Queen Elizabeth (1912)

Of the original modern day "big five" film studios, only Paramount Pictures and Warner Bros. survive as major studios. The other original three, have either become smaller (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and RKO) or been taken over as a subsidiary of another studio (20th Century Fox).

Like Universal, Paramount Pictures was founded by a theatre operator. Adolph Zukor was a Hungarian born immigrant to the United States in 1891, who began working in the country as an upholster and furrier before taking on business under his own name.

As Zukor began to start to make money, his cousin, Max Goldstein, approached him for a loan in 1903 to invest in a chain of theatres running vaudeville shows in New York City. On 8 May 1912, with the financial backing of theatre giants the Frohman brothers, Zukor founded The Famous Players Film Company.

Meanwhile, in France, a small production company called L'Histrionic Film was working on Les Amours de la reine Élisabeth (The Loves of Queen Elizabeth). After the L'Histrionic Film was forced into liquidation by Pathé Frères, Zukor picked up the film's US release, making Queen Elizabeth the first film distributed by The Famous Players Film Company.

In some ways, Queen Elizabeth was a risky film to release, being of a considerable length for the era at over 45 minutes long. However, it became a quick success, helping Zukor to convince other studios that longer format films were the future. That being said, its quality pales in comparison to films made just two or three years later.

Zukor echoed the model adopted by Universal, promoting the stars roles in the films, which convinced many early stars such as Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks to sign for his company. This, in turn, led to Zukor holding a dominant position in the industry by the late 1910s, made famous for its "Paramount Pictures" which were released from 1917 onwards. He was able to convince theatre chains to take block bookings - whereby they would commit to a series of Paramount films - leading to a series of antitrust cases by the Government.

In 1927 the company would become the Paramount Famous Lasky Corporation before reorganising in the 1930s to become Paramount Pictures, Inc. The rest, as they say, is history.

You can watch where it all began - Queen Elizabeth - in full below:


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