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Filmways, Inc.
Company typeCorporation
IndustryMotion pictures, television programs
Founded1952; 72 years ago (1952)
FounderMartin Ransohoff
Edwin Kasper
Defunct1982; 42 years ago (1982)
FateAcquired by Orion Pictures and renamed as Orion Pictures Corporation
SuccessorOrion Pictures Corporation
HeadquartersSonoma County, California
Key people
Martin Ransohoff, Edwin Kasper, Rodney Erickson

Filmways, Inc. (also known as Filmways Pictures and Filmways Television) was a television and film production company founded by American film executive Martin Ransohoff and Edwin Kasper in 1952.[1] It is probably best remembered as the production company of CBS' "rural comedies" of the 1960s, including Mister Ed, The Beverly Hillbillies, Petticoat Junction, and Green Acres, as well as the comedy-drama The Trials of O'Brien, the western Dundee and the Culhane, the adventure show Bearcats!, the police drama Cagney & Lacey, and The Addams Family. Notable films the company produced include The Sandpiper, The Cincinnati Kid, The Fearless Vampire Killers, Ice Station Zebra, Summer Lovers, The Burning, King, Brian De Palma's Dressed to Kill and Blow Out, and Death Wish II.

Filmways acquired several companies throughout the years, such as Heatter-Quigley Productions, Ruby-Spears Productions and American International Pictures. It was also the owner of the film distributor Sigma III Corporation (Closely Watched Trains, Hi, Mom!), and Wally Heider Recording in Hollywood.


Filmways was formed in 1952 by Martin Ransohoff and Edwin Kasper, who would part with Filmways five years later. The company originally produced television commercials and documentary films. In 1959, Filmways entered the television sitcom arena in a big way when many executives of McCadden Productions (a production company founded by comedian and actor George Burns) joined Filmways following McCadden's Chapter 7 bankruptcy earlier the same year. Filmways TV Productions was formed with former McCadden executive Al Simon as president, producing its first TV series, 21 Beacon Street. During that time, McCadden also produced the pilot which would later become the series Mister Ed. Burns sold the rights to Filmways, and Burns and director Arthur Lubin formed The Mister Ed Company as a joint venture. As a result, Mister Ed became a smash hit. From 1962 until 1971, Filmways produced its biggest hit, The Beverly Hillbillies for CBS, created by Paul Henning, another former McCadden executive.

In 1967, the company had acquired small film distributor Sigma III Corporation, as well as its film library in an effort to expand onto motion picture production and distribution.[2] Two years later, in 1969, the company acquired Heatter-Quigley Productions, the game show producer known for their biggest hit, Hollywood Squares.[3] Also that year, the company bought Sears Point Raceway in Sonoma County, California,[4] and Wally Heider's recording studios in Hollywood and San Francisco.[5] Filmways was also listed as a co-developer of Ontario Motor Speedway in San Bernardino County, California, which opened in 1970. In 1972, Ransohoff left Filmways as president.

Filmways housed studios in Manhattan at 246 East 127th Street, which were built for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in the 1920s.

In 1974, it acquired book publisher Grosset & Dunlap from American Financial Group. In May 1975, it revived the television syndication firm Rhodes Productions after former parent Taft Broadcasting renamed the original company to Taft, H-B Program Sales two weeks earlier.[6] In 1976, Richard L. Bloch became CEO. In 1977, it founded Ruby-Spears Productions with former Hanna-Barbera alumni Joe Ruby and Ken Spears. Later that year, Rhodes Productions was spun off into an independent corporation, and launched its syndication unit Filmways Enterprises, headed by Jamie Kellner.[7] On July 12, 1979, after Samuel Z. Arkoff's retirement, Filmways purchased American International Pictures (AIP). Their TV subsidiary, AITV was eventually merged into Filmways Enterprises.[8]

Filmways had lost nearly $20 million during the nine months ending in November 1981. However, it partially exited bankruptcy by selling a few of its previously acquired assets. In 1981, Ruby-Spears Productions was sold to Taft Broadcasting, owners of the Hanna-Barbera animation studio and Sears Point Raceway was sold to Speedway Motorsports. In 1982, Grosset & Dunlap was sold to G. P. Putnam's Sons.

In February 1982, Filmways was acquired by Orion Pictures (with E. M. Warburg Pincus & Company and Home Box Office (HBO) for its pay and cable television rights).[9] Filmways was then reincorporated as Orion Pictures Corporation on August 31, 1982.[10]

Announcements at the end of productions

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Most productions ended with the announcement, "This has been a Filmways presentation". For some shows, the voice-over was made by a cast member:

Ownership of film, television properties

Today, most of the Filmways library, including Green Acres, The Addams Family, Cagney & Lacey (continued by Orion), Death Wish II (a Cannon film), The Hollywood Squares, and Mister Ed is now owned by Amazon via Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer; a second iteration of Orion was launched in 2013.

The Beverly Hillbillies and Petticoat Junction are owned by Paramount Global. Viacom (the parent of CBS from 1999 to 2005, actually started as CBS' syndication arm) syndicated these two programs since the 1970s. In the case of Hillbillies, Orion Television (now a subsidiary of MGM Television in 2013) still owns the copyrights to the episodes, excluding episodes from the first season and the first half of the second season, which have fallen into the public domain. However, any new compilation of Hillbillies material will be copyrighted by either MPI Media Group or CBS, depending on the series content.

Filmways co-produced Eye Guess, The Face Is Familiar, Personality, and You're Putting Me On with Bob Stewart Productions. Those four game shows are currently owned by Sony Pictures Television (SPT). Filmways syndicated Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman that was produced by T.A.T. Communications Company. That too is owned by SPT via ELP Communications. SPT co-distributed the MGM library for a short time.

The rights to nearly all movies Filmways co-produced with major studios have been retained by the studios that originally released them; 10 Rillington Place is owned by Columbia Pictures, Save the Tiger is owned by Paramount Pictures, Two-Minute Warning is owned by Universal Studios, and so forth. Most of the foreign-language films released by their Sigma III division have reverted to their original producers, but a small number of English-language films Sigma III handled such as Cul-de-sac and Hi, Mom! were retained by Filmways and are now owned by MGM. The rest that were originally released by MGM prior to May 23, 1986 are currently owned by Warner Bros. via Turner Entertainment Co.

Television series

Title Years Network Notes
21 Beacon Street 1959 NBC
Mister Ed 1961–66 Syndication/CBS
The Beverly Hillbillies 1962–71 CBS
Petticoat Junction 1963–70 CBS
The Addams Family 1964–66 ABC
Green Acres 1965–71 CBS
The Trials of O'Brien 1965–66 CBS
Eye Guess 1966–69 NBC co-production with Bob Stewart Productions
The Hollywood Squares 1966–81 NBC co-production with Heatter-Quigley Productions
The Double Life of Henry Phyfe 1966 ABC
The Face Is Familiar 1966 CBS co-production with Bob Stewart Productions
The Pruitts of Southampton 1966–67 ABC
Personality 1967–69 NBC co-production with Bob Stewart Productions
Dundee and the Culhane 1967 CBS
The Debbie Reynolds Show 1969–70 NBC
Bearcats! 1971 CBS
Ozzie's Girls 1973–1974 Syndication
Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman 1976–1977 Syndication produced by T.A.T. Communications Company. T.A.T. took over syndication during season 2
Big Hawaii 1977 NBC
King 1978 NBC
240-Robert 1979–81 ABC
Thundarr the Barbarian 1980–82 ABC (1980–82)/NBC (1983) co-production with Ruby-Spears
Cagney & Lacey 1982–88 CBS continued by Orion Television

Feature films

Release Date Title Notes
June 21, 1962 Boys' Night Out distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
November 14, 1963 The Wheeler Dealers
September 17, 1964 Topkapi distributed by United Artists
October 27, 1964 The Americanization of Emily distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
June 23, 1965 The Sandpiper
October 11, 1965 The Loved One
October 15, 1965 The Cincinnati Kid
1967 Too Many Thieves
June 20, 1967 Don't Make Waves
November 13, 1967 The Fearless Vampire Killers
December 6, 1967 Eye of the Devil
October 23, 1968 Ice Station Zebra
November 17, 1968 Journey to Jerusalem distributed by Sigma III
February 9, 1969 A Midsummer Night's Dream television film
July 23, 1969 Castle Keep distributed by Columbia Pictures
December 21, 1969 Hamlet
April 27, 1970 Hi, Mom! distributed by Sigma III; Produced by West End Films
July 1970 The Moonshine War distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
May 12, 1971 10 Rillington Place distributed by Columbia Pictures
June 30, 1971 What's the Matter with Helen? distributed by United Artists
September 2, 1971 See No Evil distributed by Columbia Pictures
November 22, 1971 King Lear distributed by Altura Films
July 14, 1972 Fuzz distributed by United Artists
February 14, 1973 Save the Tiger distributed by Paramount Pictures
July 21, 1974 The White Dawn
November 14, 1975 The Other Side of the Mountain distributed by Universal Pictures
November 7, 1976 21 Hours at Munich television film
November 12, 1976 Two-Minute Warning distributed by Universal Pictures
February 10, 1978 The Other Side of the Mountain Part 2
July 11, 1980 How to Beat the High Cost of Living
July 24, 1980 The Earthling
July 25, 1980 Dressed to Kill
September 26, 1980 Without Warning
October 3, 1980 The First Deadly Sin
November 28, 1980 The Babysitter television film
May 8, 1981 The Burning produced by Miramax Films
July 24, 1981 Blow Out
October 9, 1981 Full Moon High
March 1, 1981 Miracle on Ice television film
November 12, 1981 Roar
December 11, 1981 Four Friends
February 19, 1982 Death Wish II US distribution; produced by The Cannon Group, Inc.
July 16, 1982 Summer Lovers


  1. ^ [bare URL PDF]
  2. ^ "Sigma III may become Filmways subsidiary" (PDF). Broadcasting Magazine. 1967-06-26. p. 78. Retrieved 2023-06-14.
  3. ^ "Filmways expands with print, TV additions" (PDF). Broadcasting Magazine. 1969-06-09. p. 44. Retrieved 2023-03-16.
  4. ^ Thompson Hill, Kathleen (19 June 2015). "Sonoma Raceway's food runs laps around the rest..." Sonoma Media Investments, Inc. Retrieved 24 April 2022.
  5. ^ "Filmways Acquires Skye in Stock Deal". Billboard. Billboard. 16 August 1969. Retrieved 24 April 2022.
  6. ^ "Rhodes under Filmways flag". Broadcasting. May 26, 1975. p. 33.
  7. ^ "From whence it came" (PDF). Broadcasting. 1978-12-11. Retrieved 2021-08-09.
  8. ^ "Radio-Television: Filmways Puts Syndie Activities Under Wing Headed By Brown". Variety. August 22, 1979. p. 58.
  9. ^ "Orion Group Gets Filmways". The New York Times. February 10, 1982. Retrieved August 31, 2021.
  10. ^ "Selected Entity Name: Orion TV Productions, Inc". Corporation & Business Entity Database. State of New York. Retrieved November 4, 2015.
  11. ^ Mashpedia Video