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|Founded||May 31, 1935|
2121 Avenue of the Stars,
Century City, Los Angeles, California, United States
|Products||Motion pictures, television films|
Number of employees
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation (colloquial: Twentieth Century Fox; Fox; 20th Century Fox) is an American film studio currently owned by 21st Century Fox. One of the "Big Six" major American film studios, it was formed from the merger of the Fox Film Corporation and Twentieth Century Pictures in 1935, and is located in the Century City area of Los Angeles. The studio was owned by News Corporation from 1984 to 2013. On December 14, 2017, The Walt Disney Company announced its intention to acquire the studio along with the majority of 21st Century Fox's other entertainment assets, which was approved by both companies on July 27, 2018.
Twentieth Century Pictures' Joseph Schenck and Darryl F. Zanuck left United Artists over a stock dispute, and began merger talks with the management of financially struggling Fox Film, under president Sidney Kent. Spyros Skouras, then manager of the Fox West Coast Theaters, helped make it happen (and later became president of the new company). Aside from the theater chain and a first-rate studio lot, Zanuck and Schenck felt there was not much else to Fox, which had been reeling since the founder William Fox lost control of the company in 1930. The studio's biggest star, Will Rogers, died in a plane crash weeks after the merger. Its leading female star, Janet Gaynor, was fading in popularity and promising leading men James Dunn and Spencer Tracy had been dropped because of heavy drinking.
At first, it was expected that the new company was originally to be called "Fox-20th Century", even though 20th Century was the senior partner in the merger. However, 20th Century brought more to the bargaining table besides Schenck and Zanuck; it was more profitable than Fox and had considerably more talent. The new company, 20th Century-Fox Film Corporation, began trading on May 31, 1935; the hyphen was dropped in 1985. Kent remained as President, while Schenck became Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. Zanuck became Vice President in Charge of Production, replacing Fox's longtime production chief Winfield Sheehan.
The company established a special training school. Lynn Bari, Patricia Farr and Anne Nagel were among 14 young women "launched on the trail of film stardom" on August 6, 1935, when they each received a six-month contract with 20th Century Fox after spending 18 months in the school. The contracts included a studio option for renewal for as long as seven years.
For many years, 20th Century Fox claimed to have been founded in 1915, the year Fox Film was founded. For instance, it marked 1945 as its 30th anniversary. However, in recent years it has claimed the 1935 merger as its founding, even though most film historians agree it was founded in 1915.
The company's films retained the 20th Century Pictures searchlight logo on their opening credits as well as its opening fanfare, but with the name changed to 20th Century-Fox.
After the merger was completed, Zanuck quickly signed young actors who would carry Twentieth Century-Fox for years: Tyrone Power, Linda Darnell, Carmen Miranda, Don Ameche, Henry Fonda, Gene Tierney, Sonja Henie, and Betty Grable. Also on the Fox payroll he found two players who he built up into the studio's leading assets, Alice Faye and seven-year-old Shirley Temple. Favoring popular biographies and musicals, Zanuck built Fox back to profitability. Thanks to record attendance during World War II, Fox overtook RKO and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (Hollywood's biggest studio) to become the third most profitable film studio. While Zanuck went off for eighteen months' war service, junior partner William Goetz kept profits high by going for light entertainment. The studio's—indeed the industry's—biggest star was creamy blonde Betty Grable.
In 1942, Spyros Skouras succeeded Kent as president of the studio. Together with Zanuck, who returned in 1943, they intended to make Fox's output more serious-minded. During the next few years, with pictures like The Razor's Edge, Wilson, Gentleman's Agreement, The Snake Pit, Boomerang, and Pinky, Zanuck established a reputation for provocative, adult films. Fox also specialized in adaptations of best-selling books such as Ben Ames Williams' Leave Her to Heaven (1945), starring Gene Tierney, which was the highest-grossing Fox film of the 1940s. Fox also produced film versions of Broadway musicals, including the Rodgers and Hammerstein films, beginning with the musical version of State Fair (1945), the only work that the partnership wrote especially for films.
After the war, and with the advent of television, audiences slowly drifted away. Twentieth Century-Fox held on to its theaters until a court-mandated "divorce"; they were spun off as Fox National Theaters in 1953. That year, with attendance at half the 1946 level, Twentieth Century-Fox gambled on an unproven gimmick. Noting that the two film sensations of 1952 had been Cinerama, which required three projectors to fill a giant curved screen, and "Natural Vision" 3D, which got its effects of depth by requiring the use of polarized glasses, Fox mortgaged its studio to buy rights to a French anamorphic projection system which gave a slight illusion of depth without glasses. President Spyros Skouras struck a deal with the inventor Henri Chrétien, leaving the other film studios empty-handed, and in 1953 introduced CinemaScope in the studio's groundbreaking feature film The Robe.
Zanuck announced in February 1953 that henceforth all Fox pictures would be made in CinemaScope. To convince theater owners to install this new process, Fox agreed to help pay conversion costs (about $25,000 per screen); and to ensure enough product, Fox gave access to CinemaScope to any rival studio choosing to use it. Seeing the box-office for the first two CinemaScope features, The Robe and How to Marry a Millionaire (also 1953), Warner Bros., MGM, Universal Pictures (then known as Universal-International), Columbia Pictures and Disney quickly adopted the process. In 1956 Fox engaged Robert Lippert to establish a subsidiary company, Regal Pictures, later Associated Producers Incorporated to film B pictures in CinemaScope (but "branded" RegalScope). Fox produced new musicals using the CinemaScope process including Carousel and The King and I (both 1956).
CinemaScope brought a brief upturn in attendance, but by 1956 the numbers again began to slide. That year Darryl Zanuck announced his resignation as head of production. Zanuck moved to Paris, setting up as an independent producer, seldom being in the United States for many years.
Zanuck's successor, producer Buddy Adler, died a year later. President Spyros Skouras brought in a series of production executives, but none had Zanuck's success. By the early 1960s, Fox was in trouble. A new version of Cleopatra had begun in 1959 with Joan Collins in the lead. As a publicity gimmick, producer Walter Wanger offered $1 million to Elizabeth Taylor if she would star; she accepted, and costs for Cleopatra began to escalate, aggravated by Richard Burton's on-set romance with Taylor, the surrounding media frenzy, and Skouras' selfish preferences and inexperienced micromanagement on the film's production. Not even his showmanship made up for his considerable lack of filmmaking expertise in speeding up production on Cleopatra.
Meanwhile, another remake—of the 1940 Cary Grant hit My Favorite Wife—was rushed into production in an attempt to turn over a quick profit to help keep Fox afloat. The romantic comedy entitled Something's Got to Give paired Marilyn Monroe, Fox's most bankable star of the 1950s, with Dean Martin, and director George Cukor. The troubled Monroe caused delays on a daily basis, and it quickly descended into a costly debacle. As Cleopatra's budget passed $10 million, eventually costing around $40 million, Fox sold its back lot (now the site of Century City) to Alcoa in 1961 to raise cash. After several weeks of script rewrites on the Monroe picture and very little progress, mostly due to the director George Cukor's filming methods, in addition to Monroe's chronic sinusitus, Marilyn Monroe was fired from Something's Got to Give and two months later she was found dead. According to Fox files she was rehired within weeks for a two-picture deal totaling $1 million, $500,000 to finish Something's Got to Give, plus a bonus at completion, and another $500,000 for What a Way to Go. Elizabeth Taylor's disruptive[neutrality is disputed] reign on the Cleopatra set continued unchallenged from 1960 into 1962, though three Fox executives went to Rome in June 1962 to fire her. They learned that director Joseph L. Mankiewicz had filmed out of sequence and had only done interiors, so Fox was then forced to allow Taylor several more weeks of filming. In the meantime that summer of 1962, Fox released nearly all of its contract stars, including Jayne Mansfield.
With few pictures on the schedule, Skouras wanted to rush Zanuck's big-budget war epic The Longest Day (1962), a highly accurate account of the Allied invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944, with a huge international cast, into release as another source of quick cash. This offended Zanuck, still Fox's largest shareholder, for whom The Longest Day was a labor of love that he had dearly wanted to produce for many years. After it became clear that Something's Got to Give would not be able to progress without Monroe in the lead (Martin had refused to work with anyone else), Skouras finally decided that re-signing her was unavoidable. But days before filming was due to resume, she was found dead at her Los Angeles home and the picture resumed filming as Move Over, Darling, with Doris Day and James Garner in the leads. Released in 1963, the film was a hit. The unfinished scenes from Something's Got to Give were shelved for nearly 40 years. Rather than being rushed into release as if it were a B-picture, The Longest Day was lovingly and carefully produced under Zanuck's supervision. It was finally released at a length of three hours, and was well received.
At the next board meeting, Zanuck spoke for eight hours, convincing directors that Skouras was mismanaging the company and that he was the only possible successor. Zanuck was installed as chairman, and then named his son Richard Zanuck as president. This new management group seized Cleopatra and rushed it to completion, shut down the studio, laid off the entire staff to save money, axed the long-running Movietone Newsreel and made a series of cheap, popular pictures that restored Fox as a major studio. The saving grace to the studio's fortunes came from the tremendous success of The Sound of Music (1965), an expensive and handsomely produced film adaptation of the highly acclaimed Rodgers and Hammerstein Broadway musical, which became a significant success at the box office and won five Academy Awards, including Best Director (Robert Wise) and Best Picture of the Year.
Fox also had two big science-fiction hits in the 1960s: Fantastic Voyage (1966), and the original Planet of the Apes (1968), starring Charlton Heston, Kim Hunter, and Roddy McDowall. Fantastic Voyage was the last film made in CinemaScope, which was ultimately replaced by Panavision lenses.
Zanuck stayed on as chairman until 1971, but there were several expensive flops in his last years, resulting in Fox posting losses from 1969 to 1971. Following his removal, and after an uncertain period, new management brought Fox back to health. Under president Gordon T. Stulberg and production head Alan Ladd, Jr., Fox films connected with modern audiences. Stulberg used the profits to acquire resort properties, soft-drink bottlers, Australian theaters, and other properties in an attempt to diversify enough to offset the boom-or-bust cycle of picture-making.
Foreshadowing a pattern of film production still yet to come, in late 1973 Twentieth Century-Fox joined forces with Warner Bros. to co-produce The Towering Inferno (1974), an all-star action blockbuster from producer Irwin Allen. Both studios found themselves owning the rights to books about burning skyscrapers. Allen insisted on a meeting with the heads of both studios and announced that as Fox was already in the lead with their property it would be career suicide to have competing movies. And so the first joint venture studio deal was struck. In hindsight whilst it may be common place now, back in the 1970s it was a risky, but revolutionary idea that paid off handsomely at both the domestic and international box offices around the world.
In 1977, Fox's success reached new heights and produced the most profitable film made up to that time, Star Wars. Substantial financial gains were realized as a result of the film's unprecedented success: from a low of $6 in June 1976, stock prices more than quadrupled to almost $27 after Star Wars' release; 1976 revenues of $195 million rose to $301 million in 1977.
With financial stability came new owners, when Fox was sold for more than $700 million in 1981 to investors Marc Rich and Marvin Davis. Fox's assets included Pebble Beach Golf Links, the Aspen Skiing Company, and a Century City property upon which Davis built and twice sold Fox Plaza.
By 1984, Rich had become a fugitive from justice, having fled to Switzerland after being charged by U.S. federal prosecutors with tax evasion, racketeering, and illegal trading with Iran during the Iran hostage crisis. Rich's assets were frozen by U.S. authorities. In 1984, Marvin Davis bought out Marc Rich's 50% interest in 20th Century-Fox Film Corporation for an undisclosed amount, reported to be $116 million. Davis sold this interest to Rupert Murdoch for $250 million in March 1985. Davis later backed out of a deal with Murdoch to purchase John Kluge's Metromedia television stations. Murdoch went alone and bought the stations, and later bought out Davis' remaining stake in Fox for $325 million.
To gain FCC approval of Fox's purchase of Metromedia's television holdings, once the stations of the long dissolved DuMont network, Murdoch had to become a U.S. citizen. He did so in 1985, and in 1986 the new Fox Broadcasting Company took to the air. Over the next 20-odd years, the network and owned-stations group expanded to become extremely profitable for News Corp.
Since January 2000, this company has been the international distributor for MGM/UA releases. In the 1980s, Fox—through a joint venture with CBS, called CBS/Fox Video—had distributed certain UA films on video, thus UA has come full circle by switching to Fox for video distribution. Fox also makes money distributing films for small independent film companies.
In 2008, Fox announced an Asian subsidiary, Fox STAR Studios, a joint venture with STAR TV, also owned by News Corporation. It was reported that Fox STAR would start by producing films for the Bollywood market, then expand to several Asian markets.
In August 2012, 20th Century Fox signed a five-year deal with DreamWorks Animation to distribute in domestic and international markets. However, the deal did not include the distribution rights of previously released films which DreamWorks Animation acquired from Paramount Pictures later in 2014. Fox's deal with DreamWorks Animation ended on June 2, 2017 with Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie, with Universal Pictures taking over the distribution deal with DreamWorks Animation due to NBCUniversal's acquisition of DreamWorks Animation on August 22, 2016, starting on March 1, 2019 with the release of How to Train Your Dragon 3.
In 2012, Rupert Murdoch announced that News Corp. would be split into two publishing and media-oriented companies; a new News Corporation, and 21st Century Fox, which operates the Fox Entertainment Group and 20th Century Fox. Murdoch considered the name of the new company a way to maintain the 20th Century Fox's heritage as the group advances into the future.
On December 14, 2017, The Walt Disney Company (which owns and operates networks such as ABC and ESPN) announced plans to purchase 21st Century Fox, which includes 20th Century Fox, for $52.4 billion. On May 23, 2018, USA Today reported that Comcast plans to out-bid Disney with an all-cash offer for approximately $60 billion, which was increased to $65 billion in cash on June 13 by offering Fox shareholders $35 a share and "100 percent of the shares the company left behind after the deal" (relating to New Fox). Comcast is expecting Disney to increase their bid and include cash as part of the deal. But on July 19, 2018, Comcast officially announced that it was dropping its bid on the Fox assets in order to focus on their bid for Sky. On July 27, 2018, Disney and Fox shareholders approved the merger between the two companies.
During the mid-1950s features were released to television in the hope that they would broaden sponsorship and help distribution of network programs. Blocks of one-hour programming of feature films to national sponsors on 128 stations was organized by Twentieth Century Fox and National Telefilm Associates. Twentieth Century Fox received 50 percent interest in NTA Film network after it sold its library to National Telefilm Associates. This gave 90 minutes of cleared time a week and syndicated feature films to 110 non-interconnected stations for sale to national sponsors.
Rupert Murdoch's 20th Century Fox bought out the remaining assets of Four Star Television from Ronald Perelman's Compact Video in 1996. Most of Four Star Television's library of programs are controlled by 20th Century Fox Television today. After Murdoch's numerous buyouts during the buyout era of the eighties, News Corporation had built up financial debts of $7 billion (much from Sky TV in the UK), despite the many assets that were held by NewsCorp. The high levels of debt caused Murdoch to sell many of the American magazine interests he had acquired in the mid-1980s.
Between 1933 and 1937, a custom record label called Fox Movietone was produced starting at F-100 and running through F-136. It featured songs from Fox movies, first using material recorded and issued on Victor's Bluebird label and halfway through switched to material recorded and issued on ARC's dime store labels (Melotone, Perfect, etc.). These scarce records were sold only at Fox Theaters.
Fox Music has been Fox's music arm since 2000. It encompasses music publishing and licensing businesses, dealing primarily with Fox Entertainment Group television and film soundtracks.
Prior to Fox Music, 20th Century Records was its music arm from 1958 to 1982.
The Twentieth Century Fox Presents radio series were broadcast between 1936 and 1942. More often than not, the shows were a radio preview featuring a medley of the songs and soundtracks from the latest movie being released into the theaters, much like the modern day movie trailers we now see on TV, to encourage folks to head down to their nearest Picture House.
The radio shows featured the original stars, with the announcer narrating a lead up that encapsulated the performance.
From its earliest ventures into movie production, Fox Film Corporation operated its own processing laboratories. The original lab was located in Fort Lee, New Jersey along with the studios. A lab was included with the new studio built in Los Angeles in 1916. Headed by Alan E. Freedman, the Fort Lee lab was moved into the new Fox Studios building in Manhattan in 1919. In 1932, Freedman bought the labs from Fox for $2,000,000 to bolster what at that time was a failing Fox liquidity. He renamed the operation "DeLuxe Laboratories" which much later became DeLuxe Entertainment Services Group. In the 1940s Freedman sold the labs back to what was then 20th Century Fox and remained as president into the 1960s. Under Freedman's leadership, DeLuxe added two more labs in Chicago and Toronto and processed film from studios other than Fox.
20th Century Fox is known for its searchlight structure logo. Its fanfare was originally composed in 1933 by Alfred Newman, who became the head of Twentieth Century-Fox's music department from 1940 until the 1960s. It was re-recorded in 1935 when 20th Century-Fox was officially established.
The original Art Deco iteration of the 20th Century-Fox logo, designed by special effects animator and matte painting artist Emil Kosa Jr., was originally made as the design for the 20th Century Pictures logo, with "Fox" replacing "Pictures, Inc." in 1935. The logo was originally created as a matte painting on several layers of glass and was animated frame-by-frame. Kosa's final major work for Fox was a matte painting of the Statue of Liberty in the ending scene of Planet of the Apes (1968), shortly before his death.
In 1953, Rocky Longo, an artist at Pacific Title (now Pacific Title and Art), was hired to recreate the original logo design for the new CinemaScope picture process. Alfred Newman also re-composed the logo's fanfare with an extension to be heard during the CinemaScope logo that would follow after the Fox logo for films made using the new lenses. In order to give the design the required width to fit into the CinemaScope frame, Longo tilted the number "0" in "20th". The new fanfare was first used on the film How to Marry a Millionaire (1953). The Robe, the first film released in the CinemaScope format, featured a choir singing over the logo instead of the regular fanfare.
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By the 1970s, the Fox fanfare was being used in films sporadically. George Lucas enjoyed the Alfred Newman fanfare so much that he insisted for it to be used in Star Wars (1977). As a result, the original release of Star Wars featured the CinemaScope version of the logo, but with the version of fanfare as conducted by Lionel Newman, as the original version by Alfred Newman had been misfiled. John Williams composed the film's opening theme in the same key as the fanfare (B♭ major), serving as an extension to it of sorts. In 1980, Williams conducted a new version of the extended fanfare for The Empire Strikes Back. Williams' recording of the fanfare was then used in every subsequent Star Wars film until Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005). After the introduction of the CGI Fox logo in 1994, the series used the final view of the new logo, replicating look of the first three released films' opening logos and allowing the Lucasfilm logo to appear during the second part of the fanfare.
In 1981, Longo repainted and updated the logo design by recoloring it yellow, redesigning it, placing the monument on a background of blue clouds and straightened the "0" in "20th". The Fox fanfare was re-orchestrated in 1981, as Longo's revised logo was being introduced.
In 1994, after a few failed attempts (which even included trying to film the familiar monument as an actual three-dimensional model,) Fox in-house television producer Kevin Burns was hired to produce a new logo for the company, this time using the then-new process of computer-generated imagery (CGI). With the help of graphics producer Steve Soffer and his company Studio Productions (which had recently given face-lifts to the Paramount Pictures and Universal Studios logos in 1986 and 1990, respectively), Burns insisted that the new logo would contain more detail and animation, so that the longer 21-second Fox fanfare would be used as the underscore. The new logo incorporated a virtual Los Angeles cityscape that was designed around the monument. In the background, the Hollywood sign, which would give the monument an actual location (approximating Fox's actual address in Century City) can be seen. One final touch was the addition of store-front signs, with each one bearing the name of Fox executives who worked with the studio at the time. These include "Murdoch's Department Store" (referring to Rupert Murdoch, president of News Corporation, Fox's parent at the time), "Chernin's" (referring to Peter Chernin), "Burns Tri-City Alarm" (an homage to Burns' late father, who owned a burglar and fire alarm company in Upstate New York), "Steve's Place" (referring to Soffer) and "llinidi's". It was also the first time Fox was recognized as a subsidiary of News Corporation, as a byline reading "A News Corporation Company" was incorporated into the logo.
As the CGI logo was being prepared to premiere at the beginning of True Lies (1994), Burns asked Bruce Broughton to compose a new version of the familiar fanfare by Alfred Newman. In 1997, Alfred's son David Newman recorded the new version of the fanfare to reopen the Newman Scoring Stage (originally known as Fox Scoring Stage), and debuted with the release of Anastasia (1997). This rendition is still in use as of 2017[update].
In 2009, a newly updated CGI logo produced by Blue Sky Studios debuted with the film Avatar (2009). A "75th anniversary" version of the logo was introduced to coincide with 20th Century Fox's 75th anniversary the following year (much akin to practices made by most of the other American major film studios at the time), making its debut with Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief and its final one with Gulliver's Travels.
Numerous parodies of the fanfare have appeared in film and television. Variations have also been used by other Fox divisions and affiliated television stations, including WTVT in Tampa, Florida, and the now-defunct Fox Kids Network. Fox Searchlight Pictures, Foxstar Productions, and Fox Studios Australia are just a few of the other corporate entities that have used variations based on the original logo's design. 21st Century Fox, the corporate successor to the old News Corporation, uses a logo incorporating a minimalist representation of the searchlights featured in the logo.
‡—Includes theatrical reissue(s).
The Academy Film Archive houses the 20th Century Fox Features Collection which contains features, trailers, and production elements mostly from the Fox, Twentieth Century, and Twentieth Century-Fox studios, from the late 1920s–1950s.
Prior to the Company's acquisition, Lucasfilm produced six Star Wars films (Episodes 1 through 6). Lucasfilm was to retain the rights to consumer products related to all of the films and the rights related to television and electronic distribution formats for all of the films, with the exception of the rights for Episode 4, which are owned by a third-party studio. All of the films are distributed by a third-party studio in the theatrical and home video markets. The theatrical and home video distribution rights for these films were to revert to Lucasfilm in May 2020 with the exception of Episode 4, for which these distribution rights were to be retained in perpetuity by the third-party studio.
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