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United Artists, Volume 2, 1951–1978

The Company That Changed the Film Industry

Tino Balio

Publication Year: 2009

In this second volume of Tino Balio’s history of United Artists, he examines the turnaround of the company in the hands of Arthur Krim and Robert Benjamin in the 1950s, when United Artists devised a successful strategy based on the financing and distribution of independent production that transformed the company into an industry leader. Drawing on corporate records and interviews, Balio follows United Artists through its merger with Transamerica in the 1960s and its sale to MGM after the financial debacle of the film Heaven’s Gate. With its attention to the role of film as both an art form and an economic institution, United Artists: The Company That Changed the Film Industry is an indispensable study of one company’s fortunes from the 1950s to the 1980s and a clear-eyed analysis of the film industry as a whole.
    This edition includes an expanded introduction that examines the history of United Artists from 1978 to 2008, as well as an account of Arthur Krim’s attempt to mirror UA’s success at Orion Pictures from 1978 to 1991.

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press


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pp. vii-x

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pp. xi-xiv

I wish to thank Herbert Schottenfeld and Robert Schwartz, who in special ways have made this book possible. I interviewed the following United Artists executives in addition to Schottenfeld: Arthur Krim, William Bernstein, Eric Pleskow, Leon Karmern, Joseph Adelman, Max E. Youngstein, Pedro Teitelbaum, ...

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pp. xv-8

When Arthur Krim and Robert Benjamin took over United Artists in 1951, the company was hemorrhaging money, and receivers were almost at the door. United Artists had declined steadily after World War II and chances of a revival were slim. Mary Pickford and Charlie Chaplin, the two remaining owners of the company, hoped a buyer would save the day. Bids for millions came in, but it is doubtful they ...

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One. Prelude at Eagle-Lion

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pp. 9-39

When Arthur B. Krim and Robert S. Benjamin assumed operating control of United Artists (UA) in February 1951, Mary Pickford described the company as "sick unto death."1 An apt evaluation, since UA, once considered the Tifffany's of the industry, had reached the brink of bankruptcy. Near despair, Mary Pickford and Charlie Chaplin, the two remaining stockholders of the company, accepted the Krim ...

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Two. Gambling on Independent Production

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pp. 40-84

Krim and Benjamin moved into UA headquarters located at 729 Seventh Ave., New York. The cracks in the studio system had deepened.The retrenchment programs that started in 1947 had accelerated as the majors pink slipped contract personnel, cut back on production, and reduced overhead wherever possible. But the majors fought fiercely to keep top talent. In this era of spiraling production costs, ...

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Three. The Company in Place

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pp. 85-116

In an era of economic decline for the motion picture industry, UA achieved an outstanding record of growth. To meet the challenges of the future, UA expanded even further by going public in 1957. In so doing, UA became the last of the major motion picture companies to go the route of Wall Street financing. F. Eberstadt & Co., the in- ...

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Four. Making Them Big

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pp. 117-160

After going public, UA was off and running. In 1957, UA's worldwide theatrical gross came to $63 million; ten years later, when the company merged with TA, the gross hit $150 million. UA lost money once and that was only $800,000 in 1963, the first such loss in the thirteen year Krim-Benjamin regime. UA rebounded afterward on the strength...

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Five.The Studio without Walls

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pp. 161-196

The stated objective of the Mirisch organization was to "find the best filmmakers and provide them with the very best story material and the most talented associates-enable the filmmaker to do the thing he most wants to do-concentrate completely on the films, on what appears on the screen and let a small, effective organization handle all ...

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Six. Selling Them Big

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pp. 197-221

When television replaced the movies as the main source of entertainment for Americans, the function of motion picture promotion changed. During the days of the studio system, promotion served to sustain the movie going habit and to funnel people to first-run theaters. Although Hollywood publicized pictures individually, stars received ...

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Seven. International Operations, Part I: Of Art Films and Great Britain

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pp. 222-252

The decline of the domestic theatrical market after World War II forced UA and the other American motion picture companies to rely on over seas markets more and more. At one time, American films could at least break even at home, but no more. Foreign sales, which by 1960 accounted for about 40 percent of Hollywood's total income, spelled ...

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Eight. "007": A License to Print Money

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pp. 253-274

As the most successful series in motion picture history, the James Bond films are quintessential examples of products tailored for the international market. Financed by an American major partly with British film subsidy funds, produced by two expatriates who had incorporated in Switzerland, and based on a popular series of British espionage ...

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Nine. International Operations, Part 2: France and Italy

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pp. 275-301

If the James Bond series epitomized the commercial exploitation of the "swinging London" scene, Last Tango in Paris represented the quintessential manipulation of the European art cinema. A coproduction of Alberto Grimaldi's PEA Produzioni Europee Associate S.A.S.-Rome and UA's French subsidiary Les Production Artistes Associes S.A.-...

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Ten. Life with a Conglomerate

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pp. 302-332

On Friday the thirteenth, January 1978, UA chairman Arthur B. Krim, UA finance committee chairman Robert S. Benjamin, and UA president and chief executive Eric Pleskow announced their intention to resign. The following Monday, two additional UA executives-William Bernstein, senior vice president in charge of business affairs, and Mike Medavoy, senior vice president in charge of West Coast production ...

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Eleven. To MGM and Beyond: The Walkout

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pp. 333-348

The Krim-Benjamin walkout received national press coverage, which was piqued in part by the Begelman affair. A story by David McClintick in the Wall Street Journal, followed by a Washington Post expose by Jack Egan and John Berry, had revealed that Columbia Pictures President David Begelman had forged checks, overbilled the company, ...

Appendix 1: United Artists' Domestic Releases, 1951-1978

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pp. 349-387

Appendix 2: United Artists' Principal Producers, 1951-1978

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pp. 388-397

Appendix 3: United Artists Collection Addition, 1950-1980

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pp. 398-402


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pp. 403-422

Index of Motion Picture Titles

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pp. 423-430

General Index

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pp. 431-446

E-ISBN-13: 9780299230135
Print-ISBN-13: 9780299230142

Publication Year: 2009