Screen Gems
Product typeAnimation (1921–1946)
Television (1948–1974)
Film (1998–present)
OwnerSony Pictures Entertainment
CountryUnited States
Introduced1921; 103 years ago (1921) (animation division)
1948; 76 years ago (1948) (television division)
1998; 26 years ago (1998) (film division)
Discontinued1946; 78 years ago (1946) (animation division)
May 6, 1974; 50 years ago (1974-05-06) (television division)

Screen Gems is an American brand name owned by Sony Pictures Entertainment, a subsidiary of Japanese multinational conglomerate, Sony Group Corporation.[1] It has served several different purposes for its parent companies over the decades since its incorporation, initially as a cartoon studio, then a television studio, and later on as a film studio. The label currently serves as a film production that specializes in genre films, mainly horror.[2]

Screen Gems is a member of the Motion Picture Association (MPA).[3]

Animation studio (1921–1946)

Screen Gems
FormerlyM.J. Winkler Pictures (1921–1926)
Winkler Pictures (1926–1931)
The Charles Mintz Studio (1931–1933)
IndustryAnimation
Founded1921; 103 years ago (1921)
FounderMargaret J. Winkler
Defunct1946; 78 years ago (1946)
Headquarters
New York City, New York (1921–1931)
California
,
ProductsShort films
Production output
Animation
ParentColumbia Pictures

Early years (1921–1933)

When producer Pat Sullivan came to Harry Warner to sign a contract with him on his and Otto Messmer's series Felix the Cat, he declined and instead told his soon-to-be former secretary Margaret J. Winkler that she should form her own company and take control of the distribution of the series. Winkler formed M.J. Winkler Productions and soon also took control of Max and Dave Fleischer's series Out of the Inkwell. By 1923 she and Sullivan were arguing, and that same year the Fleischer Brothers formed their own distribution company named Red Seal. Winkler saw an unreleased short called Alice's Wonderland, a cartoon produced and directed by Walt Disney, and became impressed with the short. The two agreed to make a series about the cartoon. In 1924, Charles Mintz married Winkler, and the latter's career began to decline. Mintz quickly assumed Winkler's role in the company, later rebranding it Winkler Pictures. In 1925 Winkler's renewal contract for the Felix shorts was written, yet Winkler declined to renew due to her dispute with Sullivan. The following year the Alice Comedies stopped being distributed by Winkler. After Mintz become involved with the progress it was clear that Disney was unhappy with the production costs on cartoons, and he asked Disney and Ub Iwerks to develop a new character. The result was Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, the first animated character for Universal Pictures.[4] In February 1928, when the character proved more successful than expected, Disney sought to meet with Mintz over the budget, wanting to spend more on the cartoons. Mintz refused, and hired away all of Walt Disney Studios's animators except Iwerks, Les Clark, and Johnny Cannon, who all refused to leave Disney. He moved the production of the Oswald cartoons to Winkler Pictures, along with Margaret Winkler's brother, George. After losing the Oswald contract to Walter Lantz, Mintz focused on the Krazy Kat series, which was the output of a Winkler-distributed property.

M.J. Winkler Productions became known as Winkler Pictures after Mintz took over in 1926 and partnered with Columbia Pictures for distribution in 1929. In 1931, when the studio moved from New York to California, it was renamed The Charles Mintz Studio.[5]

Becoming Screen Gems (1933–1946)

The Charles Mintz studio became known as Screen Gems in 1933. The name was originally used in 1933, when Columbia Pictures acquired a stake in Charles Mintz's animation studio.[6] The name was derived from an early Columbia Pictures slogan, "Gems of the Screen"; itself a takeoff on the song "Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean".[7] In 1939, a short while before his death, after becoming indebted to Columbia, Mintz relinquished ownership of his studio and the Screen Gems name to Columbia to settle longstanding financial problems.[8]

Mintz was nominated for two Academy Awards for Best Short Subject. His first nomination was in 1935 for Holiday Land, and he was nominated again in 1938 for The Little Match Girl.

For an entire decade, Charles Mintz produced Krazy Kat, Scrappy, and Color Rhapsody animated film shorts through Columbia Pictures. Mintz's production manager became the studio head but was shortly replaced by Mintz's brother-in-law, George Winkler. Columbia then decided to hire Frank Tashlin, then a writer for Walt Disney Productions, as lead producer.[9] There he would hire many displaced animators from the 1941 Disney animators' strike, as well as making the decision of firing the bulk of their initial staff (included Arthur Davis, Manny Gould, Lou Lilly, Ben Harrison and Winkler). Tashlin would also direct the 1941 short The Fox and the Grapes. Based on the Aesop's Fable of the same name, the short would inadvetably spawn Columbia's most successful characters with The Fox and the Crow, a comic duo of a refined Fox and a street-wise Crow.

Tashlin's stay at Screen Gems would be short-lived, as he would later leave the studio, following an argument with Columbia higher-ups.[10] When interviewed by Michael Barrier, Tashlin said that the management "can't stay happy long when things are going well, so we ended up in another fracas and I left."[9] He was replaced by Dave Fleischer, previously the co-founder and head director of Fleischer Studios. John Hubley described Fleischer as "one of the world's intellectual lightweights", as he had very little involvement in the making of cartoons. However he was also noted for his baffling editing practices.[11] Dave was later fired and succeeded by a revolving door of producers, including musician Paul Worth, Three Stooges producer Hugh McCollum and ex-Schlesinger assistants Ray Katz and Henry Binder. The studio would also create several more recurring characters around this time, including Tito and His Burrito, Flippy, Flop the Cat, Igor Puzzlewitz, Willoughby Wren, and an adaptation of Al Capp's comic series Li'l Abner, with varying levels of success.

The studios output following Tashlin's departure was, in retrospect, considered to be vastly inferior as many of the cartoons made during this period were described as being "misguided" or "imitation Warner Bros." Hubley also said to have disliked his work at the studio, and that Columbia "hated" the cartoons they were making.[11] Historians note that the decline in quality could have been caused by several key factors; Tashlin's departure from the studio, the inability to obtain confident animators, writers or directors and Columbia's mismanagement behind the scenes.

Other staff members during this period included people such as Bob Wickersham, Paul Sommer, Alec Geiss, Sid Marcus, Howard Swift and Alex Lovy. Bob Clampett was also brought in as a gag writer before setting up his own animation studio for Republic Pictures.[12][13]

Screen Gems was, in an attempt to keep costs low, the last American animation studio to stop producing black and white cartoons. The final black-and-white Screen Gems shorts appeared in 1946, over three years after the second-longest holdouts (Famous Studios and Leon Schlesinger Productions). During that same year, Columbia decided to shut its doors for good, while releasing a back catalog up until 1949.[14] It later merged with the television version of Screen Gems (Previously Pioneer Telefilms).

In spite of the studio's internal affairs, Screen Gems' cartoons were still moderately successful, with it achieving additional Academy Awards nominations. However it never achieved a level of success comparable to Walt Disney Productions, Warner Bros. Cartoons, and the MGM Cartoon Studio. The studio's purpose was assumed by an outside producer, United Productions of America (UPA), whose cartoons, including Gerald McBoing-Boing and the Mr. Magoo series, were major critical and commercial successes. Following UPA, a deal with Hanna-Barbera was made in 1957, which lasted until 1967.

In 1999, Columbia TriStar International Television produced Totally Tooned In- a syndicated TV package showcasing Columbia's classic cartoon library. With the aid of animation historian Jerry Beck, Columbia restored and remastered the majority of the color Screen Gems cartoons (as well as all the UPA cartoons) from their original 35mm elements. The show aired in several international markets before making its American television debut on Antenna TV on January 8, 2011. They would later be aired on Toon In With Me on the MeTV Network in November 2021.[15] Despite these restoration efforts, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has no current plans to release these shorts on DVD or Blu-ray. Since CPE Holdings, Inc. became dormant on May 9, 2024, Sony Pictures Releasing now owns the theatrical distribution on behalf of Columbia Pictures, while Sony Pictures Television owns the television distribution on behalf of CPT Holdings, Inc. to the majority of the color Screen Gems cartoons (as well as all the UPA cartoons) library.

Theatrical short film series

All series were distributed by Columbia unless otherwise noted.[16]

Television subsidiary (1948–1974)

Screen Gems Television
Company typeSubsidiary
IndustryTelevision production
Television syndication
PredecessorPioneer Telefilms (1947–1948)
FoundedNovember 1948; 75 years ago (1948-11)
FounderRalph Cohn
DefunctMay 6, 1974; 50 years ago (1974-05-06)
FateRebranded as Columbia Pictures Television
SuccessorsStudio:
Columbia Pictures Television (1974–2001)
Columbia TriStar Television (1994–2002)
Sony Pictures Television (2002–present)
Library:
NBCUniversal Syndication Studios
(pre-1948 Universal Pictures library only)
Warner Bros. Television Studios
(pre-1969 Hanna-Barbera library only)
Headquarters,
Area served
Worldwide
ParentColumbia Pictures

Early years (1948–1954)

Ralph Cohn, the son of Columbia co-founder Jack Cohn and nephew of Columbia's head Harry Cohn, founded Pioneer Telefilms, a television commercial company in 1947. Ralph later wrote a 50-page memo arguing that Columbia should be the first major film studio to move into television. Although Harry wasn't convinced by the suggestion, Columbia invested $50,000 acquiring Pioneer and reorganized it as Screen Gems.[18] The studio started its new business in New York on April 15, 1949.[19]

By 1951, Screen Gems became a full-fledged television studio by producing and syndicating several popular shows (see below). Within a few months, Ralph Cohn had sold a half-hour dramatic anthology concept to the Ford Motor Company which became Ford Theatre, which was one of the first times a major Hollywood movie studio had produced content for television. They also produced seven episodes of the first season of Cavalcade of America.[20][21]

The name "Screen Gems," at the time, was used to hide the fact that the film studio was entering television production and distribution. Many film studios saw television as a threat to their business, thus it was expected that they would shun the medium. However, Columbia was one of a few studios who branched out to television under a pseudonym to conceal the true ownership of the television arm. That is until 1955, when Columbia decided to use the woman from its logo under the Screen Gems banner, officially billing itself as a part of "the Hollywood studios of Columbia Pictures", as spoken in announcements at the end of some Screen Gems series.

By 1952, the studio had produced a series of about 100 film-record coordinated releases for television under the brand "TV Disk Jockey Toons" in which the films "synchronize perfectly with the records".[22]

Rising success (1954–1968)

In 1954, the studio started producing Father Knows Best on CBS and The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin on ABC, which became their biggest successes at the time.[18]

On July 1, 1956, studio veteran Irving Briskin stepped down as stage manager of Columbia Pictures and formed his own production company Briskin Productions, Inc. to release series through Screen Gems and supervise all of its productions.[23] On December 10, 1956, Screen Gems expanded into television syndication by acquiring Hygo Television Films (a.k.a. Serials Inc.) and its affiliated company United Television Films, Inc. Hygo Television Films was founded in 1951 by Jerome Hyams, who also acquired United Television Films in 1955 that was founded by Archie Mayers.[24]

During that year, the studio began syndicating Columbia Pictures's theatrical film library to television, including the series of two-reel short subjects starring The Three Stooges in 1957. Earlier on August 2, 1957, they also acquired syndication rights to "Shock Theater", a package of Universal Pictures horror films (later shifted to MCA TV), which was enormously successful in reviving that genre.[25]

From 1958 to 1974, under President John H. Mitchell and Vice President of Production Harry Ackerman, Screen Gems delivered TV shows and sitcoms: Dennis the Menace, The Donna Reed Show, Hazel, Here Come the Brides, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Gidget, Bewitched, I Dream of Jeannie, The Flying Nun, The Monkees, The Girl with Something Extra and The Partridge Family.

It was also the original distributor for Hanna-Barbera Productions, an animation studio founded by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera after leaving Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, and was also the distributor of the Soupy Sales show. The company also entered a co-production deal with Canada's CTV Television Network and produced several shows, many of which were filmed or taped in Toronto for distribution to Canadian stations (Showdown, The Pierre Berton Show).[citation needed] The company even expanded as far as Australia, opening Screen Gems Australia to produce shows for that country's networks, including The Graham Kennedy Show for the Nine Network.[26]

In the late 1950s, Screen Gems also entered into ownership and operation of television stations. Stations owned by Screen Gems over the years included KCPX (Salt Lake City; now KTVX, owned by Nexstar Media Group), WVUE-DT (New Orleans; now owned by Gray Television), WAPA-TV (San Juan; now owned by the Hemisphere Media Group), WNJU (Linden, NJ; now Telemundo/NBCUniversal O&O), and several radio stations as well, including 50,000-watt clear channel WWVA (Wheeling, WV; now owned by iHeartMedia). As a result, in funding its acquisitions, 18% of Screen Gems' shares was spun off from Columbia and it became a publicly-traded company on the NYSE until 1968. Screen Gems also provided technical assistance and partial control of a private television station in Venezuela, Canal 11 Televisión, which existed from 1966 to 1968.[27][28]

In 1963, William Dozier, who was one of the top Screen Gems employees, and senior vice president of production left to start out Greenway Productions, with a non-exclusive agreement with the studio for joint distribution of its TV productions.[29] Even though none of Greenway's shows went to SG, Greenway immediately struck out a deal with rival television producer 20th Century-Fox Television in 1964.[30]

From 1964 to 1969, former child star Jackie Cooper was Vice President of Program Development. He was responsible for packaging series (such as Bewitched) and other projects and selling them to the networks.

For the 1965–1966 season, Screen Gems announced that they would sign three big creative programmers to develop new series, which was announced in June 1964. Among them was writer Sidney Sheldon, director Hy Averback, and writer David Swift.[31]

In 1965, Columbia Pictures acquired a fifty per cent interest in the New York-based commercial production company EUE, which was incorporated into Screen Gems and renamed EUE/Screen Gems. The studios were sold in 1982 to longtime Columbia Pictures Executive, George Cooney, shortly after Columbia Pictures was sold to The Coca-Cola Company.

Later years, merger with Columbia Pictures and reincorporation as Columbia Pictures Television (1968–1974)

On December 23, 1968, Screen Gems merged with its parent company Columbia Pictures Corporation and became part of the newly formed Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. for $24.5 million.[32]

In the following year, former ABC vice president of programming Leonard Goldberg joined Screen Gems, displacing Jackie Cooper as vice president of program development.[33] Goldberg failed to receive the same level of success as Cooper. His shows all tanked after one season, with the exception of The Partridge Family, and he abruptly left after three years, with the most notable other production of Goldberg's tenure at Screen Gems being the 1971 television movie Brian's Song. He then formed a production company with producer Aaron Spelling.[34]

In 1971, Douglas S. Cramer, former executive VP in charge of production at Paramount Television, set up a SG-affiliated production firm, The Douglas S. Cramer Company, to produce projects for feature films and TV projects via Columbia Pictures.[35] In 1972, David Gerber, who had left 20th Century Fox Television, set up a SG-affiliated production company to produce his own projects with that company. The most notable of these productions was Police Story, an NBC police crime drama.[34] In 1973, Allan Blye and Chris Bearde via Blye-Bearde Productions signed an independent production agreement with Screen Gems to develop their own projects.[36] Also that year, Harry Ackerman, who was vice president of production left the studio to start his own production company to be affiliated with Paramount Television.[37]

On May 6, 1974, Screen Gems was renamed to Columbia Pictures Television as suggested by then-studio president David Gerber, who succeeded Art Frankel as his studio president.[38] The final notable production from this incarnation of Screen Gems before the name change was the 1974 miniseries QB VII. Columbia was, technically, the last major studio to enter television by name.

Changes in corporate ownership of Columbia came in 1982, when Coca-Cola bought the company, although continuing to trade under the CPT name. In the mid-1980s, Coca-Cola reorganized its television holdings to create Coca-Cola Television, merging CPT with the television unit of Embassy Communications as Columbia/Embassy Television, although both companies continued to use separate identities until January 4, 1988, when it and Tri-Star Television were reunited under the CPT name.[39] Columbia also ran Colex Enterprises, a joint venture with LBS Communications to distribute most of the Screen Gems library, which ended in 1987.[40] In 1985, the name was brought back by Columbia Pictures Television to distribute classic television series from its vaults to first-run syndication.[41]

On December 18, 1987, Coca-Cola spun off its entertainment holdings and sold it to Tri-Star Pictures, Inc. for $3.1 billion. It was renamed to Columbia Pictures Entertainment, Inc., also creating Columbia/Tri-Star by merging Columbia and Tri-Star. Both studios continued to produce and distribute films under their separate names.[42] In 1989, Sony Corporation of Japan purchased Columbia Pictures Entertainment. On August 11, 1991, Columbia Pictures Entertainment was renamed as Sony Pictures Entertainment as a film production-distribution subsidiary and subsequently combined CPT with a revived TriStar Television on February 21, 1994 to form Columbia TriStar Television. The name "Screen Gems" was also utilized for a syndicated hour-long program for classic television called Screen Gems Network that first aired in 1999 and ran until 2002.[43]

The television division is presently known as (and as a name-only unit of) Sony Pictures Television.

TV shows

Television programs produced and/or syndicated by Screen Gems:

Film

Hanna-Barbera Productions

TV series

Note: (*)= Currently owned by Turner Entertainment Co. and Warner Bros.

Theatrical films

Note: (*) = Currently owned by Turner Entertainment and Warner Bros. Discovery

Briskin Productions

Specialty feature film studio (1998–present)

Screen Gems, Inc.
Company typeDivision[1]
IndustryFilm
PredecessorTriumph Films
FoundedDecember 8, 1998; 25 years ago (1998-12-08)[47]
Headquarters10202 West Washington Boulevard, ,
Area served
Worldwide
Key people
Ashley Brucks (President)
Scott Strauss (EVP - Film Division)
OwnerSony Group Corporation
ParentSony Pictures Entertainment
SubsidiariesScream Gems

On December 8, 1998, Screen Gems was resurrected as a fourth speciality film-producing arm of Sony's Columbia TriStar Motion Picture Group. It was created after Triumph Films closed.[47] Screen Gems produces and releases "films that fall between the wide-release films traditionally developed and distributed by Columbia Pictures and those released by Sony Pictures Classics".[48] Many of its releases are of the horror,[2] thriller, action, drama, comedy and urban genres, making the unit similar to Dimension Films (part of Lantern Entertainment), Hollywood Pictures with Searchlight Pictures (divisions of The Walt Disney Company), and Rogue Pictures (when it was formally owned by Relativity Media and before that, Universal Studios).

As of 2023, Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (2016) is Screen Gems' highest-grossing film with over $300 million dollars worldwide in box office earnings.

Film library

Main article: List of Screen Gems films

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