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Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

10201 West Pico Boulevard
Los Angeles, California 90064
U.S.A.
(310) 369-1000
Fax: (310) 203-2979
Web site: http://www.fox.com

Wholly Owned Subsidiary of Fox Inc.
Incorporated:
1915
Employees: 360
Sales: $1.2 billion (1996 est.)
SICs: 7812 Motion Picture, Video Tape Production; 7819 Services Allied to Motion Pictures

Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation is a subsidiary of Fox Inc., which is owned by media mogul Rupert Murdochs News Corporation Ltd. Throughout its long history, the company has enjoyed a reputation as a major Hollywood motion picture studio. It produced some of the more prominent box-office hitssuch as The Sound of Music and Star Wars and has expanded into related areas of the entertainment industry through the development of subsidiaries such as Fox Animation Inc. and Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment.

William Fox and his Nickelodeons

In 1904 William Fox, a 25-year-old Hungarian immigrant, bought his first nickelodeon, an early form of movie theater, in New York City. Within a few years Fox and two partners, B.S. Moss and Sol Brill, had parlayed their success into a chain of 25 nickelodeons.

The partners soon opened the Greater New York Film Rental Company, and then in 1913, concerned that the demand for movies had begun to outstrip supply, they organized the Box Office Attraction Company to begin producing their own movies. In 1915 Fox founded the Fox Film Corporation to produce, distribute, and exhibit movies and moved his operation to California, where he believed the temperate climate would be better suited to film production.

In 1925 Fox Films relocated to its fourth California location when Fox purchased the 250 acres of land in Hollywood which was to become the companys permanent home. In 1929 Fox Films bought 55 percent of Loews Inc., then the parent company of MGM, but was later forced by the government to sell that interest.

After several years of steady growth, the company experienced a series of shake-ups beginning in 1927, and in 1930 a group of stockholders ousted William Fox. Fox was replaced by Sidney R. Kent in 1932, and two years later Fox Film Corporation merged with Twentieth Century Pictures.

The Rise of the Twentieth Century Company

In 1933 Darryl F. Zanuck, head of production at Warner Brothers, had joined Joseph M. Schenck, head of United Artists, in forming the Twentieth Century Company. With Schenck as the administrator and Zanuck head of production, the Twentieth Century Company made 18 films in 18 months, including The House of Rothschild, The Affairs of Cellini, and Les Miserables. During this time, Twentieth Century began tapping into current news events for subject matter, with releases like the gangster films Little Caesar and Public Enemy. When the company merged with Fox Film Corporation in 1935, Zanuck became vice-president in charge of production of the new Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.

The company distinguished itself by producing two Academy Award-winning films during this time, The Grapes of Wrath in 1940 and How Green Was My Valley in 1941. Zanuck served as a lieutenant colonel during World War II, making training and combat documentary films. He was awarded the Legion of Merit for his wartime services.

After the war, Twentieth Century Fox produced such hits as The Snows of Kilimanjaro, Winged Victory, Twelve OClock High, The Razors Edge, and All About Eve. Zanuck also attacked controversial issues in several financially successful movies, proving that audiences would not shy away from such topics as mental illness, race relations, and anti-Semitism with The Snake Pit, Pinky, and Gentlemans Agreement.

Challenges of the 1950s

By the early 1950s Hollywoods heyday was being eclipsed by the advent of television; attendance at movie theaters declined sharply, and film production declined along with it. Studios like Twentieth Century Fox could no longer afford to maintain exclusive contracts with directors and film stars. In 1953 Zanuck began producing all the studios films in wide-screen CinemaScope, but the attraction of this technology did not compensate for the lack of box office hits. Frustrated, Zanuck left the company in 1956 to become an independent film producer in Paris.

The company replaced Zanuck with Spyros Skouras, a well-known theater owner. Skouras took over the company during a very bleak period. Between 1959 and 1961, Twentieth Century Fox lost $48.5 million; in 1962 it lost $39.8 million on revenues of $96.4 million. One immediate source of trouble was the production of Cleopatra. From an estimated cost of approximately $7 million in 1961, the films total expenditures ballooned to $41.5 million. The company poured money into the production, even selling 334 acres of land in Los Angeless Fox Hills section to help finance it, but this still wasnt enough.

In 1962 Zanuck, still one of the companys largest stockholders, persuaded his fellow-stockholders not to liquidate the business and returned to replace Skouras as president. Zanucks stability and professionalism soon bolstered the companys waning image. More importantly, however, Zanuck brought in quick cash. The Longest Day, an epic film about the D-Day landings at Normandy Beach, made by Zanucks own production company in Europe, was released through Twentieth Century Fox. A smash hit nominated for an Academy Award, the film brought in enough revenue to allow the company to begin making movies again in 1963.

Blockbusters of the 1960s

That same year Zanuck made his son Richard vice-president in charge of production. Only 28 years old, the younger Zanuck began making pictures with modest budgets, producing 20 movies in 14 months, and once revenues from these films began to accumulate, the company started more expensive productions. Unlike other movie makers at the time, the Zanucks continued to favor big, expensive production extravaganzas. Forgetting the failure of Cleopatra, the two men planned to release as many big pictures in as short a time as they could, hoping for a hit to keep the company solvent. This blockbuster strategy was one most other studios had abandoned because of the risk involved.

The release of The Sound of Music in 1964 appeared to vindicate the Zanucks strategy. The film became one of the top ten box office hits ever, bringing Twentieth Century Fox more than $79 million in revenues. Only a year and a half after its release, the movie had already outgrossed Gone With the Wind, the box office champion for nearly 27 years.

By the mid-1960s, Twentieth Century Fox had also grown into one of the largest television producers. During the 19661967 season, Twentieth Century Fox Television placed 12 shows on network TV. The firm also began to distribute its feature films to television. In one of the largest deals of the time, Fox leased 17 pictures to ABC for $19 million, including Cleopatra, The Longest Day, The Agony and the Ecstasy, and Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines.

With revenues garnered from television and The Sound of Music, the Zanucks went on to produce more lavish, big-budget movies such as Hello, Dolly!, Dr. Dolittle, and Tora! Tora! Tora! The success of The Sound of Music had fueled the Zanucks belief that expensive spectaculars were the best way to make money in the industry. In 1969 Darryl Zanuck appointed his son president of Twentieth Century Fox while he remained CEO.

However, Dr. Dolittle and Tora! Tora! Tora! turned out to be two of the biggest box office losers in the history of Hollywood; in 1969 Twentieth Century Foxs operating losses amounted to $36 million, and for the first nine months of the following year losses came to nearly $21 million.

Diversification in the 1970s

The financial strain, as well as creative differences, sparked a proxy fight for control of the company in 1970. Following a family feud, with Richard Zanuck and his mother opposing Darryl Zanuck, Richard was forced to resign. Four months later, Darryl Zanuck himself stepped down as chairman. William T. Gossett, an active boardmember and Detroit lawyer, became chairman. Richard Zanuck went on to produce several blockbuster movies, including Jaws and The Sting, for MCAs Universal Studios.

In 1971 Dennis C. Stanfill, a Twentieth Century Fox vice-president and a former Rhodes scholar, was named chairman and CEO, and later assumed the position of president. With a hands-on approach, Stanfill began a wide-ranging diversification program into the record business, broadcasting, film processing, and theme parks. Twentieth Century Foxs most important acquisitions during this time included a string of theaters in Australia and New Zealand, along with the addition of one NBC and two ABC affiliates to its chain of television stations across the United States.

In 1973 Stanfill hired Alan Ladd, Jr. to head the companys film division. Under Ladds direction. Twentieth Century Fox produced a number of very successful movies, including The Poseidon Adventure, Young Frankenstein, and The Towering Inferno, a joint release with Warner.

More importantly, however, Ladd also invested $10 million to produce a script that other large studios had turned down. In 1977, Star Wars became the biggest box office hit in film history and made over $200 million by the end of its first year. During the next five years, company profits quadrupled and its movies were nominated for 33 Academy Awards.

With profits from Star Wars, Stanfill accelerated his diversification program, buying Coca-Cola Bottling Midwest for $27 million; Aspen Skiing, the largest ski-resort operator in the United States, for $48 million; and Pebble Beach Corporation, the owner of a resort on the Monterey Peninsula in California, for $72 million. These acquisitions were meant to allow the company to reduce its reliance on film revenues.

Citing differences with Stanfill, Ladd left Twentieth Century Fox in 1979. In January 1980 Sherry Lansing was hired to replace him, becoming the first female to head the production office of a major motion picture studio. She had previously supervised the production of both The China Syndrome and Kramer vs. Kramer at Columbia Pictures. Two weeks before her appointment, Darryl Zanuck died in Palm Springs, California.

The Troubled 1980s

The release of movies like Norma Rae, Breaking Away, Alien, and The Empire Strikes Back made money for the company. However, the company also experienced disappointing box office sales from several films, including The Rose and / Ought To Be in Pictures. In 1980 operating income dropped ten percent and entertainment profits (which accounted for 56 percent of operating income) declined by 18 percent. In late 1980, when outside groups began to purchase large amounts of company stock, Stanfill initiated a management-led leveraged buyout to prevent a hostile takeover attempt.

In early 1981 Stanfills plan collapsed. In a move that took the film industry by surprise, oil magnate Marvin Davis and silent partner Marc Rich hastily formed a company called TCP Holdings, Inc., which bid $722 million for Twentieth Century Fox. Borrowing heavily, Davis put up only $55 million of his own money. The purchase was completed in June of the same year. Complaining of interference, Stanfill retired in July and sued Twentieth Century Fox for breach of contract. The $22 million suit was settled for $4 million. Vice-chairman Alan Hirschfield replaced Stanfill as chairman.

In the early 1980s Twentieth Century Foxs financial position deteriorated rapidly. Several movies, including Modern Problems, Six Pack, and Quest for Fire, never recouped their production costs. Moreover, Davis burdened the company with $650 million in debt to help pay back the loans TCI had secured to buy Twentieth Century Fox. To reduce this debt. Davis sold the soft drink-bottling subsidiary and the Australian theater chain. He also arranged a joint venture with Aetna Life & Casualty to develop Twentieth Century Foxs real estate properties.

In 1982, the situation went from bad to worse. Sherry Lansing and a number of other top-level officials left the company, reportedly due to Daviss interference in the creative process and his abrupt management style. Disagreements between Davis and Hirschfield also began to increase in intensity. Moreover, Aetna terminated its interest in the joint venture and sued Davis after a deal between Davis and Aetna (unrelated to Twentieth Century Fox) soured.

In October 1984, Davis bought the other 50 percent of TCP from Marc Rich, who had fled to Switzerland following his indictment for tax evasion and fraud. Davis paid $116 million for Richs share of the company.

During this time, Davis hired Barry Diller from Paramount to replace Hirschfield as chairman, guaranteeing him $3 million salary and a 25 percent interest in the company. Diller inherited a beleaguered company, so bad, in fact, that Diller later threatened to sue Davis, claiming that he misrepresented the studios difficulties when he was hired. Still, Dillers expertise quickly began to turn the company around, as he mounted a program to increase film production and sought financing from a variety of different sources.

Enter Rupert Murdoch

Then, in March 1985, Australian media mogul Rupert Murdoch advanced Twentieth Century Fox $88 million after buying a half interest in the company for $132 million. Murdoch assumed an active role at the company from the beginning. He acquired seven television stations from Metromedia, Inc. for $2 billion with the intention of drawing on Twentieth Century Foxs extensive library of films and TV shows. When Davis expressed concerns about the companys film operation being tied too closely to a television network, Murdoch offered to buy him out. And so, in September 1985, Davis agreed to sell his interest for $325 million, keeping some of Twentieth Century Foxs valuable real estate.

Twentieth Century Fox Film finally enjoyed some success during the late 1980s. In late 1987 Diller oversaw the release of two big hitsBroadcast News and Wall Street and his involvement with the studio lured back top talent that had defected elsewhere during the Davis years. A continuing string of successful films like Big and Working Girl boosted the companys earnings by 35 percent. Die Hard, starring Bruce Willis, grossed more than $80 million in 1989, and the film War of the Roses, starring Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner, and Danny DeVito, was also a big box-office success that year.

Yet, Twentieth Century Fox Films movie profits were eroded when Diller demonstrated more interest in the television side of the business than in film making. Specifically, Diller concentrated on bolstering the Fox Broadcasting Company to the detriment of film production. As one theatrical agent explained to Forbes, Barrys been distracted.

The company then hired Joe Roth, a film director, as the studios head, charging him with making Twentieth Century Fox Film more productive. Roth was indeed successful, producing multimillion-dollar blockbusters such as Home Alone and Edward Scissorhands. Soon Twentieth Century Fox Film placed first among the studios, controlling more than 18 percent of the box-office share in 1991. Roths hallmark was his ability to produce entertaining films at a low cost. He frequently chose to produce movies rejected by other studios and encouraged overseas sales to conserve costs. The film remained all important to Roth, who told Forbes, You have to start from the story. Then you manage the math.

Management Shake-Ups in the 1990s

Roth left Twentieth Century Fox in 1992 to become an independent producer for Walt Disney studios. The former president of the Fox Entertainment Group, Peter Chernin, replaced Roth as president. As management changed, confusion resulted regarding the responsibility for making key decisions at the Twentieth Century Fox Film studios. Rupert Murdoch himself suspended production of Steven Seagals Man of Honor, the actors directorial debut. Actor Macaulay Culkins father appeared to be making production decisions on his sons thriller The Good Son. Even new president Chernin stepped in to decline the Madonna film Angie, I Says when its producers would not comply with a re-write request.

More management changes followed when Strauss Zelnick, president and chief operating officer since 1989, resigned after accepting a position as president and chief executive of an entertainment software company in 1993. Bill Mechanic then moved from the Disney studios, where he served as president of the home video division, to assume the presidency of Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. As Zelnicks successor, Mechanic came to the studio with an extensive video background. In his new position, Mechanic was responsible not only for Foxs home video activities, but for production, marketing, distribution, international theatrical activities, and pay TV as well.

Exploring New Products and Positions

Unlike some major studios, Twentieth Century Fox Film supported the development of pay-per-view (PPV) television in 1993, a service through which customers could order new movies over the telephone for in-home viewing on their televisions. Although the company was not considering pay-per-view as a venue for new movie releases, the studio developed promotional and marketing strategies for its pay-per-view releases. For example, the company engineered retail tie-ins with the Improv, a comedy club, for the pay-per-view showings of such comedies as Hot Shots! Part Deaux! and Robin Hood: Men in Tights. In 1994, Twentieth Century-Fox Film negotiated a pay-per-view distribution agreement with DirecTV.

Twentieth Century Fox Film also established an interactive division that year. Foxs prior experience with video games had met with mixed results, as earlier forays in the pre-Nintendo days fell victim to the video game crash of the mid-1980s. Since then, Fox had typically licensed its film properties to video developers. This practice slowed, however, as the announcement of the new interactive division grew closer. One of Twentieth Century Fox Films first products in this arena was based on its movie The Pagemaster, an animated adventure set in a library. The Pagemaster game product was made available for a variety of platforms, including Sega Genesis, Nintendo Super Entertainment Systems, and Nintendo Game Boy. The company selected Al Ovadia, president of licensing and merchandising for the studio, to lead the new division.

Twentieth Century Fox Film launched another new enterprise in 1994an animation unit headquartered in Phoenix, Arizona. Called Fox Animation Inc., the new unit expected to issue one animated feature every 18 months or so. The studio recruited exceptional talent to lead its animation division, in particular Don Bluth and Gary Goldman, creators of such animated hits as An American Tail and Land before Time.

A year later, Twentieth Century Fox Film created yet another new division, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, to distribute its video and interactive programming products. Bob DeLellis assumed the presidency of Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment North America, and Jeff Yapp served as president of the divisions international operations.

In 1996 Twentieth Century Fox Film received the largest film financing in history through Citicorp, a bank holding company. The studio intended to use the capital for film production and acquisitions. With the help of Citicorp, explained Simon Bax, chief financial officer of Fox Filmed Entertainment, we were able to put together an innovative film financing structure on attractive terms. As a major studio and as a part of the News Corporation, we were able to put in place a mechanism for funding our full production slate over the next three years, while providing investors with an attractive return on their investment.

In 1997 Twentieth Century Fox Films animation unit released its first feature-length production, providing Disney studios with stiff competition. Anastasia, the story of the Russian tsarina thought to have survived the massacre of the Romanovs, received promotion valued at about $200 million from a variety of sponsors. Pictures of characters from Anastasia appeared on the packages of products from Dole Foods, while Hershey manufactured Anastasia-themed chocolate bars. Other products offered toy coupons or movie ticket orders. Anastasia even had a float in the Macys Thanksgiving Parade that year. Mechanic had great faith in the success of the units first feature. If you said to me I had to put my job on the line for any movie, I would put it on this one, the executive told Fortune. Anastasia made in excess of $58 million at the box office.

Twentieth Century Fox Film distributed Anastasia through pay-per-view television during the summer of 1998. Service providers were pleased with the decision, since it attracted a new audience for them. Anastasia could be the building block for the distribution of more nontraditional PPV programming in the future, Jamie McCabe, a vice-president of worldwide PPV, told Multichannel News.

In 1998 Twentieth Century Fox Film experienced one of its greatest successes to date, producing the Oscar-winning disaster picture Titanic. Breaking all box-office attendance records, the movie opened a merchandising treasure chest for the studio, which licensed merchandise, such as costumes and life jackets, to be sold through the catalog firm of J. Peterman. Other licensing agreements for t-shirts and collectibles followed, as did some unauthorized material. In fact, Twentieth Century Fox Film initiated litigation against Suarez Corporation Industries, located in Ohio and doing business as Lindenwold Fine Jewelers, for marketing a copy of a necklace featured in the movie.

A Hollywood institution, Twentieth Century Fox Film was likely to produce its share of blockbusters in the future. As technologies progressed, the company also planned to make its mark on other related areas of the entertainment industry, including interactive video games and animation.

Principal Subsidiaries

CBS/Fox Video; Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.

Further Reading

Benezra, Karen, and T. L. Stanley, Fox Fire: Anastasia Scores Fox $200 Million in Promo Support, Brandweek, July 7, 1997, p. 1.

Carvell, Tim, The Fox Vs. the Mouse, Fortune, November 24, 1997, p. 119.

Citicorp Arranges Largest Film Financing Ever for Twentieth Century Fox Corporation, Business Wire, August 8, 1996, p. 8081294.

DirecTV Announced DBS Distribution Deal with Twentieth Century Fox, Communications Daily, December 28, 1994, p. 6.

DirecTV Signed Pay-Per-View Distribution Agreement with Twentieth Century Fox, Communications Daily, December 22, 1994, p. 6.

Dunne, John Gregory. The Studio, New York: Straus & Giroux, 1969.

Fitzpatrick, Eileen, Fox Interactive Leaps Quickly into Game Software Fray, Billboard, June 4, 1994, p. 9.

Goldstein, Seth, Twentieth Century Fox Forms Distrib Arm for Growing Biz, Billboard, May 6, 1995, p. 7.

Greenstein, Jane, Fox to Form Game Division Within Months, Video Business, March 18, 1994, p. 1.

Gubernick, Lisa, Barrys Been Distracted, Forbes, January 8, 1990, p. 42.

, The Greats of Roth, Forbes, June 24, 1991, p. 132.

Hettrick, Scott, Mechanic Moving from Disney to Lead Fox Studio, Video Business, October 8, 1993, p. 1.

Kilday, Gregg, Hollywood Shuffle, Entertainment Weekly, November 20, 1992, p. 10.

, Whos the Boss at Fox?, Entertainment Weekly, December 4, 1992, p. 7.

Madden, John, Keeping Titanic Afloat; Digital Images, Intranet Database Help Movie Crew Track Assets, PC Week, April 6, 1998, p. 27.

McCullaugh, Jim, Mechanic Jumps from Disney VID to Rival Fox, Billboard, October 9, 1993, p. 6.

Ryan, Thomas J., Studio Sues Suarez over Titanic Necklace Knockoff, WWD, March 13, 1998, p. 5.

Spring, Greg, Fox Animation Unit Picks Phoenix for Headquarters; Site Location Was Personal Choice of Units Head Men, Los Angeles Business Journal, August 8, 1994, p. 12.

Strauss Zelnick, CD-ROM News Extra, August 1993, p. 22.

Thomas, Tony, and Aubrey Solomon, The Films of 20th Century-Fox: A Pictorial History, Secaucus, N.J.: Citadel Press, 1985.

Umstead, R. Thomas, Anastasia Set for PPV Distribution, Multichannel News, May 25, 1998, p. 24.

, Universal, Fox to Back PPV with Marketing Campaign, Multichannel News, November 29, 1993, p. 88.

updated by Charity Anne Dorgan

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Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

10201 West Pico Boulevard
Los Angeles, California 90035
U.S.A.
(213)277-2211

Wholly owned subsidiary of The News Corporation
Incorporated: 1915 as Fox Film Corporation
Employees: 2,200
Sales: $850 million

Twentieth Century Fox has had its up and downs. Over the years, this venerable Hollywood institution has saved itself from bankruptcy twice by producing blockbuster movies (The Sound of Music and Star Wars, two of the biggest box-office hits ever). After a fairly tumultuous 1980s, the company today is owned by Rupert Murdochs News Corporation, the Australian media conglomerate.

In 1904 William Fox, a 25-year-old Hungarian immigrant, bought his first nickelodeon in New York City. Within a few years Fox and two partners, B.S. Moss and Sol Brill, had parlayed their success into a chain of 25 nickelodeons.

The partners soon opened the Greater New York Film Rental Company. Then in 1913, concerned that the demand for movies had begun to outstrip supply, they organized the Box Office Attraction Company to begin producing their own movies. In 1915 Fox founded the Fox Film Corporation to produce, distribute, and exhibit movies and moved his operation to California, whose temperate climate was better suited to film production.

In 1925 Fox Films relocated to its fourth California location when Fox purchased the 250 acres of land in Hollywood which was to be the companys permanent home. In 1929 Fox Films bought 55% of Loews Inc., then the parent company of MGM, but was later forced by the government to sell that interest.

After several years of steady growth, the company experienced a series of shake-ups beginning in 1927, and in 1930 a group of stockholders ousted William Fox. Fox was replaced by Sidney R. Kent in 1932, and in 1935, Fox Film Corporation merged with Twentieth Century Pictures.

In 1933 Darryl F. Zanuck, head of production at Warner Brothers, had joined Joseph M. Schenck, head of United Artists, in forming the Twentieth Century Company. With Schenck as the administrator and Zanuck head of production, the Twentieth Century Company made 18 films in 18 months, including The House of Rothschild, The Affairs of Cellini, and Les Miserables. Only one film was unsuccessful. During this time, Twentieth Century began making movies out of current news events, with releases like Little Ceasar and Public Enemy. When the company merged with Fox Film Corporation in 1935, Zanuck became vice president in charge of production of the new Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.

Before America entered World War II, Twentieth Century Fox produced two Academy Award-winning films, The Grapes of Wrath in 1940, and How Green Was My Valley in 1941. During the war, Zanuck served as a lieutenant colonel, making training and combat documentary films. He was awarded the Legion of Merit for his wartime services.

After the war, Twentieth Century Fox produced such hits as The Snows of Kilimanjaro, Winged Victory, Twelve OClock High, The Razors Edge, and All About Eve. Zanuck also attacked controversial issues in several financially successful movies, proving that audiences did not shy away from issues like mental illness, race relations, and anti-Semitism with The Snake Pit, Pinky, and Gentleman 5 Agreement.

But by the early 1950s Hollywoods heyday was over. With the advent of television, attendance at movies declined sharply, and film production declined along with it. Studios like Twentieth Century Fox could no longer afford to maintain exclusive contracts with directors and film stars. In 1953 Zanuck began producing all the studios films in wide-screen CinemaScope. But the attraction of this system did not compensate for the lack of box office hits. Frustrated, Zanuck left the company in 1956 to become an independent film producer in Paris.

The company replaced Zanuck with Spyros Skouras, a well-known Greek theater owner. Between 1959 and 1961, Twentieth Century Fox lost $48.5 million; in 1962 it lost $39.8 million on revenues of $96.4 million.

The immediate source of trouble was the production of Cleopatra. From an estimated cost of approximately $7 million in 1961, the films total expenditures ballooned to $41.5 million. The company poured money into the production, even selling 334 acres of land in Los Angeless Fox Hills section to help finance it. But it still wasnt enough.

In 1962 Zanuck, still one of the companys largest stockholders, persuaded his fellow-stockholders not to liquidate the business and returned to replace Skouras as president. Zanucks stability and professionalism soon bolstered the companys waning image. More importantly, however, Zanuck brought in quick cash. The Longest Day, made by his own production company in Europe, was released through Twentieth Century Fox. A smash hit, it brought in enough revenue to allow the company to begin making movies again in 1963.

That same year Zanuck made his son Richard vice president in charge of production. Only 28 years old, the younger Zanuck began making pictures with modest budgets, producing 20 movies in 14 months. Once revenues from these films began to accumulate, the company started more expensive productions.

Unlike other movie makers, the Zanucks continued to produce big, expensive extravaganzas. Forgetting the failure of Cleopatra, the two men planned to release as many big pictures in as short a time as they could, hoping for a hit to keep the company solvent. This blockbuster strategy was one most other studios had abandoned because of the risk involved.

But the release of The Sound of Music in 1964 appeared to vindicate the Zanucks strategy. The film became one of the top ten box office hits ever, bringing Twentieth Century Fox more than $79 million in revenues. Only a year and a half after its release, the movie had already outgrossed Gone With the Wind, the box office champion for nearly 27 years.

By the mid-1960s, Twentieth Century Fox had also grown into one of the largest TV producers. During the 1966-1967 season, Twentieth Century Fox Television placed 12 shows on network TV. The firm also began to distribute its feature films to television. In one of the largest deals of the time, Fox leased 17 pictures to ABC for $19 million, including Cleopatra, The Longest Day, The Agony and the Ecstasy, and Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines.

With revenues garnered from television and The Sound of Music, the Zanucks went on to produce lavish, big-budget movies like Hello, Dolly!, Dr. Dolittle, and Tora! Tora! Tora! The success of The Sound of Music and less expensive hits like M*A*S*H and Patton fueled the Zanucks belief that expensive spectaculars were the best way to make money in the industry. In 1969 Darryl Zanuck appointed his son president of Twentieth Century Fox while he remained CEO.

Dr. Dolittle and Tora! Tora! Tora! were two of the biggest box office losers in the history of Hollywood; in 1969 Twentieth Century Foxs operating losses amounted to $36 million, and for the first nine months of the following year they came to nearly $21 million.

Following a proxy fight in 1970, in which Richard Zanuck and his mother opposed Darryl Zanuck, Richard was forced to resign. The Zanucks had quarreled over responsibility for the studios financial difficulties and over some creative matters. Richard was supported by such prominent shareholders as Broadway director David Merrick. Four months later, Darryl Zanuck himself stepped down as chairman. William T. Gossett, an active boardmember and Detroit lawyer, became chairman. Richard Zanuck went on to produce several blockbuster movies, including Jaws and The Sting, for MCAs Universal Studios.

In 1971 Dennis C. Stanfill, a Twentieth Century Fox vice president and a former Rhodes scholar, was named chairman and CEO, and later assumed the position of president. With a hands-on approach, Stanfill began a wide-ranging diversification program into the record business, broadcasting, film processing, and theme parks. Twentieth Century Foxs most important acquisitions during this time included a string of theaters in Australia and New Zealand, along with the addition of one NBC and two ABC affiliates to its chain of television stations across the United States.

In 1973 Stanfill hired Alan Ladd Jr. to head the companys film division. Under Ladds direction, Twentieth Century Fox produced a number of very successful movies, including The Poseidon Adventure, Young Frankenstein, and The Towering Inferno, a joint release with Warner. Ladd also invested $10 million to produce a script that other large studios had turned down. In 1977 Star Wars became the biggest box office hit in film history and made over $200 million by the end of its first year. During the next five years, company profits quadrupled and its movies were nominated for 33 Academy Awards.

With the money from Star Wars, Stanfill accelerated his diversification program, buying Coca-Cola Bottling Midwest for $27 million; Aspen Skiing, the largest ski-resort operator in the United States, for $48 million; and Pebble Beach Corporation, the owner of a resort on the Monterey Peninsula in California, for $72 million. These acquisitions were meant to allow the company to reduce its reliance on film revenues.

Because of differences with Stanfill, Ladd left Twentieth Century Fox in 1979. In January, 1980 Sherry Lansing was hired to replace him, becoming the first female to head the production office of a major motion picture studio. She had previously supervised the production of both The China Syndrome and Kramer vs. Kramer at Columbia Pictures. Two weeks before her appointment, Darryl Zanuck died in Palm Springs, California.

The release of movies like Norma Rae, Breaking Away, Alien, and The Empire Strikes Back made money for the company. But these hits were offset by losers like The Rose and / Ought To Be in Pictures. In 1980 operating income dropped 10% and entertainment profits (which accounted for 56% of operating income) declined by 18%. In late 1980, when outside groups began to purchase large amounts of company stock, Stanfill initiated a management-led leveraged buyout to prevent a hostile takeover attempt.

In early 1981 Stanfills plan collapsed. In a move that took the film industry by surprise, oil magnate Marvin Davis and silent partner Marc Rich hastily formed a company called TCF Holdings, Inc., which bid $722 million for Twentieth Century Fox. Borrowing heavily, Davis put up only $55 million of his own money. The purchase was completed in June of the same year. Complaining of interference, Stanfill retired in July, and sued Twentieth Century Fox for breach of contract. The $22 million suit was settled for $4 million. Vice chairman Alan Hirschfield replaced Stanfill as chairman.

In the early 1980s Twentieth Century Foxs financial position deteriorated rapidly. Several movies, including Modern Problems, Six Pack, and Quest for Fire, never recouped their production costs. Davis burdened the company with $650 million in debt to help pay back the loans TCI had secured to buy Twentieth Century Fox. To reduce this debt, Davis sold the soft drink-bottling subsidiary and the Australian theater chain. He also arranged a joint venture with Aetna Life & Casualty to develop Twentieth Century Foxs real estate properties.

But in 1982, the situation went from bad to worse. Sherry Lansing and a number of other top-level officials left the company, reportedly due to Daviss interference in the creative process and his abrupt management style. Disagreements between Davis and Hirschfield also began to increase in intensity. Moreover, Aetna terminated its interest in the joint venture and sued Davis after a deal between Davis and Aetna (and unrelated to Twentieth Century Fox) soured.

In October, 1984, Davis bought the other 50% of TCF from Marc Rich, who had fled to Switzerland following his indictment for tax evasion and fraud. Davis paid $116 million for Richs share of the company.

Also in late 1984 Davis hired Barry Diller from Paramount to replace Hirschfield as chairman, guaranteeing him $3 million salary and a 25% interest in the company. Dillers expertise quickly began to turn the company around, despite the trouble the company was in (it was so bad, in fact, that Diller threatened to sue Davis, claiming that he misrepresented the studios difficulties to him when he was hired). Nonetheless, Diller mounted a program to increase film production and sought financing from a variety of different sources. Then, in March, 1985, Australian media mogul Rupert Murdoch advanced Twentieth Century Fox $88 million after buying a half interest in the company for $132 million.

Murdoch assumed an active role at the company from the beginning. He acquired seven television stations from Metromedia, Inc. for $2 billion with the intention of drawing on Twentieth Century Foxs movie library and TV shows. When Davis expressed concerns about the companys film operation being tied too closely to a television network, Murdoch offered to buy him out. And so, in September 1985, Davis agreed to sell his interest for $325 million, keeping some of Twentieth Century Foxs valuable real estate.

Murdoch and Diller turned Twentieth Century Fox around. In late 1987 Diller oversaw the release of two big hits Broadcast News and Wall Streetand his involvement with the studio has lured back top talent which had defected elsewhere during the Davis years. A continuing string of successful films like Big and Working Girl have boosted the companys earnings by 35%. Now that Twentieth Century Fox, under Dillers keen eye, has begun to turn a profit again, it appears that the company is back on track and ready for the future.

Principal Subsidiaries

Amcoho Co. (50%); Aspen Skiing Co. (50%); National Wiz. Co. (60%); Studio Properties Co. (50%); Pebble Beach Co. (50%); CinemaScope Products, Inc.; Twentieth Century-Fox Theatre Productions, Inc.; Twentieth Century-Fox Video Inc. (50%); Twentieth Century-Fox Film (East) Ltd. (Singapore); Twentieth Century-Fox Film (S.A.) (Pty.) Ltd. (South Africa); Hispano Fox Films S.A.E. (Spain); Aktiebolaget Fox Film (Sweden); Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp. S.d. E.P. la S. (Switzerland); Twentieth Century-Fox Film del Uruguay, Ltd.; Twentieth Century-Fox Trinidad, Ltd.; Zambia Film Services Ltd.

Further Reading

Dunne, John Gregory. The Studio, New York, Straus & Giroux, 1969; Thomas, Tony, and Solomon, Aubrey. The Films of 20th Century-Fox: A Pictorial History, Secaucus, New Jersey, Citadel Press, 1985.

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"Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation." International Directory of Company Histories. 1990. Encyclopedia.com. 29 Jul. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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