Home / History of 20th Century Fox

History of 20th Century Fox

The company is the result of a 1935 merger of two entities, Fox Film Corporation founded by William Fox in 1915, and Twentieth Century Pictures, begun in 1933 by Darryl F. Zanuck, Joseph Schenck, Raymond Griffith and William Goetz. William Fox, a pioneer in creating the theater “chain”, began producing films in 1914. In 1917 he introduced Theda Bara, one of the most popular screen actresses of the time. Always more of an entrepreneur than a showman, Fox concentrated on acquiring and building theaters; pictures were secondary. With the introduction of sound Fox acquired the rights to a German sound-on-film process which he dubbed “Movietone” and in 1926 began offering films with a music-and- effects track. The following year he began the weekly “Fox Movietone News” feature, which ran until 1963. The growing company needed space, and in 1926 Fox acquired three-hundred acres in the open country west of Beverly Hills and built “Movietone City”, the best-equipped studio of its time.

When rival Marcus Loew died in 1927, Fox offered to buy the Loew family’s holdings; Loew’s Inc. controlled more than two-hundred theaters as well as the MGM studio (whose films are currently distributed internationally by Fox — see below). When the family agreed to the sale, the merger of Fox and Loew’s Inc. was announced in 1929. But MGM studio-boss Louis B. Mayer, not included in the deal, fought back; using political connections, he called on the Justice Department’s anti-trust unit to block the merger. Fate favoured Mayer; Fox was badly injured in a car crash and by the time he recovered the 1929 stock market crash had taken most of his fortune, putting an end to the Loew’s merger.

Over-extended and close to bankruptcy, Fox was stripped of his empire and even ended up in jail. Fox Film, with more than five-hundred theatres, was placed in receivership; a bank-mandated reorganisation propped the company up for a time, but it was clear a merger was the only way Fox Film could survive.

Leave a Comment