Universal City Studios LLC, known commonly as Universal Pictures, is an American film production and distribution company headquartered in Universal City, California. The oldest active film studio in the country, it is also considered one of Hollywood's "Big Five," along with Walt Disney Pictures, Warner Bros. Pictures, Sony Pictures Entertainment, and Paramount Pictures. It is currently a subsidiary of the media conglomerate NBCUniversal, itself a subsidiary of the telecommunications conglomerate Comcast Corporation. Universal jointly owns and operates United International Pictures with Paramount, which distributes both studios' films outside of the United States and Canada.
Universal was founded in 1912 by Carl Laemmle, Mark Dintenfass, Charles O. Baumann, Adam Kessel, Pat Powers, William Swanson, David Horsley, and Jules Brulatour as Universal Film Manufacturing Company.
In 1962, Universal acquired the American copyright to King Kong from RKO Pictures, and distributed Toho's King Kong vs. Godzilla internationally outside of Asia. Universal planned to produce its own remake of the original King Kong in the 1970s entitled The Legend of King Kong, but instead RKO chose to sell the film rights to Dino De Laurentiis, who produced his own remake in 1976. Universal sued RKO for ownership of the film rights to Kong. A federal judge found that RKO did not own King Kong, only the 1933 film and its sequel, and that King Kong was rightfully owned by the estate of his original creator, the late Merian C. Cooper. The rights to King Kong transferred to Cooper's son Richard, who sold them to Universal. Though the expiration of the copyright to the 1932 novelization of the original King Kong led to the character partially entering the public domain, Universal maintained that it fully owned the character for years and often took unsuccessful legal action in order to protect it. The company planned to produce a remake of King Kong in the late 1990s, but initial plans fell through before it finally greenlit Peter Jackson's King Kong in 2005.
In 2013, Universal reached an agreement with Legendary Pictures to market, distribute and co-produce its films starting in 2014 following the expiration of the latter's deal with Warner Bros. Universal began production with Legendary on a new King Kong film titled Kong: Skull Island, but Legendary moved production of the film to its old partner, Warner Bros., in order to set up a crossover film with Godzilla.
Universal acquired DreamWorks Classics in 2016, briefly giving it the U.S. distribution rights to the original Godzilla, Godzilla Raids Again, Rodan, Mothra vs. Godzilla, Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster, Invasion of Astro-Monster, The War of the Gargantuas, All Monsters Attack, and Terror of Mechagodzilla. However, these rights expired the following year. Universal's DreamWorks library also includes The King Kong Show. Universal retains ownership of King Kong vs. Godzilla and King Kong Escapes in perpetuity outside of Asia, and has released both to home video and licensed the former to The Criterion Collection for its Godzilla: The Showa-Era Films, 1954-1975 Blu-ray set in 2019.
- The Deadly Mantis (1957) - Producer
- King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962) - Distributor [U.S. and other select countries]
- King Kong Escapes (1967) - Distributor [U.S. and other select countries]
- King Kong (2005) - Financier / distributor
- Pacific Rim Uprising (2018) - Distributor
- Nope (2022) - Distributor
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