Major film studios
Major film studios are production and distribution companies that release a substantial number of films annually and consistently command a significant share of box office revenue in a given market. In the American and international markets, the major film studios, often simply known as the majors, are commonly regarded as the five diversified media conglomerates whose various film production and distribution subsidiaries collectively command approximately 80–85% of U.S. box office revenue. The term may also be applied more specifically to the primary motion picture business subsidiary of each respective conglomerate.
Since the dawn of filmmaking, the U.S. film studios have dominated both American cinema and the global film industry. U.S. studios have benefited from a strong first-mover advantage in that they were the first to industrialize filmmaking and master the art of mass-producing and distributing high-quality films with broad cross-cultural appeal. Today, the Big Five majors – Walt Disney Studios, Warner Bros., Universal Pictures, Columbia Pictures, and Paramount Pictures – routinely distribute hundreds of films every year into all significant international markets.
OverviewThe "Big Five" majors are all film studios active since Hollywood's Golden Age. Paramount Pictures and Warner Bros. were two members of the original "Big Five", but two of them, Universal Pictures and Columbia Pictures, were part of the "Little Three" in the next tier down. Walt Disney Productions was an independent production company during the Golden Age, then became a mini-major in the 1950s, and then became a major in the mid-1980s. United Artists was the other member of the "Little Three", a distribution company for several independent producers which later began producing films, grew to major status, and was then acquired by MGM. Columbia produced and distributed films, was later bought by Sony along with Tri-Star Pictures, and later became part of the company Sony Pictures Entertainment, with Sony joining the "Big Five", 20th Century Fox, Warner Bros., Universal, Disney, and Paramount, to comprise the "Big Six" film studios. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, RKO, and 20th Century Fox were the other three "Big Five" majors, that exist today only as a mini-major, a small independent company, and a subsidiary of Disney that brought the "Big Six" studios to an end, respectively.
While the main studios of the Big Five are located within of each other, Disney is the only studio that has been owned by the same conglomerate since its founding and was also the sole member whose parent entity is still located near Los Angeles on Disney's studio lot and in the same building, until 2019, when the company acquired 20th Century Fox. Warner Bros., Paramount, Universal, and Columbia were previously owned by many different companies and now report to conglomerates that are respectively located elsewhere in Dallas, New York City, Philadelphia, and Tokyo ; moreover, Disney and Columbia are the only ones whose parent companies are still headquartered near the Pacific Ocean. Paramount is the only one still based in Hollywood with Columbia being in Culver City; furthermore, Paramount and Columbia are the only ones still located within or near central Los Angeles city limits. Both Disney and Warner Bros. are located in Burbank and Universal is in the unincorporated area of Universal City.
Most of today's Big Five also control subsidiaries with their own distribution networks that concentrate on arthouse pictures or genre films ; several of these specialty units were shut down or sold off between 2008 and 2010. The five major studios are contrasted with smaller production and/or distribution companies, which are known as independents or "indies". The leading independent producer/distributors such as Lionsgate and STX Entertainment are sometimes referred to as "mini-majors". From 1998 through 2005, DreamWorks SKG commanded a large enough market share to arguably qualify it as a seventh major, despite its relatively small output. In 2006, DreamWorks was acquired by Viacom, Paramount's corporate parent. In late 2008, DreamWorks once again became an independent production company; its films were distributed by Disney's Touchstone Pictures until 2016, at which point distribution switched to Universal.
The Big Five major studios are today primarily backers and distributors of films whose actual production is largely handled by independent companies – either long-running entities or ones created for and dedicated to the making of a specific film. The specialty divisions often simply acquire distribution rights to pictures in which the studio has had no prior involvement. While the majors still do a modicum of true production, their activities are focused more in the areas of development, financing, marketing, and merchandising. Those business functions are still usually performed in or near Los Angeles, even though the runaway production phenomenon means that most films are now mostly or completely shot on location at places outside Los Angeles.
PastOther major film studios of the early 20th century included:
- RKO Radio Pictures one of the Big Five studios, bought by Howard Hughes in 1948 was mismanaged and dismantled and was defunct basically by the 1957 studio lot sale; revived several times as an independent studio, with most recent film releases in 2012 and 2015.
- United Artists one of the Little Three major minor studios with original only a distributor for independent film producers acquired by MGM in 1981, in 2019 United Artists was revived as United Artists Releasing the distribution banner.
- Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer one of the Big Five studios, acquired by Ted Turner, in 1986, who sold the studio back to Kirk Kerkorian later that year, retaining MGM's pre-May 1986 library; became a mini-major studio upon the sale; emerged twice from bankruptcy in the 2010s.
- 20th Century Fox one of the Big Five studios, renamed as 20th Century Studios on January 17, 2020, after it became a part of the Walt Disney Studios when Disney acquired 21st Century Fox almost eight months prior on March 20, 2019.
PastPast mini-majors include:
- Castle Rock Entertainment – purchased in 1993 by Turner Broadcasting System; TBS merged with Time Warner in 1996
- Monogram Pictures/Allied Artists Pictures, 1967 – the current entertainment company Allied Artists International is considered the successor to AAP.
- New Line Cinema – purchased in 1994 by Turner Broadcasting System; TBS merged with Time Warner in 1996; New Line merged with Warner Bros. in 2008
- Relativity Media – filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on July 30, 2015 Emerged from bankruptcy in 2016, only to re-file in May 2018, sold to UltraV Holdings
- Orion Pictures – in 1990, was considered the last of the mini-majors Purchased in 1988 by Kluge/Metromedia; purchased in 1997 by MGM
- Avco Embassy, 1967 – acquired by Norman Lear and Jerry Perenchio in 1982; acquired by the Coca-Cola Company in 1985; its theatrical division acquired by Dino DeLaurentiis in 1986. Sony Pictures Entertainment currently owns the television rights to most of the theatrical library and the logo, names, and trademarks through its ELP Communications subsidiary
- TriStar Pictures – consolidated in 1987 into Columbia, one of the partners in the joint venture that created it.
- DreamWorks Animation – acquired by NBCUniversal in 2016
- DreamWorks Pictures – now a label of Amblin Partners which NBCUniversal owns a stake
- The Walt Disney Company/Walt Disney Studios – became a major studio
- The Weinstein Company – filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy but bought by Lantern Entertainment in 2018 then its assets transferred to Spyglass Media Group which WarnerMedia has the stake
- Republic Pictures – originally a “poverty row” B-movie producer, Produced many serials and was formed by the consolidation of six minor production companies in 1935. It was rebooted in 1985. Viacom then purchased it in the early 2000s
- FilmDistrict – merged into Focus Features in 2014
- PolyGram Filmed Entertainment – sold to Universal Studios in 1999, pre-March 31, 1996 library sold to MGM
- Artisan Entertainment – purchased in 2003 by Lions Gate Entertainment
- Overture Films – distribution and marketing assets sold to Relativity Media in 2010; Overture's film library acquired by Lions Gate Entertainment by May 2016.
- Summit Entertainment – acquired by Lions Gate Entertainment in 2012
- The Cannon Group – purchased by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.
- Global Road Entertainment – formerly Open Road Films, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on September 6, 2018;, by November 2018, has reverted to Open Road, purchased by Raven Capital Management on approval as of December 19, 2018 by a Delaware bankruptcy judge.
- Miramax Films – owned by The Walt Disney Company from 1993 to 2010, sold to Filmyard Holdings from 2010, then to beIN Media Group in 2016, and by ViacomCBS with a 49% stake with beIN
- Weintraub Entertainment Group – filed for bankruptcy September 1990, resulting in the company folding up operations
- CBS Films – folded into the CBS Entertainment Group after releasing Jexi on October 11, 2019 switching to make films for CBS All Access.
Instant major studios
In 1967, three "instant major" studios popped up, two of which were partnered with a Television network theatrical film unit with most lasting until 1973:
- Cinerama Releasing Corporation
- National General Corporation
- Commonwealth United Corporation
Other significant, past independent entities
- New World Pictures – acquired by News Corporation in 1997.
- Turner Pictures – purchased along with Hanna-Barbera, Castle Rock Entertainment, New Line Cinema and Turner Entertainment Co. in 1996 by Time Warner.
- DreamWorks Pictures – purchased by Viacom; then owners of both Paramount Pictures and CBS Corporation in 2006; distributed the films from 2005 to 2011; reformed as an independent with The Walt Disney Company distributing the live-action films under their Touchstone Pictures banner until 2016; now a label after being reorganized as Amblin Partners which NBCUniversal owns a stake.
- Lucasfilm – purchased in 2012 by The Walt Disney Company.
- Marvel Studios/Marvel Entertainment – purchased in 2009 by The Walt Disney Company.
- Pixar Animation Studios – purchased in 2006 by The Walt Disney Company.
- The Samuel Goldwyn Company – purchased in 1996 by John Kluge/Metromedia International; purchased in 1997 by MGM.
The majors before the Golden AgeIn 1909, Thomas Edison, who had been fighting in the courts for years for control of fundamental motion picture patents, won a major decision. This led to the creation of the Motion Picture Patents Company, widely known as the Trust. Comprising the nine largest U.S. film companies, it was "designed to eliminate not only independent film producers but also the country's 10,000 independent exchanges and exhibitors." Though its many members did not consolidate their filmmaking operations, the New York–based Trust was arguably the first major North American movie conglomerate. The independents' fight against the Trust was led by Carl Laemmle, whose Chicago-based Laemmle Film Service, serving the Midwest and Canada, was the largest distribution exchange in North America. Laemmle's efforts were rewarded in 1912 when the U.S. government ruled that the Trust was a "corrupt and unlawful association" and must be dissolved. On June 8, 1912, Laemmle organized the merger of his production division, IMP, with several other filmmaking companies, creating the Universal Film Manufacturing Company in New York City. By the end of the year, Universal was making movies at two Los Angeles facilities: the former Nestor Film studio in Hollywood, and another studio in Edendale. The first Hollywood major was in business.
In 1916, a second powerful Hollywood studio was established when Adolph Zukor merged his Famous Players Film Company movie production house with the Jesse L. Lasky Company to form Famous Players-Lasky. The combined studio acquired Paramount Pictures as a distribution arm and eventually adopted its name. That same year, William Fox relocated his Fox Film Corporation from Fort Lee, New Jersey to Hollywood and began expanding. In 1918, four brothers—Harry, Albert, Sam, and Jack Warner—founded the first Warner Brothers Studio on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. On April 4, 1923, the Warner Brothers incorporated their fledgling movie company as "Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc."
The Motion Picture Theatre Owners of America and the Independent Producers' Association declared war in 1925 on what they termed a common enemy — the "film trust" of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Paramount, and First National, which they claimed dominated the industry by not only producing and distributing motion pictures, but by entering into exhibition as well. On October 6, 1927, Warner Bros. released The Jazz Singer, starring Al Jolson, and a whole new era began, with "pictures that talked," bringing the Studio to the forefront of the film industry. The Jazz Singer played to standing-room-only crowds throughout the country and earned a special Academy Award for Technical Achievement. Fox, in the forefront of sound film along with Warners, was also acquiring a sizable circuit of movie theaters to exhibit its product.
The majors during the Golden AgeBetween late 1928, when RCA's David Sarnoff engineered the creation of the RKO studio, and the end of 1949, when Paramount divested its theater chain—roughly the period considered Hollywood's Golden Age—there were eight Hollywood studios commonly regarded as the "majors". Of these eight, the so-called Big Five were integrated conglomerates, combining ownership of a production studio, distribution division, and substantial theater chain, and contracting with performers and filmmaking personnel: Loew's/MGM, Paramount, Fox, Warner Bros., and RKO. The remaining majors were sometimes referred to as the "Little Three" or "major minor" studios. Two—Universal and Columbia —were organized similarly to the Big Five, except for the fact that they never owned more than small theater circuits. The third of the lesser majors, United Artists, owned a few theaters and had access to production facilities owned by its principals, but it functioned primarily as a backer-distributor, loaning money to independent producers and releasing their films. During the 1930s, the eight majors averaged a total of 358 feature film releases a year; in the 1940s, the four largest companies shifted more of their resources toward high-budget productions and away from B movies, bringing the yearly average down to 288 for the decade.
Among the significant characteristics of the Golden Age was the stability of the Hollywood majors, their hierarchy, and their near-complete domination of the box office. At the midpoint of the Golden Age, 1939, the Big Five had market shares ranging from 22% to 9% ; each of the Little Three had around a 7% share. In sum, the eight majors controlled 95% of the market. Ten years later, the picture was largely the same: the Big Five had market shares ranging from 22% to 9% ; the Little Three had shares ranging from 8% to 4%. In sum, the eight majors controlled 96% of the market.
The majors after the Golden Age
1950s–1960sThe end of the Golden Age had been signaled by the majors' loss of a federal antitrust case that led to the divestiture of the Big Five's theater chains. Though this had virtually no immediate effect on the eight majors' box-office domination, it somewhat leveled the playing field between the Big Five and the Little Three. In November 1951, Decca Records purchased 28% of Universal; early the following year, the studio became the first of the classic Hollywood majors to be taken over by an outside corporation, as Decca acquired majority ownership. The 1950s saw two substantial shifts in the hierarchy of the majors: RKO, perennially the weakest of the Big Five, declined rapidly under the mismanagement of Howard Hughes, who had purchased a controlling interest in the studio in 1948. By the time Hughes sold it to the General Tire and Rubber Company in 1955, the studio was a major by outdated reputation alone. In 1957, virtually all RKO movie operations ceased and the studio was dissolved in 1959. In contrast, there was United Artists, which had long operated under the financing-distribution model the other majors were now progressively shifting toward. Under Arthur Krim and Robert Benjamin, who began managing the company in 1951, UA became consistently profitable. By 1956—when it released one of the biggest blockbusters of the decade, Around the World in 80 Days—it commanded a 10% market share. By the middle of the next decade, it had reached 16% and was the second-most profitable studio in Hollywood. Despite RKO's collapse, the majors still averaged a total yearly release slate of 253 feature films during the decade.
The 1960s were marked by a spate of corporate takeovers. MCA Inc., under Lew Wasserman, acquired Universal in 1962; Gulf+Western took over Paramount in 1966; and the Transamerica Corporation purchased United Artists in 1967. Warner Bros. underwent large-scale reorganization twice in two years: a 1967 merger with the Seven Arts company preceded a 1969 purchase by Kinney National, under Stephen J. Ross. MGM, in the process of a slow decline, changed ownership twice in the same span as well, winding up in the hands of financier Kirk Kerkorian. The majors almost entirely abandoned low-budget production during this era, bringing the annual average of features released down to 160. The decade also saw an old name in the industry secure a position as a leading player. In 1923, Walt Disney had founded the Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio with his brother Roy and animator Ub Iwerks. Over the following three decades Disney became a powerful independent focusing on animation and, from the late 1940s, an increasing number of live-action movies. In 1954, the company—now Walt Disney Productions—established Buena Vista Film Distribution to handle its own product, which had been distributed for years by various majors, primarily United Artists and then RKO. In its first year, Buena Vista had a major success with 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, the third biggest movie of 1954. In 1964, Buena Vista had its first blockbuster, Mary Poppins, Hollywood's biggest hit in half a decade. The company achieved a 9% market share that year, more than Fox and Warner Bros. Though over the next two decades, Disney/Buena Vista's share of the box-office would again hit similar marks, its relatively small output and exclusive focus on family movies meant that it was not generally considered a major.
1970s–1980sThe early 1970s were difficult years for all the majors. Movie attendance, which had been declining steadily since the Golden Age, hit an all-time low in 1971. In 1973, MGM president James T. Aubrey Jr. drastically downsized the studio, slashing its production schedule and eliminating its distribution arm. From fifteen releases in 1973, the next year MGM was down to five; its average for the rest of the 1970s would be even lower. Like RKO in its last days under Hughes, MGM remained a major in terms of brand reputation, but little more. MGM, however, was not the only studio to trim its release line. By the mid-1970s, the industry had rebounded and a significant philosophical shift was in progress. As the majors focused increasingly on the development of the next hoped-for blockbuster and began routinely opening each new movie in many hundreds of theaters, their collective yearly release average fell to 81 films during 1975–84. The classic set of majors was shaken further in late 1980, when the disastrously expensive flop of Heaven's Gate effectively ruined United Artists. The studio was sold the following year to Kerkorian, who merged it with MGM. After a brief resurgence, the combined studio again declined. From the mid-1980s on, MGM/UA has been at best a "mini-major", to use the present-day term.
Meanwhile, a new member was finally admitted to the club of major studios and two significant contenders emerged. With the establishment of its Touchstone Pictures brand and increasing attention to the adult market in the mid-1980s, Disney/Buena Vista secured acknowledgment as a full-fledged major. Film historian Joel Finler identifies 1986 as the breakthrough year, when Disney rose to third place in market share and remained consistently competitive for a leading position thereafter. The two contenders were both newly formed companies. In 1978, Krim, Benjamin, and three other studio executives departed UA to found Orion Pictures as a joint venture with Warner Bros. It was announced optimistically as the "first major new film company in 50 years". Tri-Star Pictures was created in 1982 as a joint venture of Columbia Pictures, HBO, and CBS. In 1985, Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation acquired 20th Century-Fox, the last of the five relatively healthy Golden Age majors to remain independent throughout the entire Golden Age and after.
In 1986, the combined share of the six classic majors—at that point Paramount, Warner Bros., Columbia, Universal, Fox, and MGM/UA—fell to 64%, the lowest since the beginning of the Golden Age. Disney was in third place, behind only Paramount and Warner Bros.. Even including it as a seventh major and adding its 10% share, the majors' control of the North American market was at a historic ebb. Orion, now completely independent of Warner Bros., and Tri-Star were well positioned as mini-majors, each with North American market shares of around 6% and regarded by industry observers as "fully competitive with the majors". Smaller independents garnered 13%—more than any studio aside from Paramount. In 1964, by comparison, all of the companies beside the then seven majors and Disney had combined for a grand total of 1%. In the first edition of Finler's The Hollywood Story, he wrote, "It will be interesting to see whether the old-established studios will be able to bounce back in the future, as they have done so many times before, or whether the newest developments really do reflect a fundamental change in the US movie industry for the first times since the 20s."
1990s–2000sWith the exception of MGM/UA—whose position was effectively filled by Disney—the old-established studios did bounce back. The purchase of 20th Century Fox by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation presaged a new round of corporate acquisitions. Between 1989 and 1994, Paramount, Warner Bros., Columbia, and Universal all changed ownership in a series of conglomerate purchases and mergers that brought them new financial and marketing muscle. Paramount's parent company Gulf+Western was renamed Paramount Communications in 1989 and was merged with Viacom five years later. Warner Communications merged with Time Inc. to give birth to the conglomerate Time Warner. Coca-Cola sold Columbia to Japanese electronics firm Sony also in 1989. And Universal's parent MCA was purchased by Matsushita. By the early 1990s, both Tri-Star and Orion were essentially out of business: the former consolidated into Columbia, the latter bankrupt and sold to MGM. The most important contenders to emerge during the 1990s, New Line Cinema, Miramax, and DreamWorks SKG, were likewise sooner or later brought into the majors' fold, though DreamWorks and Miramax are now independent again.
The development of in-house pseudo-indie subsidiaries by the conglomerates—sparked by the 1992 establishment of Sony Pictures Classics and the success of Pulp Fiction, Miramax's first project under Disney ownership—significantly undermined the position of the true independents. The majors' release schedule rebounded: the six primary studio subsidiaries alone put out a total of 124 films during 2006; the three largest secondary subsidiaries accounted for another 30. Box-office domination was fully restored: in 2006, the six major movie conglomerates combined for 89.8% of the North American market; Lionsgate and Weinstein were almost exactly half as successful as their 1986 mini-major counterparts, sharing 6.1%; MGM came in at 1.8%; and all of the remaining independent companies split a pool totaling 2.3%.
Only one of the major studios changed corporate hands during the first decade of the 2000s, though it did so three times: Universal was acquired by Vivendi in 2000, and then by General Electric four years later. More developments took place among the majors' subsidiaries. The very successful animation production house Pixar, whose films were distributed by Buena Vista, was acquired by Disney in 2006. In 2008, New Line Cinema lost its independent status within Time Warner and became a subsidiary of Warner Bros. Time Warner also announced that it would be shutting down its two specialty units, Warner Independent and Picturehouse. In 2008 as well, Paramount Vantage's production, marketing, and distribution departments were folded into the parent studio, though it retained the brand for release purposes. Universal sold off its genre specialty division, Rogue Pictures, to Relativity Media in 2009.
2010s–presentIn January 2010, Disney closed down Miramax's operations and sold off the unit and its library that July to an investor group led by Ronald N. Tutor of the Tutor Perini construction firm and Tom Barrack of the Colony Capital private equity firm.
In March 2013, Comcast fully acquired Universal Studios after buying out the remaining 49% of NBCUniversal from General Electric.
On December 14, 2017, The Walt Disney Company announced its intent to acquire a key assets of 21st Century Fox. After beating out Comcast in a bidding war for Fox, both Disney and Fox shareholders approved the deal on July 27, 2018 and closed on March 20, 2019. Because of the deal, the number of major film studios was reduced to 5 after 20th Century Fox became a subsidiary of The Walt Disney Studios, thus ending the era of the "Big Six" studios and Fox as a major studio for 83 years.
Since June 14, 2018, Warner Bros. is owned by AT&T, which completed its acquisition of Time Warner, renaming it "WarnerMedia".
On August 13, 2019, Paramount Pictures parent, Viacom announced its reunion with CBS Corporation, and the combined company would be called ViacomCBS. The two companies previously merged in 1999 but split in 2006. The deal was completed on December 4, 2019. Meanwhile, CBS Corporation's mini-major film studio, CBS Films will be folded into CBS Entertainment Group after releasing its 2019 film slate, switching its focus to creating original film content for CBS All Access.
On January 17, 2020, Disney dropped the "Fox" name from both 20th Century Fox and Fox Searchlight Pictures and rebranded them as 20th Century Studios and Searchlight Pictures respectively, to avoid brand confusion with Rupert Murdoch-owned Fox Corporation. The "Searchlight Pictures" name will first be seen on Downhill on February 14, and the "20th Century Studios" name will first be seen on The Call of the Wild a week later on February 21.
The studios were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic with some cinemas chains closing, making the box office flop in some films and many were delayed and others are launching films to digital market.
Historical organizational lineage
The eight Golden Age majorsThe eight major film studios of the Golden Age have gone through the following significant ownership changes :
Note: This doesn't include Walt Disney Pictures which was primarily an animation studio at the time and also the only studio owned by the same conglomerate since its founding.
- Independent as CBC Film Sales, 1918–1924
- Independent, 1924–1968, company changes name as Columbia Pictures Corporation; goes public in 1926;
- Columbia Pictures Industries, 1968–1987
- *The Coca-Cola Company, 1982–1987
- Columbia Pictures Entertainment, 1987–1991
- Sony, 1989–present
- *Sony Pictures Entertainment, 1991–present
- Independent, 1923–1929
- *Warner Bros.–First National, 1929–1967
- *Warner Bros.–Seven Arts, 1967–1969
- Kinney, 1969–1972
- *Warner Communications, 1972–1990
- Time-Warner, 1990–2001
- * AOL Time Warner, 2001–2003
- * Time Warner, 2003–2018
- *WarnerMedia, 2018–present
- **AT&T, 2018–present
- Independent as Famous Players Film Company, 1912–1916
- Independent as Famous Players-Lasky, 1916–1921
- Independent, 1922–1966
- Gulf+Western Industries, 1966–1994
- *, 1989–1994
- National Amusements, 1994–present
- *Viacom, 1994–2006
- *Viacom, 2006–2019
- * ViacomCBS, 2019–present
- Independent, 1912–1946
- Universal-International, 1946–1952
- Decca, 1952–1962
- MCA Inc., 1962–1996
- *Matsushita Electric, 1990–1996
- Universal Studios Entertainment, 1996–2004
- *Seagram, 1995–2000
- *Vivendi Universal, 2000–2004
- NBCUniversal, 2004–present
- *General Electric/Vivendi, 2004–2011 and Vivendi, S.A.
- *Comcast/General Electric, 2011–2013
- * Comcast, 2013–present
- Metro Pictures, 1915–1924
- Goldwyn Pictures, 1916–1924
- Louis B. Mayer Pictures, 1922–1924
- Loew's Inc., 1924–1959
- Independent, 1959–1981
- MGM/UA Entertainment Co., 1981–1986
- Turner Broadcasting System, 1986
- *MGM Entertainment Co., 1986
- MGM/UA Communications Co., 1986–1990
- MGM-Pathe Communications, 1990–1992
- Crédit Lyonnais, 1992–1997
- Tracinda Corporation, 1997–2005
- MGM Holdings, 2005–present
- *Sony/Comcast/4 private equity firms, 2005–2010
- *Credit Suisse, JPMorgan Chase, other former bondholders including Carl Icahn
- Independent, 1919–1967
- Transamerica, 1967–1981
- MGM, 1981–present
- *MGM/UA Entertainment Co., 1981–1986
- * Turner Broadcasting System, 1986
- **MGM Entertainment Co., 1986
- *MGM/UA Communications Co., 1986–1990
- *MGM-Pathe Communications, 1990–1992
- *Crédit Lyonnais, 1992–1997
- *Tracinda Corporation, 1997–2005
- *MGM Holdings, 2005–present
- **Sony/Comcast/4 private equity firms, 2005–2010
- **Credit Suisse, JPMorgan Chase, other former bondholders including Carl Icahn
- **United Artists was revived in 2019 as United Artists Releasing the distribution banner.
20th Century Studios
- Fox Film, 1915–1935
- 20th Century Pictures, 1933–1935
- Independent, 1935–1985
- News Corporation, 1985–2013
- 21st Century Fox, 2013–2019
- The Walt Disney Company, 2019–present
RKO Radio Pictures
- Independent as FBO, 1918–1928
- RCA, 1928–1935
- Independent, 1935–1955
- General Tire and Rubber, 1955–1984
- GenCorp, 1984–1987
- Wesray Capital Corporation, 1987–1989
- Independent as RKO Pictures LLC, 1989–present