8 May 1912

Paramount Pictures is founded.

Paramount Pictures Corporation also known simply as Paramount is an American film studio based in Hollywood, California, that has been a subsidiary of the American media conglomerate Viacom since 1994. Paramount is the fifth oldest surviving film studio in the world, the second oldest in the United States, and the sole member of the “Big Six” film studios still located in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Hollywood.

In 1916, film producer Adolph Zukor put 22 actors and actresses under contract and honored each with a star on the logo. These fortunate few would become the first “movie stars.” In 2014, Paramount Pictures became the first major Hollywood studio to distribute all of its films in digital form only. The company’s headquarters and studios are located at 5555 Melrose Avenue, Hollywood, California, United States.

Paramount is the fifth oldest surviving film studio in the world after the French studios Gaumont Film Company and Pathé, followed by the Nordisk Film company, and Universal Studios. It is the last major film studio still headquartered in the Hollywood district of Los Angeles.

Paramount Pictures dates its existence from the 1912 founding date of the Famous Players Film Company. Hungarian-born founder Adolph Zukor, who had been an early investor in nickelodeons, saw that movies appealed mainly to working-class immigrants. With partners Daniel Frohman and Charles Frohman he planned to offer feature-length films that would appeal to the middle class by featuring the leading theatrical players of the time leading to the slogan “Famous Players in Famous Plays”. By mid-1913, Famous Players had completed five films, and Zukor was on his way to success. Its first film was Les Amours de la reine Élisabeth, which starred Sarah Bernhardt.

That same year, another aspiring producer, Jesse L. Lasky, opened his Lasky Feature Play Company with money borrowed from his brother-in-law, Samuel Goldfish, later known as Samuel Goldwyn. The Lasky company hired as their first employee a stage director with virtually no film experience, Cecil B. DeMille, who would find a suitable site in Hollywood, near Los Angeles, for his first feature film, The Squaw Man.

Paramount Pictures’ first logo, based on a design by its founder William Wadsworth Hodkinson, used from 1917 to 1967. Starting in 1914, both Lasky and Famous Players released their films through a start-up company, Paramount Pictures Corporation, organized early that year by a Utah theatre owner, W. W. Hodkinson, who had bought and merged several smaller firms. Hodkinson and actor, director, producer Hobart Bosworth had started production of a series of Jack London movies. Paramount was the first successful nationwide distributor; until this time, films were sold on a statewide or regional basis which had proved costly to film producers. Also, Famous Players and Lasky were privately owned while Paramount was a corporation.

8 May 1912

Paramount Pictures is established.

Paramount Pictures Corp. was established in 1914 by W.W. Hodkinson as a film distributor, offering Adolph Zukor’s Famous Players Film Company, the Jesse L. Lasky Feature Play Company, and other producers an outlet for their movies. In 1916 Zukor and Lasky merged their companies to form the Famous Players–Lasky Corporation and acquired Paramount to distribute their films. The new company, which continued to use the name Paramount as well, quickly rose to prominence by featuring such popular stars as Mary Pickford, Fatty Arbuckle, Gloria Swanson, Clara Bow, and Rudolph Valentino. Its early hits included the first “big western,” The Covered Wagon (1923), and The Ten Commandments (1923), a biblical epic directed by Cecil B. DeMille.

In the late 1920s and ’30s the studio added to its roster such stars as Claudette Colbert, Carole Lombard, Marlene Dietrich, Mae West, Gary Cooper, Maurice Chevalier, W.C. Fields, and Bing Crosby and such directors as Ernst Lubitsch, Josef von Sternberg, and Rouben Mamoulian. Although it continued to produce films that were artistically and financially successful, it suffered losses from its chain of theatres during the transition to sound, and Paramount was declared bankrupt in 1933. It was reorganized two years later as Paramount Pictures, Inc., and was soon profitable again. However, it suffered a setback in 1948 when the Supreme Court ruled that seven movie studios, including Paramount, were in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act by controlling both movie distribution and exhibition. As a result, the studios were forced to sell their theatres. No longer able to dictate where and when films would be played, Paramount and other studios began to make fewer—though more expensive—movies.