"This massive 36-film series...casts an especially wide and eclectic net." —Los Angeles Times
"Universal Studios digitally restores 13 classic movies, including The Sting, Jaws, Dracula and Frankenstein, as part of its 100th birthday celebration." —Los Angeles Times
The Universal Film Manufacturing Company incorporated on April 30, 1912, the result of a merger between a number of independent companies that had been battling Thomas Edison’s Motion Picture Patents Trust. Universal would go on to become the oldest continuously operating film producer and distributor in the United States. In an industry defined by change, Universal’s spinning globe logo has remained, along with its back lot, and tour, in Universal City, California.
From its beginning under Carl Laemmle, there existed a tension between Universal’s need to produce low-budget “programmers” and the “major minor’s” desire to compete alongside better-capitalized studios—with their national theater chains—on the level of big-budget A pictures. Ironically, while several of Universal’s early “prestige” titles are beloved classics today, including All Quiet on the Western Front (1930), it remains the B pictures, including its iconic 1930s horror cycle (Frankenstein, Dracula, The Mummy) that epitomize its contribution to film art and commerce.
This irony informs Universal’s post-war emergence as a global entertainment power. After anti-trust actions leveled the playing field in the 1940s, Universal moved into the A-list with superlative mass entertainment that ennobled populist genres, including melodramas (Magnificent Obsession), sex farces (Pillow Talk) and homespun comedies (Francis). Universal also innovated new industry practices, pioneering the “percentage deal” and embracing television production.
It changed the game again with Jaws (1975), which established the “blockbuster” formula that still dominates the industry today. Throughout its history, Universal has translated economic necessity into a uniquely American challenge to the distinctions between prestigious and popular entertainment. The Archive is pleased to celebrate Universal Pictures’ hundred-year legacy.