美国环球电影公司

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美国环球电影公司(Universal Studios)
美国环球电影公司(Universal Studios)

官方网站网址:http://www.universalstudios.com/

目录

美国环球电影公司简介

  环球影片公司(Universal Studios )有时也称 Universal Pictures or Universal City Studios 。

  1912年美国独立电影公司的老板C.莱默尔把他的公司和N.鲍尔斯等六七家小电影公司合并,组成环球影片公司,在30—40年代成为美国电影业的8家大公司之一。莱默尔于1914年在好莱坞北面建起了摄影棚和供拍外景用的场地,命名为环球城。1915年3月环球城正式启用;当年生产影片250部。30-40年代生产了大量低成本影片,其中大多是西部片、音乐片、恐怖片和滑稽片。如B.卡洛夫主演的恐怖片,D.窦萍主演的音乐片,B.阿博和L.卡斯特洛主演的滑稽片,都有很高的票房价值,赢利颇丰。在它的产品中,象《西线无战事》(1930)那样的严肃作品极少。1946年环球公司和国际影片公司合并为环球国际公司。1952年德卡唱片公司购得了环球国际公司的大部分股票之后,恢复了旧名。以后该公司又归美国音乐公司(MGA)所有,直到80年代。50年代一改过去大量摄制低成本片的做法,采取少拍片以提高技术质量的方针。同时采用资助独立制片人拍摄影片的方法,其中不乏成功之作,如《斯巴达克斯》(1960)。60年代,公司集中全力提供电视片和供电视放映的影片。同时还把环球城作为好莱坞的一个旅游中心向旅游者开放而利润倍增。70年代摄制了颇有影响的《美国风情画》(1973)以及该公司历史上获利最多的娱乐影片《大白鲨》(1975)。

环球电影公司历史

  The founder of Universal, Carl Laemmle, was a German Jewish immigrant who settled in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, where he managed a clothing store. On a 1905 buying trip to Chicago, he was struck by the popularity of nickelodeons. One story has Laemmle watching a box office for hours, counting patrons and calculating the take for the day. Within weeks of his Chicago trip, he gave up dry goods to buy the first of several nickelodeons. For Laemmle and other such entrepreneurs, the creation in 1908 of the Edison-backed Motion Picture Trust meant that exhibitors were expected to pay fees for any Trust-produced film they showed. On the basis of Edison's patent on the electric motor used in cameras and projectors, along with other patents, the Trust collected fees on all aspects of movie production and exhibition, and also held a monopoly on distribution.

  Soon Laemmle and other disgruntled nickelodeon owners decided to avoid paying Edison by producing their own pictures. In June 1909, Laemmle started the Yankee Film Company with partners Abe and Julius Stern. That company quickly evolved into the Independent Moving Picture Company, or IMP. Laemmle broke with Edison's custom of refusing credit to actors. By naming the stars of films, he was able to attract many of the leading players of the time, and contributed to the creation of the star system. Most notably, in 1910, he actively promoted Florence Lawrence, then known as the "Biograph girl", in what may be the first instance of a studio using a film star in its marketing.

  On June 8, 1912, Laemmle merged IMP with eight smaller companies to form the Universal Film Manufacturing Company, introducing the word "universal" into the organization's name. Laemmle was the primary figure in a partnership that included Mark Dintinfass, Charles Baumann, Adam Kessel, and Pat Powers. Eventually all would be bought out by Laemmle. The new studio was a horizontally integrated company, with both movie production and distribution capacity (though the company lacked a major circuit of exhibtion venues, ownership of which would become a central element of film industry integration in the following decade). The name was later changed to Universal Pictures Company, Inc.

  Following the westward trend of the industry, by the end of 1912 the company was focusing its production efforts in the Hollywood area. In 1915, Laemmle opened the world's largest motion picture production facility, Universal City Studios, on a 230-acre (0.9-km²) converted farm just over the Cahuenga Pass from Hollywood. Studio management now became the third facet of Universal's operations, with the studio incorporated as a distinct subsidiary organization. Unlike other movie moguls, Laemmle opened his studio to tourists. Universal became the biggest studio in Hollywood, and remained so for a decade. However, it sought an audience mostly in small towns, producing mostly melodramas, cheap westerns, and serials.

  Despite Laemmle's role as an innovator, he was an extremely cautious studio chief. Unlike rivals Adolph Zukor, William Fox, and Marcus Loew, Laemmle chose not to develop a theater chain. He also financed all of his own films, refusing to take on debt. By 1925, Universal had lost its role as the biggest studio to MGM. This was in part due to the talents of a former Universal producer, Irving Thalberg, who left after MGM offered him more money. By the end of the 1920s, Universal was a second-tier studio and would remain so for several decades.

  In 1926, Universal also opened a production unit in Germany, Deutsche Universal-Film AG, under the direction of Joe Pasternak. This unit produced 3 to 4 films per year until 1936, migrating to Hungary and then Austria in the face of Hitler's increasing domination of central Europe. With the advent of sound, these productions were made in the German language or, occasionally, Hungarian or Polish. In the U.S., Universal Pictures did not distribute any of this subsidiary's films, but at least some of them were exhibited through other, independent, foreign-language film distributors based in New York, without benefit of English subtitles. Nazi persecution and a change in ownership for the parent Universal Pictures organization resulted in the dissolution of this subsidiary.

"Oswald" fallout gives rise to "Mickey Mouse" and The Walt Disney empire

  Contentious business dealings involving Universal over the drawing of a cartoon character may very well have affected the course of animation history.

  By 1927, Charles B. Mintz, a film producer and distributor, took control over Margaret J. Winkler's Winkler Pictures after marrying Winkler. He commissioned an all new all-animated series for production that would be distributed through Universal Pictures. The series, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, was created by animator Ub Iwerks, an original partner of famed studio magnate Walt Disney. A young Disney, in the years before gaining worldwide acclaim with his own studio, earlier entered into a creative contract with Winkler for producing cartoon shorts like "Oswald." Disney tried negotiating a higher fee for the shorts he was making.

  Yet while Iwerks created the "Oswald" character, which had enjoyed a successful theatrical run, Universal - and not Disney - owned the rights to it. This gave Mintz leverage in actually demanding that Disney accept a lower fee for producing the property or he would produce the films with his own group of animators. In the end, Disney refused the offer and the rest is history.

  As an alternative, he and Iwerks created what became Disney's flagship trademark, Mickey Mouse, which contained some of Oswald's features and soared to popularity following the duo's producing of its first talking short, Steamboat Willie. This moment effectively launched the Disney empire, while Universal became a relatively minor player in movie animation after Oswald. In 2006, after almost 80 years, NBC Universal sold Oswald back to Disney, in return for acquiring the contract of then-ABC TV sportscaster Al Michaels to work NBC's new Sunday night NFL football package.

Keeping leadership of the studio in the family

  In 1928, Laemmle, Sr. made his son, Carl, Jr. head of Universal City Studios as a 21st birthday present. Universal already had a reputation for nepotism—at one time, 70 of Carl, Sr.'s relatives were on the payroll. To his credit, Carl, Jr. persuaded his father to allow bring Universal up to date. He bought and built theaters, converted the studio to sound production, and made several forays into high-quality production. His early efforts included the 1929 part-talkie version of Show Boat, the lavish musical Broadway (1929) which included Technicolor sequences, the first all-color musical feature (for Universal); King of Jazz (1930); and All Quiet on the Western Front, winner of the "Best Picture" award for 1930. Laemmle, Jr. also created a successful niche for the studio, beginning a long-running series of monster movies, affectionately dubbed: Universal Horror, among them Frankenstein, Dracula, and The Mummy. Other Laemmle productions of this period include Imitation of Life and My Man Godfrey.

The Laemmles lose control
好莱坞,环球电影公司大门
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好莱坞,环球电影公司大门

  Ironically, Universal's forays into high-quality production nearly broke the company. Taking on the task of modernizing and upgrading a film conglomerate in the depths of the depression was risky, and for a time Universal slipped into receivership. The theater chain was scrapped, but Carl, Jr. held fast to distribution, studio and production operations. The end for the Laemmles came with a lavish remake of Show Boat, featuring several stars from the Broadway stage version, which began production in late 1935. However, Carl, Jr.'s spending habits alarmed company stockholders, especially after the costly flop of Sutter's Gold earlier in the year. They would not allow production to start on Show Boat unless the Laemmles obtained a loan. Universal was forced to seek a $750,000 production loan from the Standard Capital Corporation, pledging the Laemmle family's controlling interest in Universal as collateral. It was the first time in Universal's 26-year history that it had borrowed money for a production. Production problems resulted in a $300,000 overrun. When Standard called the loan in, a cash-strapped Universal couldn't pay. Standard foreclosed and seized control of the studio on April 2, 1936. Show Boat was released in 1936 and is widely considered to be one of the greatest film musicals of all time. However, it was not enough to save the Laemmles, who were unceremoniously removed from the company they had founded.

  Standard Capital's J. Cheever Cowdin took over as President and Chairman of the Board of Directors and instituted severe cuts in production budgets. Gone were the big ambitions, and though Universal had few big names under contract, those it had been cultivating, like William Wyler and Margaret Sullavan, now left. By the start of World War II, the company was concentrating on small-budget production of the fare that had once been Universal's sidelines: westerns, melodramas, serials and sequels to the studio's horror classics. Only the films of young singer Deanna Durbin were given reasonably high budgets, under the control of Joe Pasternak upon his emigration from Europe; if any one star can be said to have kept Universal in business during the late 1930s, it was Durbin, despite her often being woefully miscast as a young teenager when she was, clearly, a fully adult woman. Fortunately, just when Durbin outgrew her screen persona, the studio signed the comedy team of Abbott and Costello (Bud Abbott and Lou Costello) to a long-term contract. A string of low-budget hits beginning with "Buck Privates" (1941) placed Abbott and Costello among the top box office draws in the country, improving Universal's bottom line even more than Durbin's glossy productions had. Other low and medium budget fare dominated through the years of World War II, when the studio's roster included many cast-off Paramount players like Mae West, W.C. Fields, and Marlene Dietrich. The studio also churned out various sequels for each of its monsters. During the war years Universal did have a co-production arrangement with producer Walter Wanger and his partner, director Fritz Lang, but their pictures were a small bit of quality in a schedule dominated by the likes of Cobra Woman and Frontier Gal.

Universal-International

  After the war, looking to expand his American presence, the British entrepreneur J. Arthur Rank bought a one-fourth interest in Universal in 1945. While trying to improve the quality of the studio's output, he instigated a merger in 1946 with a struggling American independent production company, International Pictures. William Goetz, a founder of International, was made head of production at the renamed Universal-International Pictures Inc., which also served as as an import-export subsidiary, and copyright holder for the production arm's films. Distribution and copyright control remained under the name of Universal Pictures Company Inc. Because of Rank's association with it, Universal-International became responsible for the American distribution of such British screen classics as David Lean's Great Expectations (1946 film) and Laurence Olivier's Hamlet (1948 film). Goetz set out an ambitious schedule. While there were to be a few hits like The Egg & I, The Killers, and The Naked City, the studio still struggled. By the late 1940s, Goetz was out, and the studio reverted once more to the low-budget fare it knew best. Once again, the films of Abbott and Costello, including Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, were among the studio's top-grossing productions. But at this point Rank lost interest and sold his shares to the investor Milton Rackmil, whose Decca Records would take full control of Universal in 1952.

  Though Decca would continue to keep picture-budgets lean, it was favored by changing circumstances in the film business, as other studios let their contract-actors go in the wake of the 1948 U.S. vs. Paramount Pictures, et al. case. Leading actors were increasingly free to work where and when they chose, and in 1950 MCA agent Lew Wasserman made a deal with Universal for his client James Stewart that would change the rules of the business. Wasserman's deal gave Stewart a share in the profits of three pictures in lieu of a large salary. When one of those films, Winchester '73 proved to be a hit, Stewart became a rich man. This kind of arrangement would become the rule for many future productions at Universal, and eventually at other studios as well.

MCA takes over
环球电影公司在MCA时期的标志
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环球电影公司在MCA时期的标志

  By the late 1950s, the motion picture business was in trouble. The combination of the studio/theater-chain break-up and the rise of television saw the mass audience drift away, probably forever. The Music Corporation of America (better known as MCA), mainly a talent agency, had also become a powerful television producer, renting space at Republic Studios for its Revue Studios subsidiary. After a period of complete shutdown, a moribund Universal agreed to sell its (by now) 360-acre (1.5 km²) studio lot to MCA in 1958, for $11 million. Although MCA owned the studio lot, but not Universal Pictures, it was increasingly influential on Universal's product. The studio lot was upgraded and modernized, while MCA clients like Doris Day, Lana Turner, and Cary Grant were signed to Universal Pictures contracts.

  The actual, long-awaited takeover of Universal Pictures by MCA finally took place in mid-1962, and the production subsidiary reverted in name to Universal Pictures, while the parent company became MCA/Universal Pictures Inc. Universal-International Pictures Inc. remained a subsidiary only engaged in export/international release of Universal product. In addition, Revue Studios became known as Universal Television. As a last gesture before getting out of the talent agency business, virtually every MCA client was signed to a Universal contract. And so, with MCA in charge, for a few years in the 1960s Universal became what it had never been: a full-blown, first-class movie studio, with leading actors and directors under contract; offering slick, commercial films; and a studio tour subsidiary (launched in 1964). But it was too late, since the audience was no longer there, and by 1968, the film-production unit began to downsize. Television now carried the load, as Universal dominated the American networks, particularly NBC (which later merged with Universal to form NBC Universal; see below), where for several seasons it provided up to half of all prime time shows. An innovation of which Universal was especially proud was the creation in this period of the made-for-television movie.

  Though Universal's film unit did produce occasional hits, among them Airport, The Sting, American Graffiti, and a blockbuster that restored the company's fortunes, Jaws, Universal in the 1970s was primarily a television studio. Weekly series production was the workhorse of the company. There would be other film hits like E.T: The Extra-Terrestrial, Back to the Future, and Jurassic Park, but overall the film business was still hit-and-miss. In the early 1970s, Universal teamed up with Paramount Pictures to form Cinema International Corporation, which distributed films by Paramount and Universal worldwide. It was replaced by United International Pictures in 1981, when Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer joined the fold. UIP began distributing films by start-up studio DreamWorks in 1997, and MGM subsequently dropped out of the venture in 2001, letting 20th Century Fox internationally distribute its films. In 1990, MCA created MCA/Universal Home Video Inc. to enter the lucrative videotape and later DVD sales industry.

Matsushita and Vivendi

Anxious to expand the company's broadcast and cable presence, longtime MCA head Lew Wasserman sought a rich partner. He located Matsushita Electric, the Japanese electronics manufacturer. Around this time, the production subsidiary was renamed Universal Studios Inc. Matsushita provided a cash infusion, but the clash of cultures was too great to overcome, and five years later Matsushita sold control of MCA/Universal to Canadian liquor distributor Seagram. Hoping to build a media empire around Universal, Seagram bought Polygram and other entertainment properties, but the fluctuating profits characteristic of Hollywood were no substitute for the reliable income stream of hard liquor.

环球电影公司西部装置
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环球电影公司西部装置

  To raise money, Seagram head Edgar Bronfman, Jr. sold Universal's television holdings, including cable network USA, to Barry Diller. (These same properties would be bought back later at greatly inflated prices.) In June 2000, Seagram itself was sold to French water utility and media company Vivendi. The media conglomerate became Vivendi Universal, while MCA Records was transferred to UMG subsidiary Geffen Records in 2003, thus effectively ending the existence of MCA.

NBC Universal

  Burdened with debt, in 2004 Vivendi Universal sold 80% of Vivendi Universal Entertainment (including the studio and theme parks) to General Electric, parent of NBC. The resulting media super-conglomerate was renamed NBC Universal, while Universal Studios Inc. remained the name of the production subsidiary. Though some expressed doubts that regimented, profit-minded GE and high-living Hollywood could coexist, as of 2007 the combination has worked. The reorganized "Universal" film conglomerate has enjoyed several financially successful years. As presently structured, GE owns 80% of NBC Universal; Vivendi holds the remaining 20%, with an option to sell its share in 2006.

  In late 2005, Viacom's Paramount Pictures swooped in to acquire DreamWorks SKG after acquisition talks between GE and DreamWorks stalled. Universal's long time chairman, Stacey Snyder, left the company in early 2006 to head up DreamWorks. Snyder was replaced by Marc Shmuger, a veteran Universal and studio executive. Shmuger is well respected in the industry, with a reputation for being very bright and opinionated. Some question his experience in dealing with talent. With no blockbusters on Universal's 2006 slate, Shmuger's tenure will be defined by what the studio develops in the next few years.

  Over the years, Universal has made deals to distribute and/or co-finance films with various small companies, such as Imagine Entertainment, Amblin Entertainment, Morgan Creek Productions, Working Title Films, StudioCanal, Shady Acres Entertainment, Mark Platt Productions, and Beacon Communications LLC.

Universal's library

  Universal, like any other major movie studio, owns a considerable library. It owns almost every feature and short produced by the company, as well as almost all TV shows Revue/Universal made. In addition, Universal owns almost all of the pre-1950 sound features originally made by Paramount Pictures—these films came under Universal ownership when MCA purchased the films in 1957 via its in-name only division EMKA, Ltd. (This library also includes the 1948 MGM film State of the Union, which was acquired by Paramount after its purchase of Liberty Films), as well as a few Alfred Hitchcock features originally released by Paramount.

  The company owns the libraries of Focus Features' ancestors USA Films, October Films, and the 1996-1999 films by PolyGram Filmed Entertainment (MGM owns most of the pre-1996 PolyGram library, though Universal owns a few films from that era as well) and its subsidiaries, as well as (through parent NBC Universal) much of the post-1973 NBC library of shows and made-for-TV movies.

  It also owns several films made by others, including some pre-1952 United Artists material, an Alfred Hitchcock feature originally released by Warner Bros. - Rope, and the UK rights to most of the RKO Pictures library.

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