20th Century Fox: A Look Back and Look Forward
If you’ve been following the recent transaction by The Walt Disney Company to acquire 21st Century Fox from newspaper magnate Rupert Murdoch, you already know the deal is officially complete as of March 20; thus ending the existence of the latter, and beginning a new era in the history of American cinema.
Although the 20th Century Fox Film Corporation – a former subsidiary of the latter – still operates and remains at its official headquarters on its studio lot in Century City, California (thanks to a lease by the Fox Corporation, which owns spun-off broadcasting assets such as the Fox broadcast network, Fox News and Fox Business – all taking their names from the iconic studio), what has ended is Fox as an independent entity and one of the major studios.
With the acquisition, Disney has a very big responsibility on their hands – preserving the library of a studio that has a history almost as rich and prolific as its own. Not as important as classic MGM film library, but pretty close. Let me explain…
Formed in 1935 as a result of a merger between two prominent production houses, 20th Century Pictures and Fox Film Corporation, this studio has a massive library of some of the most iconic film and TV franchises out there, including The Simpsons – the longest running animated series on US television, Seth MacFarlane’s Family Guy, the classic Charlton Heston film Planet of the Apes, the action blockbuster Die Hard – starring Bruce Willis, the original Star Wars trilogy, family favorites like The Sound of Music, Home Alone and Cheaper by the Dozen, and what remains the highest-grossing movie of all time – Avatar.
The studio also produced a series of newsreels called Movietone News, which ran until 1963 and actually has a history pre-dating to 1919 – long before the merger took place. This newsreel would serve as the basis for what we know today as the Fox News Channel – launched in 1996 by the late Roger Ailes, which is now the most popular of all the cable news channels.
What’s interesting to note is that the “Fox” part of the studio’s name as we know it today was able to be kept after the merger, despite William A. Fox – the founder of the latter and an unappreciated pioneer in cinema (especially due to his idea of star power selling a movie, and starting Fox News newsreel in 1919, predating Movietone) – retiring from the film industry entirely after serving time in prison for fraud and before his death in 1952.
Not to mention while what is now its parent company was churning out a large number of Mickey Mouse cartoon shorts and animated features, and MGM was known for lavish musicals, Fox was specializing in sophisticated dramas like All About Eve starring such icons as Bette Davis and Marilyn Monroe, as well as family films such as Heidi and Baby Take a Bow, both starring the lovable Shirley Temple.
Obviously, I’m very excited about what Disney has in store for this fantastic studio, and I hope that whatever happens, the company actually respects Fox’s legacy as a prominent movie studio, especially with content starring Shirley Temple, who got her Hollywood start at predecessor studio Fox Film.
Needless to say, stuff like Fox News, Fox Business, and the Fox broadcast network wouldn’t really exist today if it weren’t for the success of a movie studio that was the brain child of three movie pioneers; William Fox, Darry Zanuck, and Joesph Schenck. Like Walt Disney himself, they created a motion picture legacy that can never be outmatched; hopefully, the Mouse House tries its very best to preserve that history as much as it does its own.