Warner Bros. Pictures
Warner Bros. Pictures, doing business as Warner Bros. Pictures Group, is an American film production and distribution company owned by the WarnerMedia Studios & Networks Group through its subsidiary Warner Bros. Entertainment. Headquartered at the Warner Bros. Studios complex in Burbank, California, it is the flagship label of the Warner Bros. Pictures Group, a division of Warner Bros. Entertainment, which is part of AT&T's WarnerMedia.
Founded in 1923 by brothers Harry Warner, Albert Warner, Sam Warner, and Jack L. Warner, in addition to producing its own films, it handles filmmaking operations, theatrical distribution, marketing and promotion for films produced and released by other Warner Bros. labels, including Warner Animation Group, New Line Cinema, DC Films, and Castle Rock Entertainment, as well as various third-party producers.
In 1927, Warner Bros. Pictures revolutionized the film industry when the American-Jewish Warner brothers released their first pictures "talkie" The Jazz Singer starring Al Jolson. However, founding member Sam Warner died prior to the premiere of the film. From 1923 to 1967, Warner Bros. was known as Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc. as their main focus was entirely on the motion picture industry. When the company diversified over the years, it was eventually rebranded to its current umbrella name, but Warner Bros. Pictures continued to be used as the name of the film production arm of the company.
The division was incorporated as Warner Bros. Pictures on March 3, 2003 to diversify film subjects and expand audiences for their film releases. The company became part of the Warner Bros. Pictures Group, which was established in 2008, and Jeff Robinov was appointed the first president of the company. In 2017, longtime New Line executive Toby Emmerich joined as president. In January 2018, he was elevated to chairman. On October 23, 2018 it was announced Lynne Frank, President of Warner Bros. Pictures Group, would be leaving the company to pursue new opportunities. In June 2019, Warner Bros. Pictures signed an agreement with SF Studios to have their films distributed in Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and Finland.
As with most other film distributors, Warner Bros. Pictures struggled with releasing films during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic due to restrictions on theater openings. After pushing several films planned for 2020 into 2021, WB announced in December 2020 that they would take the unusual approach of having their entire slate of 2021 films planned for both theatrical release as well as having a simultaneous one-month period of availability on the HBO Max streaming service, in a similar manner for how they were releasing Wonder Woman 1984 that month. After one month, such films would still be available in theaters and would then later be available via home media under typical release schedules. The move to include streaming was criticized by production companies, directors, and actors as Warner Bros. Pictures had not informed anyone about the plan ahead of the announcement, as well of concerns of lower payouts due to the streaming options, leading Warner Bros. Pictures to alter its compensation rates for the affected films by January 2021 to provide larger payouts to casts and crews of these films.
In March 2021 Warner Bros. announced that for 2022 they will discontinue their same-day HBO Max and theatrical release model in favor of a 45-day theatrical exclusivity window. This is part of an agreement the studio reached with Cineworld (who operates Regal Cinemas), and the failure of simultaneous release in theaters and on HBO Max for almost all 2021 films.
Mergers and acquisitions have helped Warner Bros. accumulate a diverse collection of films, cartoons and television programs. As of 2019, Warner Bros. owned more than 100,000 hours of programming, including 8,600 feature films and 5,000 television programs comprising tens of thousands of individual episodes.
In the aftermath of the 1948 antitrust suit, uncertain times led Warner Bros. in 1956 to sell most of its pre-1950 films and cartoons to Associated Artists Productions (a.a.p.). In addition, a.a.p. also obtained the Fleischer Studios and Famous Studios Popeye cartoons, originally from Paramount Pictures. Two years later, a.a.p. was sold to United Artists, which owned the company until 1981, when Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer acquired United Artists
In 1986, Turner Broadcasting System acquired Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Finding itself in debt, Turner kept the pre-May 1986 MGM film and television libraries and a small portion of the United Artists library (including the a.a.p. library and North American rights to the RKO Radio Pictures library) while spinning off the rest of MGM.
In 1989, Warner Communications acquired Lorimar-Telepictures Corporation. Lorimar's catalogue included the post-1974 library of Rankin/Bass Productions, and the post-1947 library of Monogram Pictures/Allied Artists Pictures Corporation.
In 1991, Turner Broadcasting System acquired animation studio Hanna-Barbera and the Ruby-Spears library from Great American Broadcasting, and years later, Turner Broadcasting System acquired Castle Rock Entertainment on December 22, 1993 and New Line Cinema on January 28, 1994. On October 10, 1996, Time Warner acquired Turner Broadcasting System, thus bringing Warner Bros.' pre-1950 library back home. In addition, Warner Bros. only owns Castle Rock Entertainment's post-1994 library.
In June 2016, it created the Harry Potter Global Franchise Development Team to oversee its ownership of the Harry Potter franchise worldwide (including the Wizarding World trademark).
The studio's first live-action film was My Four Years in Germany (1918), their first animated film was Gay Purr-ee (1962). Animated films produced by Warner Bros. Animation, and the Warner Animation Group are also released by Warner Bros. Pictures. The studio has released twenty-five films that have received an Academy Award for Best Picture nomination: Disraeli (1929), I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932), 42nd Street (1933), Here Comes the Navy (1934), A Midsummer Night's Dream (1935), Anthony Adverse (1936), The Life of Emile Zola (1937), The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), Four Daughters (1938), Jezebel (1938), Dark Victory (1939), to name a few.