Basic question on rights

RobertCharlotte

Supporting Actor
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Feb 21, 2002
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660
How does one determine who has the rights to a particular film? I regularly see folks here at HTF say with certainty that "BigStudio, Inc., has the rights to that film." It can't be as simple as what studio IMDb says released it, can it?
 

Joseph DeMartino

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Sometimes it is that simple. Or as simple as checking to see who released the laserdisc or VHS tape. Other times the disposition of rights comes about through a well-publicized business deal, and people just remember who ended up with what. Ted Turner, for instance, owned much of the MGM library at one time. When he joined forces with Time-Warner, those films became the property of T-W. Other MGM titles remained in MGM's hands. Later, I think as part of the T-W/AOL deal, the former Turner library was split between the two studios. Depending on the production date, films ended up belonging to MGM or to Warner Bros. This is why so many DVDs originally issued by MGM are now being sold in Warner Bros. snapper cases. (The disc contents, in most cases, remains unchanged.) Finally there are members here who are in the biz and know who owns what (or have their own sources for finding out.)

Personally I've never been able to keep all this stuff straight. Luckily others around here can, and therefore we can get answers to these questions when we need them.

Regards,

Joe
 

Roger Rollins

Supporting Actor
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Jun 19, 2001
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931
Here's a quick GENERAL rundown of who owns what. It must be pointed out that at certain times independent productions are distributed by one studio, then the rights revert back to a producer and may end up distributed by another studio. Those exceptions aside, here goes:

PARAMOUNT owns most of its features released after October 31, 1949. They also own their silent films, and these pre '49 films were retained: SORRY WRONG NUMBER, THE PERILS OF PAULINE,I WALK ALONE, THE STRANGE LOVE OF MARTHA IVERS, THE BUCCANEER (1938) and THE MIRACLE OF MORGAN'S CREEK. Many post '49 Paramount films reverted to their producers, especially those produced by Bob Hope, Jerry Lewis & Hal Wallis. Paramount's parent company VIACOM purchased a great deal of the Hal Wallis titles, so now they're back in Paramount's library since that merger took place. VIACOM also purchased CBS, so the CINEMA CENTER FILMS (Scrooge, et al) and CBS FILMS from the '80s (TABLE FOR FIVE, etc.) are now under Paramount distribution. Viacom also purchased Spelling Entertainment, which owns the REPUBLIC library, and although those titles are distributed by ARTISAN at the moment, at some point they'll revert to Paramount. Paramount's sound films released before 10/31/49 belong to Universal. (Paramount sold them to MCA, Universal's former parent company, in 1956)

COLUMBIA owns their own library and never sold or licensed it to a third party.

20th CENTURY-FOX also owns their own library. Some films were licensed to a third party for TV distribution long ago, but they now control all their films.

DISNEY owns its library, and by purchasing ABC, they now own the ABC PICTURES library from the 60s/70s (CHARLY, etc.)and the ABC FILMS from the '80s (PRIZZI'S HONOR,SILKWOOD,etc.)ABC also had purchased the Selznick library in the '60s. Disney has sublicensed some of its titles to Anchor Bay for home video release.

UNIVERSAL owns their library (although many of their early talkies and silents no longer exist)and they also own the pre'-49 Paramount feature library. Now that they've merged with USA, those titles are in their library, as well as some of the post '98 Polygram/Gramercy titles.

MGM owns the post-'52 United Artists library, the MGM films released mid 1986 and onward, the Cannon Pictures library, the Orion Pictures library (which contained AMERICAN INTERNATIONAL and FILMWAYS), the Avco Embassy library, the DEG library, the London films library, the Polygram library, the Hemdale library, and the Samuel Goldwyn Company library. The Goldwyn Company had under license the films of Samuel Goldwyn Productions, but that license expires in a few years, and then those films revert back to the Goldwyn Family trust.

WARNER BROS. owns its post '49 features, and the LORIMAR library, which contains ALLIED ARTISTS & later MONOGRAM films. When Time Warner merged with Turner, Warner Bros. gained distribution control of the Turner library, which consists of all MGM films made before mid-1986, the Warner Bros. films made through the end of 1949 (with a handful of exceptions), and the RKO library in the U.S. and Canada. The RKO library is owned by other people overseas.

Virtually all United Artists films made before 1952 (there are a few exceptions like RED RIVER) reverted to their producers, and ownership of these films is scattered.
 

rutger_s

Supporting Actor
Joined
Jul 7, 2000
Messages
878
Columbia Pictures merged with Tri-Star Pictures and Sony Entertainment to create Columbia Tri-Star Pictures...

And these Tri-Star pictures went to other distributors:

Basic Instinct

Terminator 2: Judgement Day

Total Recall

And this Columbia picture went to Anchor Bay:

Supergirl - Used to be Columbia Pictures and Columbia distributed for Warner Brothers Production. Anchor Bay now distributes on Home Video.

Orion Pictures folded and MGM owns most of the rights to their films. However, HBO and Rysher Entertainment still have some rights to Orion Pictures films like The Three Amigos and Serial Mom. Also, prior to MGM taking over the rights, Image Entertainment used to have the Orion Pictures library.

As for 20th Century Fox...

The Princess Bride used to belong to them but now resides with MGM.

Highlander also used to be under the 20th Century Fox home but moved to Republic Pictures then to Anchor Bay.

The Cannonball Run also left Fox and now resides with Warner Home Video.

And then there are...

My Fair Lady. The rights on this one are everywhere. 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment handles the VHS tape while Warner Home Video currently distributes the DVD. But in a couple of years, it'll go to Paramount.

The Terminator. Again, the rights are everywhere. Artisan has the VHS rights to this film while MGM Home Entertainment distributes the DVD. It used to be on DVD through Image Entertainment.
 

Mark Edward Heuck

Screenwriter
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Jul 25, 2000
Messages
1,187
Minor corrections to otherwise exhaustive research (and good work on that by the way, from a man who makes it a calling to follow the rights):

MGM had video rights only to the Avco Embassy library (and one DEG title-BLUE VELVET) through a previous arrangement inherited from the purchase of the pre-'96 Polygram library. (It is this complicated arrangement that also gave MGM video rights to THE PRINCESS BRIDE and early Castle Rock productions) However, after the release of selected titles, the actual theatrical rightsowner, StudioCanal, has made a new deal for the remaining unissued titles with Anchor Bay. The rights to selected London Films productions are part of the Samuel Goldwyn trust, as are limited video rights to titles by the Rank Organisation (now owned by Carlton Communications), which Goldwyn previously made.

STUDIOCANAL, while not an actual homevideo company, is a major clearinghouse of titles. In addition to the Avco Embassy and DEG libraries, they also own titles made by Carolco (the previously mentioned TOTAL RECALL, and STARGATE fall under this heading), the Salkind family (SUPERGIRL, THE THREE/THE FOUR MUSKETEERS, SANTA CLAUS), Ealing Studios, EMI Films (which accounts for HIGHLANDER), and numerous foreign financed productions. They work primarily through Anchor Bay, although smaller cultish titles have gone out through Image, and their Carolco titles are on Artisan by previous arrangement.
 

Mark Cappelletty

Senior HTF Member
Joined
Jun 6, 1999
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2,314
"Serial Mom" was one of the few titles released by Savoy Pictures, whose output is controlled by and large by HBO.

Does MGM own the entire Hemdale library now?
 

rutger_s

Supporting Actor
Joined
Jul 7, 2000
Messages
878
Does MGM own the entire Hemdale library now?

Not really...

The Terminator is shared between Artisan Home Entertainment and MGM Home Entertainment. Artisan distributes the VHS tape while MGM distributes the DVD.

As for My Fair Lady...

The newest DVD releases of this one no longer bear the Warner Brothers logos. Instead the package only has the CBS Video logo which would pretty much indicate that Paramount Home Entertainment now distributes the title. Thankfully, its just an artwork change and not a content change.
 

Joseph DeMartino

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Joseph DeMartino
Thankfully, its just an artwork change and not a content change.
Actually, I'd love to see some content change on this disc - specifically the addition of the wonderful TV special on the restoration that Jeremy Bett hosted. I believe there was (surprise, surprise) a rights issue about including this on the DVD. (The special originally ran, if I recall correctly, on The Disney Channel, but I don't know who produced it or owns the rights, and don't know if the film's move to Paramount makes it more or less likely to be included on a future release.)

Regards,

Joe
 

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