Area served Worldwide
Parent organization Fox Entertainment Group
Founded 31 May 1935
|Predecessor Fox FilmTwentieth Century Pictures|
Key people Stacey Snider(Chairman and CEO)
Products Motion pictures, television films
CEO Jim Gianopulos (1 Jan 2013–)
Headquarters Los Angeles, California, United States
Subsidiaries Fox Searchlight Pictures, Blue Sky Studios
Founders Darryl F. Zanuck, Joseph M. Schenck
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation (known as Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation with a hyphen from 1935 until 1985, professionally as 20th Century Fox, Twentieth Century Fox or simply known as Fox) is an American film studio currently owned by 21st Century Fox. It is one of the Big Six major American film studios and is located in the Century City area of Los Angeles, just west of Beverly Hills. The studio was formerly owned by News Corporation.
- Production and financial problems
- Marvin Davis and Rupert Murdoch
- Motion picture film processing
- Highest grossing films
20th Century Fox is a member of the Motion Picture Association of America. In 2015, 20th Century Fox celebrated its 80th anniversary as a studio.
Twentieth Century Pictures' Joseph Schenck and Darryl F. Zanuck left United Artists (UA) 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. Schenck became Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, while Kent remained as President. 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, the only work that the famous team wrote especially for films, in 1945, and continuing years later with Carousel in 1956, The King and I, and The Sound of Music. They also made the 1958 film version of South Pacific. Fox released B pictures made by producers Edward L. Alperson from the mid-1940s and Robert L. Lippert (Regal and later Associated Pictures Inc.) in the mid-1950s.
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.
The success of The Robe was large enough for Zanuck to announce 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, 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).
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.
Production and financial problems
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 one million dollars 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 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 the ten-million-dollar mark, settling somewhere 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 slow and repetitive filming, 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 one million dollars, $500K to finish Something's Got to Give, plus a bonus at completion, and $500K for What a Way to Go. Elizabeth Taylor's disruptive 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, 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 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 something had to give and re-signed her. 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 went on to be recognized as one of the great World War II films.
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 one of the all-time greatest box office hits and went on to win 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 (which introduced Raquel Welch to film audiences) in 1966, and the original Planet of the Apes, starring Charlton Heston, Kim Hunter, and Roddy McDowall, in 1968. 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.
Marvin Davis and Rupert Murdoch
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 1985, Rich was a fugitive from U.S. justice, and Davis bought out his interest in Fox for $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 will end 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 February 16, 2018 with the release of Larrikins.
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 houses 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.
As of 2016, in Australia, 20th Century Fox has an expanded movie deal to replay movie and television content from television broadcasters, Network Ten, Eleven and One occasionally also on Nine Network, 9Gem & 9Go!.
In Sweden, the Netherlands and in the Philippines, 20th Century Fox films are distributed by fellow rival Warner Bros.
20th Television is Fox's television syndication division. 20th Century Fox Television is the studio's television production division.
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.
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.
Motion picture film processing
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 now-iconic 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 CinemaScope-processed films. 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.
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.
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 on 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 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. On October 9, 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 1998.
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 in 2010 (much akin to practices made by most of the other American major film studios at the time), and made its official debut with Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief and made its final appearance with Gulliver's Travels.
As television grew as a medium, the practice of placing production logos at the end of programs became commonplace. For Fox's television arm, a truncated version of the Newman fanfare has been used with a brief shot of the Fox logo. Originally, syndicated programs would overlay "Television" over "Century" in an animation, resulting in the logo reading "20th Television Fox". Today, CGI logos are used, with 20th Century Fox Television primarily for Fox network programming, and 20th Television for other programming (such as cable and syndication).
Parodies of the fanfare have appeared at the start of the films Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines (played by a small band, imitating the silent era of films), The Cannonball Run (cars drive around the logo and knock out the searchlights), White Men Can't Jump (rap version of the fanfare), Alien 3 (fanfare slows down into an eerie sound), The Day After Tomorrow (thunderstorm on the set), Live Free or Die Hard (where the searchlights go out as a result of a power outage), The Rocky Horror Picture Show (featuring a silent-movie piano version of the fanfare), The Simpsons Movie (Ralph Wiggum "sings along" with the fanfare; in trailers and commercials, the "0" in the tower is replaced by a pink, half-bitten doughnut of the type Homer eats), Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs (with snow and volcanoes covering the logo, but the regular 20th Century Fox logo was shown on the film's DVD and Blu-ray releases instead, but is shown on the Blu-ray 3D and TrioScopics 3D DVD releases), X-Men: Days of Future Past and its sequel X-Men: Apocalypse (the end of the fanfare features an additional few bars from the X-Men theme), Rio 2 (Samba version of the fanfare), The Peanuts Movie (played by Schroeder on his toy piano) and Minority Report (where the logo alongside the DreamWorks logo appears immersed in water, similar to the film's "precog" characters). The fanfare was also used within What a Way to Go!, as the theme of "Lush Budged Productions", opening Shirley MacLaine's fantasy of her marriage to Robert Mitchum.
Variations have also been used by other Fox divisions and affiliated television stations, including WTVT in Tampa, FL, 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 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.