On this day in Film History: United Artists is born

On this day in film history, the United Artists film and television entertainment studio was founded by D.W. Griffith, Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks. The purpose of creating this studio was to be able to control their own interests in filmmaking, rather than depend upon the growing power of the commercial studios.

In 1919 (the year the studio was founded), the still-young Hollywood was busy consolidating power in any way it could. Directors were being given near-absolute power over their productions, and if you were an actor working for one of these studios, you had very little (if any) say in how you could work, when you could work or how much you made when you worked. Fed up with this status quo, Griffith, Chaplin, Pickford and Fairbanks split off and founded their own company.

While United Artists occasionally turned a profit, the studio lost money more often than not, and it has closed and been “re-founded” on several occasions.

In 1981, MGM acquired United Artists and for a while the combined studios were known as MGM/UA.

In 2005, MGM and United Artists were acquired for $4.5 billion dollars by a partnership of Sony, Comcast and several banks.

The next year, Tom Cruise helped to resurrect United Artists, and he stayed with the company until late 2011. Today, the United Artists Media Group (the current incarnation) continues to produce films and television series, though I’m sure the original founders would barely recognize the place today.

Among United Artists more profitable ventures is its involvement in the James Bond franchise, The Magnificent Seven films and the original Pink Panther film series.

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