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United Artists

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United Artists Corporation
United Artists Digital Studios
PredecessorProducers Releasing Corporation Edit this on Wikidata
FoundedFebruary 5, 1919; 101 years ago (1919-02-05) in Hollywood, California, United States
HeadquartersBeverly Hills, California, United States
Key people
Kevin Conroy
(President of Digital & New Platforms at MGM)[1]
ProductsTV series
ParentMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer Edit this on Wikidata

United Artists Corporation (UA), currently doing business as United Artists Digital Studios, is an American television digital production company. Founded in 1919 by D. W. Griffith, Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, and Douglas Fairbanks, the studio was premised on allowing actors to control their own interests, rather than being dependent upon commercial studios.[2] UA was repeatedly bought, sold, and restructured over the ensuing century. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer acquired the studio in 1981 for a reported $350 million ($1 billion today).[3]

On September 22, 2014, MGM acquired a controlling interest in entertainment companies One Three Media and Lightworkers Media, then merged them to revive United Artists' TV production unit as United Artists Media Group (UAMG). However, on December 14 of the following year, MGM wholly acquired UAMG and folded it into MGM Television.[4]

United Artists was revived yet again in 2018 as United Artists Digital Studios. Mirror, the joint distribution venture between MGM and Annapurna Pictures was renamed as United Artists Releasing in early February 2019 just in time for UA's 100th anniversary.


Early years

The first United Artists logo, used until the company's sale
to Transamerica in 1967

Charlie Chaplin could not get First National Pictures to increase his production budget in 1918 while being a top producer. Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks had their contracts, with First National and Famous Players-Lasky respectively, running out soon with no offers forthcoming. Sydney Chaplin, brother and business manager for Charlie, check with Pickford and Fairbanks and deduced something was up. The trio hired a private detective to find out. The detective turned up a plan to merge all production companies and lock in exhibition companies with five year contracts.[5]

Pickford, Chaplin, Fairbanks, and Griffith incorporated United Artist as a joint venture on February 5, 1919. Each held a 25 percent stake in the preferred shares and a 20 percent stake in the common shares of the joint venture, with the remaining 20 percent of common shares held by lawyer and advisor William Gibbs McAdoo.[6] The idea for the venture originated with Fairbanks, Chaplin, Pickford and cowboy star William S. Hart a year earlier. Already Hollywood veterans, the four stars talked of forming their own company to better control their own work.

They were spurred on by established Hollywood producers and distributors who were tightening their control over actor salaries and creative decisions, a process that evolved into the studio system. With the addition of Griffith, planning began, but Hart bowed out before anything was formalized. When he heard about their scheme, Richard A. Rowland, head of Metro Pictures, apparently said, "The inmates are taking over the asylum."[7] The four partners, with advice from McAdoo (son-in-law and former Treasury Secretary of then-President Woodrow Wilson), formed their distribution company. Hiram Abrams was its first managing director, and the company established its headquarters at 729 Seventh Avenue in New York City.[5]

List of UA stockholders in 1920

The original terms called for each star to produce five pictures a year. By the time the company was operational in 1921, feature films were becoming more expensive and polished, and running times had settled at around ninety minutes (eight reels). The original goal was thus abandoned.

Griffith, Pickford, Chaplin (seated), and Fairbanks at the signing of the contract establishing the United Artists motion-picture studio in 1919.
Lawyers Albert Banzhaf (left)
and Dennis F. O'Brien (right)
stand in the background.

UA's first production, His Majesty, the American, written by and starring Fairbanks, was a success. Funding for movies was limited. Without selling stock to the public like other studios, all United had for finance was weekly prepayment installments from theater owners for upcoming movies. As a result, production was slow, and the company distributed an average of only five films a year in its first five years.[8][unreliable source?]

By 1924, Griffith had dropped out, and the company was facing a crisis.[citation needed] Veteran producer Joseph Schenck was hired as president.[8] He had produced pictures for a decade,[citation needed] and brought commitments for films starring his wife, Norma Talmadge,[8] his sister-in-law, Constance Talmadge,[citation needed] and his brother-in-law, Buster Keaton.[8] Contracts were signed with independent producers, including Samuel Goldwyn, and Howard Hughes.[8] In 1933, Schenck organized a new company with Darryl F. Zanuck, called Twentieth Century Pictures, which soon provided four pictures a year, forming half of UA's schedule.[8]

Schenck formed a separate partnership with Pickford and Chaplin to buy and build theaters under the United Artists name. They began international operations, first in Canada, and then in Mexico. By the end of the 1930s, United Artists was represented in over 40 countries.

When he was denied an ownership share in 1935, Schenck resigned. He set up 20th Century Pictures' merger with Fox Film Corporation to form 20th Century Fox.[9] Al Lichtman succeeded Schenck as company president. Other independent producers distributed through United Artists in the 1930s including Walt Disney Productions, Alexander Korda, Hal Roach, David O. Selznick, and Walter Wanger.[8] As the years passed, and the dynamics of the business changed, these "producing partners" drifted away. Samuel Goldwyn Productions and Disney went to RKO and Wanger to Universal Pictures.

In the late 1930s, UA turned a profit. Goldwyn was providing most of the output for distribution. He sued United several times for disputed compensation leading him to leave. MGM's 1939 hit Gone with the Wind was supposed to be a UA release except that Selznick wanted Clark Gable, who was under contract to MGM, to play Rhett Butler. Also that year, Fairbanks died.[8]

UA became embroiled in lawsuits with Selznick over his distribution of some films through RKO. Selznick considered UA's operation sloppy, and left to start his own distribution arm.[8]

In the 1940s, United Artists was losing money because of poorly received pictures.[citation needed] Cinema attendance continued to decline as television became more popular.[8] The company sold its Mexican releasing division to Crédito Cinematográfico Mexicano, a local company.

Society of Independent Motion Picture Producers (1940s and 1950s)

In 1941, Pickford, Chaplin, Disney, Orson Welles, Goldwyn, Selznick, Alexander Korda, and Wanger—many of whom were members of United Artists—formed the Society of Independent Motion Picture Producers (SIMPP). Later members included Hunt Stromberg, William Cagney, Sol Lesser, and Hal Roach.

The Society aimed to advance the interests of independent producers in an industry controlled by the studio system. SIMPP fought to end ostensibly anti-competitive practices by the seven major film studios—Loew's (MGM), Columbia Pictures, Paramount Pictures, Universal Pictures, RKO Radio Pictures, 20th Century Fox, and Warner Bros./First National—that controlled the production, distribution, and exhibition of motion pictures.

In 1942, SIMPP filed an antitrust suit against Paramount's United Detroit Theatres. The complaint accused Paramount of conspiracy to control first-and subsequent-run theaters in Detroit. This was the first antitrust suit brought by producers against exhibitors that alleged monopoly and restraint of trade. In 1948, the U.S. Supreme Court Paramount Decision ordered the major Hollywood movie studios to sell their theater chains and to end certain anti-competitive practices. This court ruling ended the studio system.

By 1958, SIMPP achieved many of the goals that led to its creation, and the group ceased operations.

Krim and Benjamin

Needing a turnaround, Pickford and Chaplin hired Paul V. McNutt in 1950,[10] a former governor of Indiana, as chairman and Frank L. McNamee as president. McNutt did not have the skill to solve UA's financial problems and the pair was replaced after only a few months.[8]

On February 15, 1951, lawyers-turned-producers Arthur B. Krim (of Eagle-Lion Films), Robert Benjamin and Matty Fox[10] approached Pickford and Chaplin with a wild idea: let them take over United Artists for ten years. If UA was profitable in one of the next three years, they would have the option to acquire half the company by the end of the ten years and take full control.[10] Fox Film Corporation president Spyros Skouras extended United Artists a $3 million loan through Krim and Benjamin's efforts.[8]


In taking over UA, Krim and Benjamin created the first studio without an actual "studio". Primarily acting as bankers, they offered money to independent producers. UA leased space at the Pickford/Fairbanks Studio but did not own a studio lot. Thus UA did not have the overhead, the maintenance, or the expensive production staff at other studios.

Among their first clients were Sam Spiegel and John Huston, whose Horizon Productions gave UA one major hit, The African Queen (1951) and a substantial success, Moulin Rouge (1952). As well as The African Queen UA also had success with High Noon in their first year, earning a profit of $313,000 compared to a loss of $871,000 the previous year.[10][8] Others clients followed, among them Stanley Kramer, Otto Preminger, Hecht-Hill-Lancaster Productions, and actors newly freed from studio contracts and seeking to produce or direct their own films.

With the instability in the film industry due to theater divestment, the business was considered risky. In 1955, movie attendance reached its lowest level since 1923. Chaplin sold his 25 percent share during this crisis to Krim and Benjamin for $1.1 million, followed a year later by Pickford who sold her share for $3 million.[8]

In the late 1950s, United Artists produced two modest films that became financial and critical successes for the company. The company made Marty which won 1955's Palme d'Or and best picture Oscar. 12 Angry Men (1957) which according to Krim before home video, was being seen on TV 24 hours a day, 365 days a year some place in the world.[11] By 1958, UA was making annual profits of $3 million a year.[10]

Public company

United Artists went public in 1957 with a $17 million stock and debenture offering. The company was averaging 50 films a year.[8] In 1958, UA acquired Ilya Lopert's Lopert Pictures Corporation, which released foreign films that attracted criticism or had censorship problems.[12]

In 1957, UA created United Artists Records Corporation and United Artists Music Corporation after an unsuccessful attempt to buy a record company.[13] In 1968, UA Records merged with Liberty Records, along with its many subsidiary labels such as Imperial Records and Dolton Records. In 1972, the group was consolidated into one entity as United Artists Records and in 1979, EMI acquired the division which included Blue Note Records.[14]

In 1959, after failing to sell several pilots, United Artists offered its first ever television series, The Troubleshooters,[15] and later released its first sitcom, The Dennis O'Keefe Show.

In the 1960s, mainstream studios fell into decline and some were acquired or diversified. UA prospered while winning 11 Academy Awards, including five for best picture,[8] adding relationships with the Mirisch brothers, Billy Wilder, Joseph E. Levine and others. In 1961, United Artists released West Side Story, which won a record ten Academy Awards (including Best Picture).

In 1960, UA purchased Ziv Television Programs. UA's television division was responsible for shows such as Gilligan's Island, The Fugitive, Outer Limits, and The Patty Duke Show. The television unit had begun to build up a profitable rental library, including Associated Artists Productions,[16] owners of Warner Bros. pre-1950[17][note 1] features, shorts and cartoons and 231 Popeye cartoon shorts purchased from Paramount Pictures in 1958, becoming United Artists Associated, its distribution division.

In 1963, UA released two Stanley Kramer films, It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and A Child Is Waiting. In 1964, UA introduced U.S. film audiences to the Beatles by releasing A Hard Day's Night (1964) and Help! (1965).

At the same time, it backed two expatriate North Americans in Britain, who had acquired screen rights to Ian Fleming's James Bond novels. For $1 million, UA backed Harry Saltzman and Albert Broccoli's Dr. No in 1963 and launched the James Bond franchise.[18] The franchise outlived UA's time as a major studio, continuing half a century later. Other successful projects backed in this period included the Pink Panther series, which began in 1964, and Spaghetti Westerns, which made a star of Clint Eastwood in the films of A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More and The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

In 1964, the French subsidiary, Les Productions Artistes Associés, released its first production That Man from Rio.

In 1965, UA released the anticipated George Stevens' production of The Greatest Story Ever Told and was at the time, the most expensive film which was budgeted at $20 million. Max Von Sydow in the role of Jesus Christ, lead an all-star cast which includes Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowell, Martin Landau, Dorothy McGuire, Sal Mineo, Ina Balin, Joanna Dunham, David McCallum, Nehemiah Persoff, Donald Pleasence, José Ferrer and Ed Wynn. Some had cameos for only a brief moment in the picture: Angela Lansbury, Sidney Poitier, Shelley Winters, Pat Boone and John Wayne as the Centurion who supervises Christ’s crucifixion. While the film was released in Ultra Panavision 70 and included several breathtaking scenes of cinematography, the film didn’t make back its budget and was released to mixed critical receptions, but it has since been acclaimed as a classic by audiences around the world for being admirably inspired in its attempt to be faithful to the four books of the New Testament in the Holy Bible plus the book of the same name by Fulton Oursler and the radio program. "The Greatest Story Ever Told" received five Academy Award® nominations in 1965 and received an accolade as one of the “Top 10 Films of the Year” from The National Board of Review.

Transamerica subsidiary

The second United Artists logo, used during the company's sale to Transamerica from 1967 until 1982.

On the basis of its film and television hits, in 1967, Transamerica Corporation purchased 98 percent of UA's stock. Transamerica selected David and Arnold Picker to lead its studio.[8] UA debuted a new logo incorporating the parent company's striped T emblem and the tagline "Entertainment from Transamerica Corporation". This wording was later shortened to "A Transamerica Company". The following year, in 1968, United Artists Associated was reincorporated as United Artists Television Distribution.

UA released another Best Picture Oscar winner in 1967, In the Heat of the Night and a nominee for Best Picture, The Graduate, an Embassy production that UA distributed overseas.

In 1970, UA lost $35 million; thus the Pickers were pushed aside for the return of Krim and Benjamin.[8]

Other successful pictures included the 1971 screen version of Fiddler on the Roof. However, the 1972 film version of Man of La Mancha was a failure. New talent was encouraged, including Woody Allen, Robert Altman, Sylvester Stallone, Saul Zaentz, Miloš Forman, and Brian De Palma.

In 1973, United Artists took over the sales and distribution of MGM's films in Anglo-America. Cinema International Corporation assumed international distribution rights for MGM's films and carried on to United International Pictures (made from CIC and UA's International assets being owned by partner MGM) in the 1980s. As part of the deal, UA acquired MGM's music publishing operation, Robbins, Feist, Miller.[19]

In 1975, Harry Saltzman sold UA his 50 percent stake in Danjaq, the holding-company for the Bond films. UA was to remain a silent partner, providing money, while Albert Broccoli took producer credit. Danjaq and UA remained the public co-copyright holders for the Bond series, and the 2006 Casino Royale remake shares the copyright with Columbia Pictures.

UA released One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest in 1975 a film which won the Best Picture Academy Award and earned $56 million. UA followed with the next two years' Best Picture Oscar winners, Rocky and Annie Hall.[8]

However, Transamerica was not pleased with UA's releases such as Midnight Cowboy and Last Tango in Paris that were rated X by the Motion Picture Association of America. In these instances, Transamerica demanded the byline "A Transamerica Company" be removed on the prints and in all advertising. At one point, the parent company expressed its desire to phase out the UA name and replace it with Transamerica Films. Krim tried to convince Transamerica to spin off United Artists, but he and Transamerica's chairman could not come to an agreement.[20] Finally in 1978, following a dispute with Transamerica chief John R. Beckett[8] over administrative expenses,[citation needed] UA's top executives, including chairman Krim, president Eric Pleskow, Benjamin and other key officers walked out. Within days they announced the formation of Orion Pictures,[8] with backing from Warner. The departures concerned several Hollywood figures enough that they took out an ad in a trade paper warning Transamerica that it had made a fatal mistake in letting them go.[citation needed]

Transamerica inserted Andy Albeck as UA's president. United had its most successful year with four hits in 1979: Rocky II, Manhattan, Moonraker, and The Black Stallion.[8]

The new leadership agreed to back Heaven's Gate, a project of director Michael Cimino, which vastly overran its budget and cost $44 million. This led to the resignation of Albeck who was replaced by Norbert Auerbach.[8] United Artists recorded a major loss for the year due almost entirely to the box-office failure of Heaven's Gate.[21] It destroyed UA's reputation with Transamerica and the greater Hollywood community. However, it may have saved the United Artists name, as UA's final head before the sale, Steven Bach, wrote in his book Final Cut that there was talk about renaming United Artists to Transamerica Pictures.

In 1980, Transamerica decided to exit the film making business, and put United Artists on the market. Kirk Kerkorian's Tracinda Corp. purchased the company in 1981.[22][23] Tracinda also owned Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.[24]

United Artists Classics

In 1981, United Artists Classics, which had formerly been a division of the company that re-released library titles, was turned into a first-run art film distributor by Nathaniel T. Kwit, Jr. Tom Bernard was hired as the division's head of sales and Ira Deutchman[25][26] as head of marketing. Later the division added Michael Barker and Donna Gigliotti. Deutchman left to form Cinecom, and Barker and Bernard formed Orion Classics and Sony Pictures Classics. The label mostly released foreign and independent films such as Ticket to Heaven and The Grey Fox, and occasional first-run reissues from the UA library, such as director's cuts of Head Over Heels and Cutter's Way. When Barker and Bernard left to form Orion, the label was briefly rechristened MGM/UA Classics before it ceased operating in the late 1980s.[citation needed]

MGM/UA Entertainment Company

The merged companies became MGM/UA Entertainment Company and in 1982 began launching new subsidiaries: the MGM/UA Home Entertainment Group, MGM/UA Classics and MGM/UA Television Group. Kerkorian also bid for the remaining, outstanding public stock, but dropped his bid, facing lawsuits and vocal opposition.[8]

After the purchase, David Begelman's duties were transferred from MGM to MGM/UA. Under Begelman, MGM/UA produced unsuccessful films and he was fired in July 1982. Of the 11 films he put into production, by the time of his termination only Poltergeist proved to be a hit.[27]

As part of the consolidation, in 1983, MGM closed and marketed United Artists' long time headquarters at 729 Seventh Avenue in New York City.[28] MGM/UA sold the former UA music publishing division to CBS Songs in 1983.[29]

WarGames and Octopussy made substantial profits for the new MGM/UA in 1983, but were not sufficient for Kerkorian. A 1985-restructuring led to independent MGM and UA production units with the combined studio leaders each placed in charge of a single unit. Speculation from analysts was that one of the studios, most likely UA, would be sold to fund the other's (MGM) stock buy-back to take that studio private. However, soon afterwards, one unit's chief was fired and the remaining executive, Alan Ladd, Jr., took charge of both.[8]


On August 7, 1985, Ted Turner announced that his Turner Broadcasting System would buy MGM/UA. As film licensing to television became more complicated, Turner saw the value of acquiring MGM's film library for his superstation WTBS.[30] Under the terms of the deal, Turner would immediately sell United Artists back to Kerkorian.[24]

In anticipation, Kerkorian installed film producer Jerry Weintraub as the chairman and chief executive of United Artists Corporation in November 1985.[31] Former American Broadcasting Company executive Anthony Thomopoulos was recruited as UA's president[32] Weintraub's tenure at UA was brief; he left the studio in April 1986, replaced by former Lorimar executive Lee Rich.[33]

On March 25, 1986, Turner finalized his acquisition of MGM/UA in a cash-stock deal for $1.5 billion and renamed it MGM Entertainment Co.[30][34][35][36][37][38] Kerkorian then repurchased most of United Artists' assets for roughly $480 million.[34][35] As a result of this transaction, the original United Artists ceased to exist. Kerkorian, for all intents and purposes, created an entirely new company implementing the inherited assets; thus, the present day UA is not the legal successor to the original incarnation, though it shares similar assets.[39]

MGM/UA Communications Company

Logo from 1987 to 1994.

Due to financial community concerns over his debt load, Ted Turner was forced to sell MGM's production and distribution assets to United Artists for $300 million on August 26, 1986.[34][35][40][41] The MGM lot and lab facilities were sold to Lorimar-Telepictures.[40] Turner kept the pre-May 1986 MGM film and television library, along with the Associated Artists Productions library, Gilligan's Island and its animated spin-offs, and the RKO Pictures films that United Artists had previously purchased.[40]

United Artists was renamed MGM/UA Communications Company (MUCC) and organized into three main units: one television production and two film units. David Gerber headed up the TV unit with Anthony Thomopoulous at UA, and Alan Ladd, Jr. at MGM. Despite a resurgence at the box office in 1987 with Spaceballs, The Living Daylights, and Moonstruck, MUCC lost $88 million.[8]

In April 1988, Kerkorian's 82 percent of MUCC was up for sale. MGM and UA were split by July. Eventually, 25 percent of MGM was offered to Burt Sugarman, and producers Jon Peters and Peter Guber, but the plan fell-through. Rich, Ladd, Thomopoulous and other executives grew tired of Kerkorian's antics and began to leave.[8] By summer 1988, the mass exodus of executives started to affect productions, with many film cancellations. The 1989 sale of MGM/UA to the Australian company Qintex/Australian Television Network (owners of the Hal Roach library, which both MGM and UA had distributed in the 1930s) also fell-through, due to the company's bankruptcy later that year. On November 29, 1989, Turner Broadcasting System (the owners of the pre-May 1986 MGM library) attempted to buy entertainment assets from Tracinda Corporation, including MGM/UA Communications Co. (which also included United Artists, MGM/UA Home Video, and MGM/UA Television Productions), but failed.[42] UA was essentially dormant after 1990 and released no films for several years.

The 1990s

Eventually, in 1990, Italian promoter Giancarlo Parretti purchased UA. He purchased a small company and renamed it Pathé Communications anticipating a successful purchase of Pathé, the original French company. But his attempt failed and instead he merged MGM/UA with his former company, resulting in MGM-Pathé Communications Co. During the transaction, Parretti overstated his own financial condition and within a year defaulted to his primary lender, Crédit Lyonnais, which foreclosed on the studio in 1992.[43][23] This resulted in the sale or closure of MGM/UA's string of US theaters. On July 2, 1992, MGM-Pathé Communications was again named Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc. In an effort to make MGM/UA saleable, Credit Lyonnais ramped up production and convinced John Calley to run UA. Under his supervision, Calley revived the Pink Panther and James Bond franchises and highlighted UA's past by giving the widest release ever to a film with an NC-17 rating, Showgirls. Credit Lyonnais sold MGM in 1996, again to Kirk Kerkorian's Tracinda, leading to Calley's departure.[23]

In 1999, filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola attempted to buy UA from Kerkorian who rejected the offer. Coppola signed a production deal with the studio instead.[20]

The 2000s to present

In 1999, UA was repositioned as a specialty studio. MGM had just acquired The Samuel Goldwyn Company, which had been a leading distributor of arthouse films. After that name was retired, MGM folded UA into Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures. G2 Films, the renamed Goldwyn Company and MGM's specialty London operations, was renamed United Artists International.[44] The distributorship, branding, and copyrights for two of UA's main franchises (Pink Panther, and Rocky) were moved to MGM, although select MGM releases (notably the James Bond franchise co-held with Danjaq, LLC and the Amityville Horror remake) carry a United Artists copyright. The first arthouse film to bear the UA name was Things You Can Tell Just by Looking at Her.

United Artists hired Bingham Ray to run the company on September 1, 2001.[23] Under his supervision, the company produced and distributed many art films, including Bowling for Columbine, 2002's Nicholas Nickleby, and the winner of that year's Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, No Man's Land; and 2004's Undertow, and Hotel Rwanda, a co-production of UA and Lions Gate Entertainment, and made deals with companies like American Zoetrope and Revolution Films.[45] Ray stepped down from the company in 2004.[46]

In 2005, a partnership of Comcast, Sony and several merchant banks bought United Artists and its parent, MGM, for $4.8 billion.[23] Though only a minority investor, Sony closed MGM's distribution system and folded most of its staff into its own studio. The movies UA had completed and planned for release—Capote, Art School Confidential, The Woods, and Romance and Cigarettes[citation needed]—were reassigned to Sony Pictures Classics.[23]

In March 2006, MGM announced that it would return again as a domestic distribution company. Striking distribution deals with The Weinstein Company, Lakeshore Entertainment, Bauer Martinez Entertainment, and other independent studios, MGM distributed films from these companies. MGM continued funding and co-producing projects released in conjunction with Sony's Columbia TriStar Motion Picture Group on a limited basis and produced tent-poles for its own distribution company, MGM Distribution.

Sony had a minority stake in MGM, but otherwise MGM and UA operated under the direction of Stephen Cooper (CEO and minority owner of MGM).

United Artists Entertainment

On November 2, 2006, MGM announced that Tom Cruise and his long-time production partner Paula Wagner were resurrecting UA.[47][48] This announcement came after the duo were released from a fourteen-year production relationship at Viacom-owned Paramount Pictures. Cruise, Wagner and MGM Studios created United Artists Entertainment LLC and the producer/actor and his partner owned a 30 percent stake in the studio,[49] with the approval by MGM's consortium of owners. The deal gave them control over production and development. Wagner was named CEO, and was allotted an annual slate of four films with varying budget ranges, while Cruise served as a producer for the revamped studio and the occasional star.

UA became the first motion picture studio granted a Writers Guild of America, West (WGA) waiver in January 2008 during the Writers' Strike.[50]

On August 14, 2008, MGM announced that Wagner would leave UA to produce films independently.[51] Her output as head of UA was two films, both starring Cruise, Lions for Lambs[52] and Valkyrie.[53] Wagner's departure led to speculation that a UA overhaul was imminent.[51]

Since then, UA has served as a co-producer with MGM for two releases: the 2009 remake of Fame and Hot Tub Time Machine—these are the last original films to date to bear the UA banner.

A 2011 financial report revealed that MGM reacquired its 100 percent stake in United Artists.[49] MGM stated that it might continue to make new films under the UA brand.[49]

United Artists Media Group

On September 22, 2014, MGM acquired a 55 percent interest in One Three Media and Lightworkers Media, both operated by Mark Burnett and Roma Downey and partly owned by Hearst Entertainment. The two companies were consolidated into a new television company, United Artists Media Group (UAMG), a revival of the UA brand. Burnett became UAMG's CEO and Downey became president of Lightworkers Media, the UAMG family and faith division. UAMG became the distributing studio for Mark Burnett Productions programming such as Survivor. UAMG was to form an over-the-top faith-based channel.[23][54]

On December 14, 2015, MGM announced that it had acquired the remaining 45 percent stake of UAMG it did not already own and folded UAMG into MGM Television. Hearst, Downey, and Burnett received stakes in MGM collectively valued at $233 million. Additionally, Burnett was promoted to CEO of MGM TV, replacing the outgoing Roma Khanna. The planned over-the-top faith service (later to be branded as a combined OTT/digital subchannel service known as Light TV) became a separate entity owned by MGM, Burnett, Downey and Hearst.[55]

United Artists Digital Studios

By August 2018, MGM relaunched the United Artists brand as a digital production and distribution company aimed at creating original motion pictures, television programs, short-form content and digital series as well as building upon MGM's existing IP for distribution across digital platforms. Known as United Artists Digital Studios, the company's projects include mid-form original series Stargate Origins, interactive digital series #WarGames, and scripted series The Baxters (which is also the first for LightWorkers Media) and Weekend at Bernie's.[56] In early October 2018, MGM and Walmart agreed to a partnership for MGM Digital to create exclusive content for Walmart's Vudu and Movies On Us service to begin showing in the first quarter 2019.[57]

MGM's and Annapurna Pictures' Mirror distribution venture was rebranded as United Artists Releasing on February 5, 2019, 100 years to the day of United Artists' founding.[58]

Library and historical list of films

A majority of UA's post-1952 library is now owned by MGM, while the pre-1952 films (with few exceptions) are now either owned by other companies (such as Turner Entertainment) or are in the public domain. However, throughout the studio's history, UA acted more as a distributor than a film studio, crediting the copyright to the production company responsible. This explains why certain UA releases, such as High Noon (1952) and The Final Countdown (1980), are still under copyright but not owned by MGM.[original research?] The MGM titles which UA distributed from 1973 to 1982 are now owned by Turner.

UA films on video

UA originally leased the home video rights to its films to Magnetic Video, the first home video company. Fox purchased Magnetic in 1981 and renamed it 20th Century-Fox Video that year. In 1982, 20th Century-Fox Video merged with CBS Video Enterprises (which earlier split from MGM/CBS Home Video after MGM merged with UA) giving birth to CBS/Fox Video. Although MGM owned UA around this time, UA's licensing deal with CBS/Fox was still in effect. However, the newly renamed MGM/UA Home Video started releasing some UA product, including UA films originally released in the mid-80s. Prior to MGM's purchase, UA licensed foreign video rights to Warner Bros. through Warner Home Video, in a deal that was set to expire in 1991.[59] In 1986, the pre-1950 WB and the pre-May 1986 MGM film and television libraries were purchased by Ted Turner after his short-lived ownership of MGM/UA, and as a result CBS/Fox lost home video rights to the pre-1950 WB films to MGM/UA Home Video. When the deal with CBS/Fox (inherited from Magnetic Video) expired in 1989, the UA released films were released through MGM/UA Home Video.

Before the Magnetic Video and Warner Home Video deals in 1980, United Artists had exclusive rental contacts with a small video label called VidAmerica in the US, and another small label called Intervision Video in the UK.[60][61][62] for the home video release of 20 titles from the UA library (e.g. The Great Escape, Some Like It Hot, and Hair, along with a few pre-1950 WB titles).

United Artists Broadcasting

United Artists owned and operated two television stations between the years of 1968 and 1977. Legal ID's for the company would typically say "United Artists Broadcasting: an entertainment service of Transamerica Corporation," along with the Transamerica "T" logo.

DMA Market Station Years Owned Current Affiliation Notes
17. ClevelandAkronCanton WUAB 43 1968–1977 The CW affiliate owned
by Gray Television
Licensed to Lorain. The call letters stand for United Artists Broadcasting, which founded the station.
Kaiser Broadcasting owned a minor stake from 1975 to 1977 following the closure of crosstown WKBF.
In 1977, Gaylord Entertainment Company acquired WUAB.
NR San JuanPonceMayagüez WRIK-TV 7 1970–1978 Independent station WSTE
owned by Univision
Licensed to Ponce. Operates 3
booster stations throughout
Puerto Rico.

Additionally, United Artists Broadcasting also held the permit to KUAB-TV in Houston, Texas, which would have possibly launched sometime around 1969 on channel 20.[citation needed] United Artists also owned one radio station, WWSH in Philadelphia, from 1970 to 1977.

UAB/Transamerica left the broadcasting business in 1977 by selling WUAB to the Gaylord Broadcasting Company and WWSH to Cox Enterprises.

United Artists Releasing

Mirror Releasing, LLC
United Artists Releasing
Mirror Releasing
LLC joint venture
IndustryMotion pictures
PredecessorProducers Releasing Corporation Edit this on Wikidata
FoundedDecember 2017; 2 years ago (2017-12)
FounderMary Pickford, Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, D. W. Griffith Edit this on Wikidata
HeadquartersWest Hollywood, California, United States
Key people
Pam Kunath (COO)
ProductsFilm distribution
Owners50% each owned by: Edit this on Wikidata

United Artists Releasing (UAR), formerly Mirror (commonly, given its former use as the third party label and legally, Mirror Releasing, LLC[63]), is a film distribution joint venture between Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, Annapurna Pictures and MGM's Orion Pictures unit with offices in West Hollywood and Annapurna's offices in New York City's Soho neighborhood. The distributor also offers alternative services to the major studios and streaming companies[58][64] with 10–14 films to be released each year.[64]

Mirror was founded as a film distribution joint venture between Annapurna and MGM in December 2017.[58] This marks MGM's return to domestic distribution, in which they expect to have approximately six to eight releases per year starting in March 2018. Annapurna's existing distribution staff would be the initial staff of the joint venture. Films issued by MGM and Annapurna would be distributed respectively under their own names, while films released for third parties would use the Mirror releasing label. Death Wish was MGM's first release by the joint venture on March 2, 2018.[65] Under the initial agreement, the distribution unit reported to MGM and Annapurna on their movies. By the end of January 2019, the distributor released eight titles total.[58]

The venture was rebranded as United Artists Releasing on February 5, 2019, 100 years to the day of United Artists' founding.[58] Reasoning behind the move is to better compete against the major studios given their tentpole films that dictate the release calendar.[64] Orion Pictures, an MGM company, would add its distribution staff and films to the venture as part of the change.[64] Pam Kunath, a former Screen Gems executive, was appointed chief operating officer.[58] A board of directors consisting of executives from the partner firms would oversee the three executives running UAR; Kunath, David Kaminow and Erik Lomis, Annapurna's president of marketing and president of distribution, respectively. Missing Link would be the first release under the UAR banner, which also would win the company its first Golden Globe Award for Best Animated Feature Film.[66]


Mirror Releasing
Year Title Release Production Notes
2018 Death Wish March 2, 2018 MGM
The Miracle Season April 6, 2018 distribution only; LD Entertainment[67]
Sorry to Bother You July 6, 2018 Annapurna[68]
Dog Days August 8, 2018[69] distribution only; LD Entertainment[70]
Operation Finale August 29, 2018 MGM[68] co-production with Automatik Entertainment; international distribution by Netflix
The Sisters Brothers September 21, 2018 Annapurna
Creed II November 21, 2018 MGM co-production with New Line Cinema; international distribution by Warner Bros. Pictures
If Beale Street Could Talk December 14, 2018 Annapurna
Vice December 25, 2018
Destroyer December 25, 2018
2019 Fighting with My Family February 14, 2019 MGM co-production with Seven Bucks Productions, Misher Films, WWE Studios, Film4, The Ink Factory;[71] U.S. Distribution only. Released by Lionsgate in the United Kingdom and Ireleand and Universal Pictures elsewhere
United Artists Releasing
2019 Missing Link April 12, 2019 Annapurna[66] co-production with Laika; U.S. distribution only
The Hustle May 10, 2019 MGM co-production with Pin High Productions, Cave 76 Productions, and Camp Sugar Productions; international distribution by Universal Pictures
Booksmart May 24, 2019 Annapurna co-production with Gloria Sanchez Productions
Child's Play June 21, 2019 Orion Pictures[72] co-production with Bron Creative
Where'd You Go, Bernadette[66] August 16, 2019 Annapurna co-production with Color Force and Detour Filmproduction
The Addams Family October 11, 2019 MGM co-production with Bron Creative, The Jackal Group, Whalerock Industries, and Cinesite Studios;[73] U.S. Distribution only; international distribution by Universal Pictures
2020 Gretel & Hansel January 31, 2020 Orion Pictures co-production with Bron Creative and Automatik Entertainment
Bad Trip April 17, 2020 co-production with Gorilla Flicks, The District, and Helo[74]
Valley Girl May 8, 2020 Orion Classics/MGM co-production with Sneak Preview Productions
Bill & Ted Face the Music August 21, 2020 Orion Pictures[75] co-production with Hammerstone Studios
No Time to Die November 25, 2020 MGM U.S. Distribution only; co-production with EON Productions; international distribution by Universal Pictures[66][76]
Samaritan December 11, 2020 co-production with Balboa Productions
Respect December 25, 2020 co-production with Bron Creative; US distribution only; international distribution by Universal Pictures
2021 Cash Truck January 15, 2021[77] co-production with Miramax and Ritchie/Wigram Productions
Dog February 14, 2021 co-production with Free Association[78]
Tomb Raider 2 March 19, 2021 co-production with GK Films and Square Enix
Dark Harvest[79] September 24, 2021 co-production with Matt Tolmach Productions
The Addams Family 2 October 22, 2021 co-production with Bron Creative, The Jackal Group, Whalerock Industries, and Cinesite Studios;[73] U.S. Distribution only; international distribution by Universal Pictures
Gucci November 2021 co-production with Scott Free Productions;[80] U.S. Distribution only; international distribution by Universal Pictures
2022 Untitled Sesame Street musical January 22, 2022[81][82] co-financier; co-production with Sesame Workshop; distributed by Warner Bros.
TBA Legally Blonde 3 TBA co-production with Hello Sunshine and Marc Platt Productions[83]

See also


  1. ^ WB retained a pair of features from 1949 that they merely distributed, and all short subjects released on or after September 1, 1948, in addition to all cartoons released in August 1948.


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Further reading

  • Bach, Steven. Final Cut. New York: Morrow, 1985.
  • Balio, Tino. United Artists: The Company Built by the Stars. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1976.
  • Balio, Tino. United Artists: The Company That Changed the Film Industry. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1987.
  • Berg, A. Scott. Goldwyn. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1988.
  • Gabler, Neal. An Empire of Their Own: How the Jews Invented Hollywood. New York: Crown Publishers, 1988.
  • Schickel, Richard. D.W. Griffith: An American Life. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1983.
  • Thomson, David. Showman: The Life of David O. Selznick. New York: Alfred A, Knopf, 1992.

External links