20th Century Studios
Twentieth Century Studios (styled as 20th Century Studios and formerly named 20th Century Fox) is an American film studio that is a subsidiary of The Walt Disney Studios, a division of The Walt Disney Company. The studio is located on the Fox Studio Lot in the Century City area of Los Angeles.
20th Century Fox was one of the “Big Six” major American film studios for over 83 years. It was formed from the merger of the Fox Film Corporation and the original Twentieth Century Pictures in 1935. In 1985, the studio was acquired by News Corporation, which was succeeded by 21st Century Fox in 2013 following the spin-off of its publishing assets. In 2019, Disney purchased 20th Century Fox through its acquisition of 21st Century Fox. The studio’s current name was adapted on January 17, 2020.
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). The company had been struggling since founder William Fox lost control of the company in 1930.
The new company, Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation, began trading on May 31, 1935. Kent remained at the company, joining Schenck and Zanuck. Zanuck replaced Winfield Sheehan as the company’s production chief.
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 signed young actors to help carry 20th Century-Fox: Tyrone Power, Linda Darnell, Carmen Miranda, Don Ameche, Henry Fonda, Gene Tierney, Sonja Henie, and Betty Grable. 20th Century-Fox also hired Alice Faye and Shirley Temple, who appeared in several major films for the studio in the 1930s. Higher attendance during World War II helped 20th Century-Fox overtake RKO and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer to become the third most profitable film studio. In 1941, Zanuck was commissioned as a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Signal Corps and assigned to supervise production of U.S. Army training films. His partner, William Goetz, filled in at 20th Century-Fox.
In 1942, Spyros Skouras succeeded Kent as president of the studio. 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. 20th Century-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 20th Century-Fox film of the 1940s. 20th Century-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. 20th 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, 20th 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, 20th Century-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 20th Century-Fox pictures would be made in CinemaScope. To convince theater owners to install this new process, 20th Century-Fox agreed to help pay conversion costs (about $25,000 per screen); and to ensure enough product, 20th Century-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 20th Century-Fox engaged Robert Lippert to establish a subsidiary company, Regal Pictures, later Associated Producers Incorporated to film B pictures in CinemaScope (but “branded” RegalScope). 20th Century-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.
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