Founded: May 31 1935
Defunct: January 17 2020
Fate: Being renamed by the Walt Disney company
Predecessor: 20th century pictures.inc and Fox film corporation
Successor: 20th century studios
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, also known as 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. Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures distributes and markets the films produced by 20th Century Fox.
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 20th Century Pictures in 1935. In 1985, the studio was acquired by News Corporation, which was succeeded by 21st Century Fox in 2013, after spinning off its publishing assets. In 2019, Disney purchased 20th Century Fox through its acquisition of 21st Century Fox. The studio ended up being defunct to become renamed on January 17, 2020.
From founding to 1956
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. Fox Film Corporation and Twentieth Century Pictures merged in 1935. Initially, it was speculated in The New York Times that the newly merged company would be named Fox-Twentieth Century. 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 Wilson (1944), The Razor's Edge (1946), Boomerang, Gentleman's Agreement (both 1947), The Snake Pit (1948), and Pinky (1949), 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. The studio 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 written especially for films.
After the war, audiences slowly drifted away with the advent of television. 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 process. 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-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.
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, 20th Century-Fox was in trouble. A new version of Cleopatra (1963) began production 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. Richard Burton's on-set romance with Taylor was surrounding the media. However, Skouras' selfish preferences and inexperienced micromanagement on the film's production did nothing to speed up production on Cleopatra.
Meanwhile, another remake — of the Cary Grant hit My Favorite Wife (1940) — was rushed into production in an attempt to turn over a quick profit to help keep 20th Century-Fox afloat. The romantic comedy entitled Something's Got to Give paired Marilyn Monroe, 20th Century-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, 20th Century-Fox sold its back lot (now the site of Century City) to Alcoa in 1961 to raise funds. After several weeks of script rewrites on the Monroe picture and very little progress, mostly due to director George Cukor's filming methods, in addition to Monroe's chronic sinusitis, Monroe was fired from Something's Got to Give and two months later she was found dead. According to 20th Century-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 20th Century-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 20th Century-Fox was then forced to allow Taylor several more weeks of filming. In the meantime during 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), an 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 20th Century-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 (the archives of which are now owned by Fox News), and made a series of cheap, popular pictures that restored 20th Century-Fox as a major studio. The saving grace for 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.
20th Century-Fox also had two big science-fiction hits in the decade: 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; the studio had held on the format while Panavision lenses were being used elsewhere.
Zanuck stayed on as chairman until 1971, but there were several expensive flops in his last years, resulting in 20th Century-Fox posting losses from 1969 to 1971. Following his removal, and after an uncertain period, new management brought 20th Century-Fox back to health. Under president Gordon T. Stulberg and production head Alan Ladd, Jr., 20th Century-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 20th 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 20th Century-Fox was already in the lead with their property it would be career suicide to have competing movies. Thus the first joint-venture studio deal was struck. In hindsight, while it may be commonplace now, back in the 1970s, it was a risky, but revolutionary, idea that paid off handsomely at both domestic and international box offices around the world.
20th Century-Fox's success reached new heights by backing the most profitable film made up to that time, Star Wars (1977). 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 20th Century-Fox was sold for $720 million on June 8, 1981 to investors Marc Rich and Marvin Davis. 20th Century-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's News Corporation 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 ahead alone and bought the stations, and later bought out Davis' remaining stake in 20th Century Fox for $325 million. From 1985, the hyphen was quietly dropped from the brand name, with 20th Century-Fox changing to 20th Century Fox. To gain FCC approval of 20th Century-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. The company formed its Fox Family Films division in 1994 to boost production at the studio and would handled animation films. In February 1998, following the success of Anastasia, Fox Family Films changed its name to Fox Animation Studios and drop its live action production which would be picked up by other production units. Since January 2000, this company has been the international distributor for MGM/UA releases. In the 1980s, 20th Century 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 20th Century Fox for video distribution. 20th Century Fox also makes money distributing films for small independent film companies.
In late 2006, Fox Atomic was started up under Fox Searchlight head Peter Rice and COO John Hegeman as a sibling production division under Fox Filmed Entertainment. In early 2008, Atomic's marketing unit was transferred to Fox Searchlight and 20th Century Fox, when Hegeman moved to New Regency Productions. Debbie Liebling became president. After two middling successes and falling short with other films, the unit was shut down in April 2009. The remaining films under Atomic in production and post-productions were transferred to 20th Century Fox and Fox Spotlight with Liebling overseeing them.
In 2008, 20th Century 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 2008, 20th Century Fox started Fox International Productions . Chernin Entertainment was founded by Peter Chernin after he stepped down as president of 20th Century Fox's then-parent company News Corp. in 2009. Chernin Entertainment's five-year first-look deal for the film and television was signed with 20th Century Fox and 20th Century Fox TV in 2009. 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 for 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 February 22, 2019 with the release of How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World.
21st Century Fox era
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 operated 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. Fox Stage Productions was formed in June 2013. In August 2013, 20CF started a theatrical joint venture with a trio of producers, both film and theater, Kevin McCollum, John Davis and Tom McGrath. In September 2017, Locksmith Animation formed a multi-year production deal with 20th Century Fox, who will distribute Locksmith's films, with Locksmith aiming to release a film every 12–18 months. The deal was to bolster Blue Sky's output and replace the loss of distributing DreamWorks Animation films. Technoprops, a VFX company that worked on Avatar and The Jungle Book, was purchased in April 2017 to operate as Fox VFX Lab. Technoprops' founder Glenn Derry would continue to run the company as vice president of visual effect reporting to John Kilkenny, VFX president. On October 30, 2017, Vanessa Morrison was named president of a new created 20th Century Fox division, Fox Family, reporting to the Chairman & CEO and Vice Chairman of 20th Century Fox. The family division would develop films that appeal to younger moviegoers and their parents both animated films and films with live action elements. Also, the division would oversee the studio's family animated television business, which produce based holiday television specials on existing film properties, and oversee feature film adaptation of its TV shows. To replace Morrision at Fox Animation, Andrea Miloro and Robert Baird were named co-presidents of 20th Century Fox Animation. 20th Century Fox issued a default notice in regards to its licensing agreement for the under-construction 20th Century Fox World theme park in Malaysia by Genting Malaysia Bhd. In November 2018 Genting Malaysia filed suit in response and included soon to be parent The Walt Disney Company.
Disney era and studio renaming
On December 14, 2017, The Walt Disney Company announced plans to purchase most of the 21st Century Fox assets, including 20th Century Fox, for $52.4 billion. After a bid from Comcast (parent company of NBCUniversal) for $65 billion, Disney counterbid with $71.3 billion. On July 19, 2018, Comcast dropped out of the bid for 21st Century Fox in favor of Sky plc and Sky UK. Eight days later, Disney and 21st Century Fox shareholders approved the merger between the two companies. Although the deal was completed on March 20, 2019, 20th Century Fox was not planning to relocate to Walt Disney Studios in Burbank. It would retain its headquarters in Century City on the Fox Studio Lot, which is currently leased to Disney by Fox Corporation, for seven years. Various units were moved out from under 20th Century Fox at acquisition and months after the merger plus there were several rounds of layoffs.
On January 17, 2020, Disney renamed the studio as 20th Century Studios (legally, 20th Century Studios, Inc.), which served to help avoid brand confusion with the Fox Corporation. Similar to other Disney film units, distribution of 20th Century films is now handled by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, while Searchlight Pictures operates their own autonomous distribution unit. The first film released by Disney under the studio's new name was The Call of the Wild. In January 2020, held-over production president Emma Watts resigned from the company. On March 12, 2020, Steve Asbell was named president, production of 20th Century Studios, while Morrison was named president, streaming, Walt Disney Studios Motion Picture Production to oversee live action development and production of Disney Live Action and 20th Century Studios for Disney+. Philip Steuer will now lead physical and post production, as well as VFX, as president of production at Walt Disney Studios Motion Picture Production. Randi Hiller will now lead casting as executive vp casting, overseeing for both Disney Live Action and 20th Century Studios. Steuer has served as executive vp physical production for Walt Disney Studios since 2015, and Hiller has led casting for Walt Disney Studios since 2011. Both will dual-report to Asbell and Bailey.
in the end of the "Fox" name removal. 20th Century Fox is defunct