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Famous Players-Lasky

famous players lasky corporation, famous players lasky
Famous Players-Lasky Corporation was an American motion picture and distribution company created on July 19, 1916, from the merger of Adolph Zukor's Famous Players Film Company—originally formed by Zukor as Famous Players in Famous Plays—and Jesse L Lasky's Feature Play Company

The deal, guided by president Zukor, eventually resulted in the incorporation of eight film production companies, making the Famous Players-Lasky Corporation one of the biggest players of the silent film era Famous Players-Lasky, under the direction of Zukor, is perhaps best known for its vertical integration of the film industry and block booking practices

In September 1927, Famous Players-Lasky was reorganized under the name Paramount Famous Lasky Corporation, later becoming the Paramount Pictures Corporation now a division of Viacom1 The Balaban and Katz Historical Foundation now owns the Famous Players trademark

The former Famous Players-Lasky Movie Ranch at Lasky Mesa in the Simi Hills is now within the Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve2 The Astoria studio was designated a national historic district and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978 The district encompasses six contributing buildings3


  • 1 History
    • 11 Formation
    • 12 The push for vertical integration
    • 13 The finish
  • 2 Federal Trade Commission v Famous Players-Lasky Corporation, et al
    • 21 Charges
    • 22 Case results
  • 3 Star power
  • 4 Major films
  • 5 References
  • 6 External links



In 1914, film-production companies Famous Players Films and Jesse L Lasky Feature Plays founded in 1913 signed a distribution deal with William Wadsworth Hodkinson's Paramount Pictures Corporation founded in 1914 Under the agreement Hodkinson would distribute the two companies' films through a 65/35 arrangement in which the producer agreed to take only 65% of film profits with 35% of the gross revenue going to Hodkinson's Paramount While initially the agreement seemed like a good deal, Zukor and Lasky quickly realized that they could make much higher revenues if they could integrate the production and distribution of their films Accordingly, less than a year into their distribution contracts the two men began looking for a way to buy Hodkinson out of Paramount and to incorporate the three companies4

In late 1915 Zukor began buying as much Paramount stock as possible, including stocks belonging to Hiram Abrams, a member of the Paramount board of directors On July 13, 1916, at Paramount Corporation's annual board meeting, Hodkinson found himself ousted from the presidency and replaced by Abrams, who won the seat by a single vote After accepting the presidency, Abrams announced to the board, "On behalf of Adolph Zukor, who has purchased my shares in Paramount, I call this meeting to order"4

Within a week of removing Hodkinson, on July 19, 1916, Famous Players and the Lasky Feature Play Company merged to form Famous Players-Lasky, with Zukor as President and Jesse L Lasky as Vice President For a brief period Famous Players-Lasky acted as a holding company for its subsidiaries- Famous Players, Feature Play, Oliver Morosco Photoplay, Bosworth, Cardinal, Paramount Pictures Corporation, Artcraft, and The George M Cohan Film Corporation However, on December 29, 1917, all of the subsidiaries were incorporated into one entity called the Famous Players-Lasky Corporation4

The push for vertical integrationedit

However, Zukor was not satisfied simply with consolidation The cost of producing films was rising – screenplays cost more to purchase and the rise of the star system meant that celebrities were demanding higher salaries Zukor needed to increase revenue, and he would do so over the next ten years by integrating film production, distribution and exhibition into one corporation4

In 1919, Famous Players-Lasky faced a boycott from the First National Exhibitions Circuit, a group that controlled nearly 600 theaters nationwide The Circuit disagreed with the Corporation's distribution practices, which required theaters to purchase large blocks of feature films, often sight-unseen In addition to selling strategic blocks of features, theater owners were offered options such as "program distribution", in which the exhibitor booked a single evening's worth of entertainment, and "star series" in which the exhibitor signed up for a given number of pictures per year featuring a particular star "Selective Bookings" in which exhibitors were allowed to purchase a single film, made up only a small percentage of the Corporation's offerings4

The Circuit's protest of these practices and boycott of Famous Players-Lasky films put the Corporation in desperate need of its own theaters In 1919, Zukor began directing the purchase of theater chains across the nation In the Northeast, Zukor acquired Alfred Black's Black's New England Theaters, Inc and in the South, Zukor acquired SA Lynch's Southern Enterprises, which owned approximately 200 theaters and was at the time the exclusive Paramount distributor in 11 Southern states5 In order to weaken First National, Zukor also sent Lynch and Black to acquire theaters held by First National members, often employing heavy-handed tactics67 By the mid-1920s, the Famous Players-Lasky Corporation was one of the largest theater owners in the world, with a controlling interest in the Rialto, Rivoli and Criterion theater chains8 However, in 1921 the corporation hit a brief stumbling block when Zukor's practice of block booking films and buying up theatres led to an FTC antitrust suit

The finishedit

Financial problems within the movie industry as a result of the Great Depression pushed Famous Players-Lasky Company, with $2,020,024 in debts but only $134,718 in assets, into receivership August 3, 19339

Federal Trade Commission v Famous Players-Lasky Corporation, et aledit


On August 30, 1921, the Federal Trade Commission formally charged Famous Players-Lasky Corporation, Realart Pictures Corporation, The Stanley Company of America, Stanley Booking Corporation, Black New England Theaters, Inc, Southern Enterprises, Inc, Saenger Amusement Company, Adolph Zukor, Jesse L Lasky, Jules Mastbaum, Alfred S Black, SA Lynch, Ernest V Richards, Jr, with restraint of trade as part of an ongoing investigation into the industry practice of block booking Describing the Corporation as the "largest concern in the motion picture industry and the biggest theater owner in the world," the Federal Trade Commission accused Famous Players-Lasky and eleven other correspondents with "conspiracy and restraint of trade" in violation of the anti-trust laws10 In addition to block-booking charges, the case also accused Famous Players-Lasky of using theater acquisition to intimidate film exhibitors into agreeing to unwanted block booking deals11

Several grievances were brought to court, including one from an independent theater owner in Middleton, New York, who claimed when his movie house rejected a five-year block booking deal with Famous Players-Lasky, the distributor used predatory tactics to run him out of business The theater owner reportedly withstood threats and goon-squad intimidation that recalled the tactics of the former Edison Trust When those tactics failed, the theater owner claimed Famous Players-Lasky built a movie house across the street from his theater in Middleton, and resorted to temporary price cutting and overbuying in order to destroy his business11

Case resultsedit

After reviewing a massive 17,000 pages of testimony and 15,000 pages of exhibits the FTC concluded in early 1927 that block booking was an unfair trade practice On July 9, 1927, it ordered the Famous Players-Lasky Corporation to cease and desist block booking practices and reform its theater purchasing policies The three respondents- Adolph Zukor, Jesse Lasky and the Famous Players-Lasky Corporation- were given 60 days to comply with the ruling11

The Corporation largely ignored the cease and desist order and stalled reforms After the 60-day deadline arrived, they were granted two extensions On April 15, 1928, the Corporation, now the Paramount-Famous-Lasky Corporation, submitted a report of compliance to the FTC The report disputed the charges, and denied that it practiced block booking The defiance attracted negative press attention and the report was rejected by the FTC The Corporation’s non-compliance eventually led to the FTC taking anti-trust action against the Paramount-Famous-Lasky Corporation11

Star poweredit

In part, the success of the Famous Players-Lasky Corporation can be attributed to Adolph Zukor's adept handling of the star system Celebrities such as Mary Pickford, Rudolph Valentino, Gloria Swanson, Clara Bow, Nancy Carroll, Cleo Ridgely, opera singer Geraldine Farrar and Ruth Chatterton helped to define the Famous Player-Lasky brand412

Major filmsedit

  • The Sheik 1921
  • Blood and Sand 1922
  • The Covered Wagon 1923
  • The Ten Commandments 1923
  • Beau Geste 1926
  • It 1927
  • Wings 1927


  1. ^ "Famous Players-Lasky Corporation" SilentEracom Retrieved 2009-04-16 
  2. ^ "Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve formerly Ahmanson Ranch" Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy 2007 Archived from the original on 2012-02-07 Retrieved 2012-02-08 
  3. ^ National Park Service 2009-03-13 "National Register Information System" National Register of Historic Places National Park Service 
  4. ^ a b c d e f Bernard F Dick Engulfed: The Death of Paramount Pictures and the Birth of Corporate Hollywood Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 2001 pp10-18
  5. ^ Albin Krebs 11 June 1976 "Adolph Zukor Is Dead at 103; Built Paramount Movie Empire" The New York Times NYTimescom Retrieved 2012-02-07 
  6. ^ Gertrude Jobes 1966 Motion Picture Empire Archon Books p 219 
  7. ^ Benjamin B Hampton December 1970 History of the American Film Industry, From its Beginnings to 1931 Dover Publications p 255 ISBN 978-0-486-22403-9 
  8. ^ "$5,500,000 Theater for Times Square" PDF New York Times 1922-06-03 Retrieved 2009-04-16  pdf
  9. ^ "JL Lasky Invokes New Bankruptcy Law Listing $2,020,024 Liabilities and $134,718 Assets, He Asks Deal With Creditors" The New York Times NYTimescom August 3, 1933 Retrieved 2009-03-02 
  10. ^ "Acts to Dissolve Big Lasky Concern as 'Movie Trust'" New York World Society of Independent Motion Picture ProducersSIMPP 1 September 1921 Retrieved 2012-02-08 
  11. ^ a b c d "Introduction: The First Paramount Case" SIMPP Research Database Retrieved 2009-04-16 
  12. ^ Robert Henry Stanley, PhD 1978 The Celluloid Empire: A History of the American Movie Industry New York City: Hastings House pp 24–25 ISBN 0-8038-1246-9 

External linksedit

  • Complete filmography for Famous Players-Lasky Corporation

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