Meet The Movie Studios
For most, movie studios exist pretty homogeneously. They are announced before a film in the logo overture that has become white noise. You might read their names in the news as often in stories about mergers and as about whatever dazzling spectacles they brought to the screen this year. What you certainly don’t do is have any sort of reaction when confronted with a studio-project pairing. (“Ahhh so it’s Universal handling the new Daniel Day-Lewis movie, that will be great!”) Movie studios aren’t like brands. Following a pattern visible in probably every imaginable industry though, digital entrants are unseating decades-established giants and making things way more interesting. Netflix’s first Best Picture nominee (and Pretty Cool Joe’s predicted winner), Roma, a few strong years from Amazon, and the cult of A24 make a studio rundown suddenly worthwhile reading.
The Big Six
20th Century Fox
M.O: This section is comprised mostly of companies that have existed since the dawn of cinema and are now almost unrecognizably mutated into enormous conglomerates. For the incredible work 20th Century Fox and its subsidiaries have produced, the informed viewer will still have some vague notion that it all ties in with Rupert Murdoch.
Notable Films: Bohemian Rhapsody, The Greatest Showman, X-Men series, Avatar, The Shape of Water (Fox Searchlight), Juno (Fox Searchlight), Napolean Dynamite (Fox Searchlight), Birdman (Fox Searchlight), 12 Years a Slave (Fox Searchlight), The Grand Budapest Hotel (Fox Searchlight)
M.O: This might be the only one you know that actually does act like a brand — “OMG I love Disney movies”. Of course they also own every cash cow in the popcorn (and merchandise) business — Marvel, Star Wars, and Pixar. For what it’s worth they also own ESPN and that’s like their struggling division.
Notable Films: Modern Star Wars series, Marvel Cinematic Universe, Toy Story series, The Lion King, Finding Nemo, Pirates of the Caribbean series, I mean you guys know…
M.O: A shotgun approach from Paramount results in plenty of hits but is damaging to identity-building which, as this article evidences, might be important moving forward.
Notable Films: The Wolf of Wall Street, Arrival, A Quiet Place, The Godfather series, Mission Impossible series
M.O: The youngest of the Big Six studios hails from Japan’s economic heyday rather than the United States’. They produce phone lines and refrigerators in addition to movies.
Notable Films: Ghostbusters, Spider-Man series, Call Me By Your Name (Sony Pictures Classics), Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Sony Pictures Classics), Midnight in Paris (Sony Pictures Classics)
M.O: Universal’s got a mighty and diverse collection of entertainment which they like to show off at their epic theme parks. If there’s a common thread, it’s good old-fashioned Hollywood fare for Hollywood fare’s sake.
Notable Films: Much of Steven Spielberg’s filmography, Brokeback Mountain (Focus Features), Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Focus Features), Shrek series (Dreamworks Animation)
M.O: There’s no shame in riding waves as steady and glorious as these. Warner Brothers blends quality products and franchise profits in such a way that probably allows them to rest easy at night in a very large bed.
Notable Films: The Harry Potter series, The Lord of the Rings series, DC Comics films (meaning The Dark Knight series)
M.O: If you are a movie geek today you are watching A24 very closely. They crank out content almost annoyingly perfect for the millennial sentiment — think Black Mirror vibes, think Jonah Hill and Bo Burnham as directors, think Chance The Rapper as werewolf.
Notable Films: Moonlight, Lady Bird, Room, Hereditary, Ex Machina, The Lobster, Spring Breakers
M.O: Megan Ellison, Oracle Larry’s daughter, committed in 2011 to producing ambitious films by talented directors. While she obviously didn’t take on the same risk most ambitious people do, there’s not much that can be taken away from the results. The Master and Zero Dark Thirty helped kick off year one. (Tech Company Asterisk — Does this belong in the bottom section?)
Notable Films: Vice, Her, If Beale Street Could Talk, Phantom Thread
M.O: One of eBay’s cofounders launched this movie shop with the specific purpose of promoting social good. Something about art with a predetermined mission statement purpose does not sit right with me. (Tech Company Asterisk Number 2! Seriously, what’s the difference who’s playing with the fortune or under what name?)
Notable Films: The Help, An Inconvenient Truth, Spotlight, Lincoln, Green Book
The Weinstein Company
M.O: Welp. Harvey Weinstein and his company nosedived in 2017 about twice as intensely as they had savvily built their empire up throughout the 80s and 90s with discoveries like Steven Soderbergh and Quentin Tarantino. The company is currently attempting to quietly rebrand as Lantern Pictures.
Notable Films: Quentin Tarantino’s later filmography, Silver Linings Playbook
Tech Companies (Future Overlords)
M.O: The status of this film studio within the industry mirrors the idea of being a film mogul in Jeff Bezos’s mind — there’s a lot of potential, but it honestly just gets de-prioritized. A handsome crop of quality movies has already come out of Amazon Studios, just with no apparent rhyme or reason.
Notable Films: Manchester by the Sea, The Big Sick, You Were Never Really Here
M.O: Your favorite broadband-gobbler just dumps endless amounts of money into content, some of that being original movies. Sometimes it seems like they are force-feeding us our own guilty pleasures, like with Bright 2; at other times this is the Ferdinand & Isabella-like place to get cash for a great idea, like the Coen Brothers 6-part anthology The Ballad of Buster Scruggs.
Notable Films: Roma, Mudbound, Bird Box
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