AUG 16-19, 22-27, 29-31
SEPT 10, 12-16, 20-24
The Universal Film Manufacturing Company incorporated on April 30, 1912, the result of a merger between a number of independent companies that had been battling Thomas Edison’s Motion Picture Patents Trust. Universal would go on to become the oldest continuously operating film producer and distributor in the United States. In an industry defined by change, Universal’s spinning globe logo has remained, along with its back lot, and tour, in Universal City, California.
From its beginnings under Carl Laemmle, there existed a tension between Universal’s need to produce low-budget “programmers” and the “major minor’s” desire to compete alongside better-capitalized studios — with their national theatre chains — on the level of big-budget A pictures. Ironically, while several of Universal’s early “prestige” titles are beloved classics today, including All Quiet on the Western Front (1930), it remains the B pictures, including its iconic 1930s horror cycle (Frankenstein, Dracula, The Mummy), that epitomize its contribution to film art and commerce.
This irony informs Universal’s post-war emergence as a global entertainment power. After anti-trust actions levelled the playing field in the 1940s, Universal moved into the A-list with superlative mass entertainment that ennobled populist genres, including melodramas (Magnificent Obsession), sex farces (Pillow Talk), and homespun comedies (the Francis the Talking Mule series). Universal also innovated new industry practices, pioneering the “percentage deal” and embracing television production. It changed the game again with Jaws (1975), which established the “blockbuster” formula that still dominates the industry today.
Throughout its history, Universal has translated economic necessity into a uniquely American challenge to the distinctions between prestigious and popular entertainment. We are pleased to celebrate Universal Pictures’ hundred-year legacy. -UCLA Film and Television Archive
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Acknowledgements: “Universal Pictures: Celebrating 100 Years” is organized by Universal Pictures and the UCLA Film and Television Archive and presented by American Express. The program was curated by UCLA, where it was first presented in May and June, and is touring to New York, Chicago, Berkeley, Vancouver, Seattle, Cambridge MA, Columbus, Portland OR, Houston, Ithaca NY, Atlanta, and Washington DC. For their kind assistance in making our Vancouver presentation possible, Pacific Cinémathèque is very grateful in Shannon Kelley, Head of Public Programs, UCLA Film and Television Archive, and Paul Ginsburg, Vice President, Film Distribution, NBC Universal. www.universal100th.com