RKO and Paramount (pre 1950) film rights

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Johannes S, Sep 11, 2005.

  1. Johannes S

    Johannes S Stunt Coordinator

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    With the release of Warner's "John Wayne Legendary Heroes Collection" in Germany, I noticed the missing RKO title "Tall in the Saddle". Same thing with the Cary Grant DVDs: No RKO titles from Warner in Europe. The European TCM channels don't show the RKO library either. Does anybody know the rights ownership of the RKO library? Does Warner (through Turner) only hold the RKO rights for the US? If so, who is the owner in Europe? Other sources claim, Turner only holds the television rights for the RKO library...?
    As concerns the Paramount rights, I thought all pre-1950 Paramount films are in the hands of Universal. How come that the great Preston Sturges film "Miracle of Morgan's Creek" (1944) is being released on DVD by Paramount? Anybody an expert out there on film rights?
    [​IMG]
     
  2. John Hodson

    John Hodson Producer

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    First on The Miracle of Morgan's Creek. From DVD Savant's excellent review:
    The Miracle of Morgan's Creek was excluded from the sale of Paramount's extant pre-1949 talkies to MCA/EMKA because MCA - and Paramount, reportedly, as well - had serious reservations whether the film could be shown on television. At all. (One file memo speculated that it would never be shown on tv.) And, as MCA was primarily buying the pictures to syndicate them to television, it passed on Morgan's Creek.
    Eventually -- after a few years, and a while following Par's creation of its own syndication unit for its post-1949 pix, Morgan's Creek found its way onto the airwaves.
    The Sturges film is, I believe, the only major Paramount pre-'49 sound feature actually owned by the studio.

    On RKO, IIRC, Universal holds the video rights in the UK, I don't know if that also extends to the rest of Europe. There are several examples of inferior Universal releases of RKO movies released by Warners in R1.
     
  3. Douglas R

    Douglas R Cinematographer

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    I believe Vivendi (Universal) own the rights for RKO films for most of Europe. Warner Bros certainly does not issue any RKO titles in Europe.
     
  4. Johannes S

    Johannes S Stunt Coordinator

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    Thanks, John, for the information on Paramount's "The Miracle of Morgan's Creek". Seems to be an impressive DVD release from Paramount, btw. Indeed, I wished Paramount would still hold the rights on all their pre-1949 productions! You hardly see any Paramount titles from that era being released by Universal. A shame, considering the importance of the works of Mitchell Leisen in film history, or great films-noir like "The Blue Dahlia", for example!
    I agree with your opinion on the quality of many Universal's UK DVD releases. The quality of their back catalogue releases usually is abysmal. Bad analogue telecines, interlaced transfers with bad encoding. Some of my old VHS recordings off BBC or German TV stations look a lot better.
    Let's remind Universal about the treasures buried in their vaults! [​IMG]
     
  5. Herb Kane

    Herb Kane Screenwriter

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    I recently purchased 3 RKO titles (They Won't Believe Me, The Fallen Sparrow and The Las Vegas Story) from Italy, all of which were released by Columbia.
    Herb.
     
  6. Danny Burk

    Danny Burk Second Unit

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    IIRC there's one other sound Paramount film that they still own: THE BUCCANEER (1938), due to the 1958 remake.
     
  7. Garysb

    Garysb Screenwriter

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    According to a website called film-center.com the rights to RKO film outside the US were sold in the late 1950's to a company in Paris called Atlantic Arts. Does anyone know if this company still exists and if they still own the rights or sold them ?
    Article is about what happened to RKO films when sold to TV. Some misinformation in it such as saying TBS is(was) based in St Louis when in fact it is in Atlanta
    http://www.film-center.com/ccrko16m.html
     
  8. MichaelScott

    MichaelScott Stunt Coordinator

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    Universal is driving me nuts, they are holding on to a ton of classic movies that are on my must have list. I'm hoping they have some strategy for delving into their classic titles late in the game..oh I hope..if not sell them to a company that knows what to do with these titles..I just don't think they get how to do it it like WB or Fox. What good does it do them to have them sit there and rot?
     
  9. Jo_C

    Jo_C Second Unit

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    You guys left out another pre-1949 Paramount film not owned by EMKA/NBC-Universal..."Sorry Wrong Number" (from 1948). I have seen it, and it's not as good as the original radio play on which it is based, but it does offer us a strong performance from Barbara Stanwyck (later to find fame in the TV series "Bigvalley").
     
  10. Herb Kane

    Herb Kane Screenwriter

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    Actually, I thought cutoff year was 1948, not 1949....
     
  11. Claes Ljunghorn

    Claes Ljunghorn Stunt Coordinator

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  12. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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  13. Roger Rollins

    Roger Rollins Supporting Actor

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    As it concerns RKO, before Turner Entertainment bought the assets of that library in 1988 (with Turner now owned by Warner Bros.), the owners of the RKO library (General Tire & Rubber Co.) licensed off a great deal of international rights. Eventually, all of this will eventually return to Warner, but in some cases, not for many years.

    The Paramount deal with MCA, (done in 1956 before MCA purchased Universal, and was still primarily a talent agency who early on began taking an interest in television)

    basically called for Paramount selling to MCA all of their sound feature films released through October 31, 1949. The exceptions to the sale were MORGAN'S CREEK, I WALK ALONE,

    THE STRANGE LOVE OF MARTHA IVERS, SORRY WRONG NUMBER, THE PERILS OF PAULINE, and THE BUCCANEER (because they were remaking that film at the time). Sadly, Paramount forgot to renew the copyrights on MARTHA and PAULINE, leaving them to deteriorate in PD hell.

    MCA created the holding company "EMKA" (get it?) to be the official owner of these assets.

    Paramount retained their silent films, although most of them had deteriorated, even by 1956.
     
  14. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    However, Paramount is releasing a dvd of "The Strange Love of Martha Ivers" in the next several weeks.

    Crawdaddy
     
  15. Herb Kane

    Herb Kane Screenwriter

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    Roger, thanks for that detailed explanation. I would particularly like to see I Walk Alone released, one of my favorite Lancaster (and Douglas) films.
     
  16. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    If they're releasing "Martha" then it's a good chance that "I Walk Alone" will be release too.

    Crawdaddy
     
  17. AkJoe

    AkJoe Auditioning

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    Good News! They are releasing the Paramount 1933 "Alice in Wonderland" in March! I assume to cash in on the new Tim Burton adaptation with Johnny Depp. But when will they release classics such as "Murder He Says", "Alias Nick Beal" and "Island of Lost Souls"??? Who can we write to at Universal about releasing these great Paramount films?
     
  18. F Ficklewidget

    F Ficklewidget Auditioning

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    At one point in the 1960's and 1970's UK theatrical rights to the RKO backlog were held by a Swiss bank (presumably acting as a nominee) and business in re-issues was controlled by Walter Tuckwell Films (London). However, some sort of deal was struck with the BBC who have UK television rights in perpetuity to a large number of old RKO titles, but it does seem that they have rights to only those prints which they hold. I may be wrong, but I don't see any remastered RKO prints turning up on the BBC. Likewise the BBC has UK television rights in perpetuity to a small package of Republic productions, and I think these rights were granted in return for warehousing the remaining UK prints of RKO and Republic when the residual theatrical distributors packed up. The BBC rights do not extend to the satellite channels as far as I know. Initial VHS video releases in the UK came from the BBC prints. A television screening of THE MAVERICK QUEEN (Republic) a year or two ago shows the BBC print is now color-fading.
    It's a very grey area. I daresay had the digital and video/DVD business been foreseen the original companies would have established holding units in Euirope to retain rights within their own shell companies. Hindsight is a wonderful thing!
     

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