" Academy Award winner -- but many others are either lost or in the public domain. Also, one additional pre-1950 film, the 1931 version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, was sold to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1941 who filmed a remake that same year - this film is also now owned by WB/Turner Entertainment.

Rights to some of Paramount's films from 1950 onward would also change hands. Most notably, the rights to five Paramount films directed by Alfred Hitchcock -- Rear Window, The Trouble with Harry, The Man Who Knew Too Much, Vertigo and Psycho - eventually reverted to ownership by the director himself with the exception of Psycho, which was sold directly to Universal in 1968. Following Hitchcock's death, Universal eventually acquired the rights to the four other films in 1983 from the Hitchcock estate (which is overseen by his daughter, Patricia). However, one Hichcock film, To Catch A Thief, is still under Paramount's ownership.

The later Bob Hope films originally released by Paramount (including The Seven Little Foys and The Lemon Drop Kid) are now co-owned by Sony Pictures Television and FremantleMedia, both successors-in-interest to a joint venture called Colex Enterprises, which had consisted of respective predecessor companies Columbia Pictures Television and LBS Communications.

A number of films merely distributed by Paramount would also end up with other companies - for example, the 1971 film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory was produced by Wolper Productions; Warner Bros. gained the copyright to the film when they acquired Wolper Productions in 1977. WB also owns the rights to several films originally distributed by Paramount that were produced by Lorimar Productions, which was sold to WB in 1989. Some other films from 1950 onward went into the public domain as well.

Paramount's association with the comedian Jerry Lewis, which produced The Nutty Professor among other films ended in the 1970s, and the rights to these films were given back to Lewis. As a consequence, the hit remakes starring Eddie Murphy were released by Universal Pictures. This reversion to Jerry Lewis resulted from a promise made by then-Paramount CEO Barney Balaban who gratuitously offered to give the rights back to Lewis as a birthday present. Paramount, however, has retained full distribution rights to the Lewis films.

Balaban, consistent with his other decisions to sell off rights and dismantle Paramount's library, was of the opinion that there was no future economic value to 'old' movies. This "strategy" of gradual dismantling Paramount's assets and library has continued under current Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman who not only split the company in half and gave the television library and distribution rights to the feature films to CBS, but also sold off the Company's music library, Famous Music.
In the 1970s, Paramount acquired the rights to the Frank Capra film Broadway Bill, which was originally released by Columbia Pictures. Paramount had remade the film as Riding High in 1950. Then in 2004, Paramount bought all worldwide rights to the original 1975 version of The Stepford Wives (also released by Columbia), in connection with the release of the remake.

Paramount owns DVD rights to many films produced by Full Moon Entertainment, due to a deal made with the company years before. Paramount also owns DVD rights to several films released by Miramax Films prior to that firm's acquisition by Disney in 1993, also a result of a deal.

Paramount now represents independent company Hollywood Classics in the theatrical distribution of all the films produced by the various motion picture divisions of CBS over the years, as a result of the Viacom/CBS merger. This also includes US rights to the 1951 film The African Queen, originally distributed by United Artists (the international rights are with Granada International). Paramount (via CBS DVD) has outright video distribution to the aforementioned CBS library with few exceptions-for example, the original Twilight Zone DVDs are handled by Image Entertainment, while the video rights to My Fair Lady are now with original theatrical distributor Warner Bros., both above titles under license from CBS.
As for distribution of the material Paramount itself still owns, it has been split in half, with Paramount themselves owning theatrical rights, while what became CBS Paramount Television handles television distribution (under CBS Television Distribution).

In early 2008, Paramount partnered with Los Angeles-based developer FanRocket to make short scenes taken from its film library available to users on Facebook.

The application, called VooZoo, allows users to send movie clips to other Facebook users and to post clips on their profile pages. Paramount engineered a similar deal with Makena Technologies to allow users of vMTV and to view and send movie clips. (Credit: Wikipedia).


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