Lighting Up Screens Around the World
Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE) is a worldwide leader in creativity and innovation. Backed by the power of Sony Corporation, one of the world’s most recognizable and respected brands, SPE’s global operations encompass motion picture and television production and distribution, home entertainment acquisitions and distribution, operation of studio facilities and development of new entertainment technologies.
The company’s rich history can be traced back to 1918 when brothers Harry and Jack Cohn formed a partnership with their associate Joe Brandt to produce low-budget short films and featurettes. They called the company CBC Film Sales (Cohn-Brandt-Cohn – or as it was more commonly known in the trade press, "Corned Beef and Cabbage".) CBC produced its first feature-length film in 1922 on a $20,000 budget. MORE TO BE PITIED THAN SCORNED met with resounding success, taking in $130,000 in profit. CBC saw that the company’s future lay in film production and, with it, a grander vision.
Incorporated in 1924, CBC became Columbia Pictures Corporation. In its early years, Columbia Pictures was known for the production of a large volume of low-budget movies. This reputation began to change when, in 1927, the studio hired a young director named Frank Capra, who created Columbia’s first all "talkie" feature, THE DONOVAN AFFAIR. His directing talents contributed to a number of firsts for the studio, but none greater than Columbia’s first Best Picture Academy Award® for its 1934 film, IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT, which swept the top five awards and put Columbia on the map. Capra went on to direct a number of classics for the studio including MR. DEEDS GOES TO TOWN, YOU CAN’T TAKE IT WITH YOU (Best Picture Oscar® in 1939) and MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON.
Today, the motion picture library is one of the company’s most valuable assets with more than 3,500 films—from timeless classics to long-running franchises, including 12 Best Picture Academy Award® winners.
Columbia Pictures was one of the first studios to venture into the television business with the creation of a division called Screen Gems in 1948. With Screen Gems came a lucrative new income stream for the company. The television division was later named Columbia Pictures Television, then became Columbia TriStar Television before being renamed Sony Pictures Television in 2002. Today, the company’s classic television library is filled with more than fifty years of the world’s favorite programs with such titles as BEWITCHED, I DREAM OF JEANNIE, and CHARLIE’S ANGELS and includes more than 35,000 television episodes, 275 television series and more than 22,000 episodes of game show programming.
A new division was launched in 1979, Columbia Pictures Home Video, marking the company’s entry into the revolutionary home entertainment market. By 2002 Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment as it was then called, broke industry records by shipping more than 40 million copies of SPIDER-MAN™ worldwide. With the rapid evolution of digital video technology, home entertainment leaders battled in the high-definition format wars in 2005. Ultimately, Sony’s Blu-ray Disc™ format succeeded and was universally adopted. Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, as it is known today, is a world leader in distributing SPE and acquired third-party theatrical and non-theatrical product on Blu-ray Disc™, DVD, UMD and through new media (mobile and digital distribution). More than 3,500 film and television titles in the SPHE catalog are available in these various formats, including popular hits such as HANCOCK and the SEINFELD TV series as well as classics like DR. STRANGELOVE and GANDHI.
In 1983, Columbia made motion picture history by joining with HBO and CBS to form TriStar Pictures, the first new motion picture studio in decades. TriStar achieved the fastest growth to major studio status in the industry’s history, releasing such films as THE NATURAL, RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART II and PEGGY SUE GOT MARRIED. In 2004 TriStar was relaunched as a marketing and acquisition unit with particular emphasis on genre films. Recent releases include OLIVER TWIST, DADDY DAY CAMP and DISTRICT 9.
Merv Griffin Enterprises, producer of the top two game shows WHEEL OF FORTUNE and JEOPARDY!, joined the company in 1986. In 1987, Columbia TriStar Television acquired the distribution rights to Castle Rock Entertainment’s sitcom SEINFELD, the highest-earning, number one syndicated show in television history.
In 1989, Sony Corporation purchased Columbia Pictures Corporation and all of its entertainment holdings. The studio relocated to the former MGM lot in Culver City, California and was later renamed Sony Pictures Entertainment. Sony Corporation brought with it a strong belief that the future of the studio depended on a unique convergence between innovative consumer electronics products, improved connectivity and stimulating entertainment content.
Sony Pictures Classics (SPC) was established in 1992 to specialize in the acquisition, production, marketing and distribution of prestigious foreign and American independent films. Nominated for more than 70 Academy Awards®, the SPC library includes such notable films as CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON; POLLOCK; ALL ABOUT MY MOTHER; INDOCHINE; CAPOTE; JUNEBUG; KUNG FU HUSTLE; TALK TO HER; PERSEPOLIS; FROZEN RIVER and RACHEL GETTING MARRIED.
The Screen Gems name was revitalized in 1999 as a new marketing label under SPE. Screen Gems focuses on films that fall between the wide-release movies traditionally developed and distributed by Columbia Pictures and those released by Sony Pictures Classics. Popular Screen Gems films include THE MOTHMAN PROPHECIES, RESIDENT EVIL, VACANCY, FIRST SUNDAY, SNATCH, UNDERWORLD, UNDERWORLD EVOLUTION and QUARANTINE.
The next step in the evolution of the company resulted in the creation of Sony Pictures Digital (SPD) in 2000. The SPD group combined SPE’s digital production with its online content and game services to deliver the next generation of entertainment. Some notable products from that early collaboration included the leading multiplayer online game Everquest™, SoapCity® and Screenblast®. Known today at Sony Pictures Digital Productions, the group encompasses Sony Pictures Imageworks Inc., a state-of-the-art digital animation and visual effects company, creating computer-generated imaging (CGI) and animation for feature films; Sony Pictures Animation Inc., which is responsible for the development and production of all CG features for SPE, and Sony Pictures Imageworks Interactive, which creates websites and digital marketing campaigns for Sony Pictures properties and external clients.
In 2006, Sony Pictures acquired Grouper, an online venture boasting one of the largest video communities. It was re-launched the following year as Crackle, engaging global audiences with emerging talent on the web. The Animation division also released its first full-length action adventure comedy, OPEN SEASON, in this year.
With a rich history that dates back to the birth of the motion picture industry, today SPE is known throughout the world not only for its leading motion pictures and television programming, but also its breakthrough digital innovations that bridge the gap between entertainment content and consumer delivery systems.