United Artists Corporation (UA) is an American film studio. The original studio using that name was founded in 1919 by D. W. Griffith, Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, and Douglas Fairbanks, with the intention of controlling their own interests rather than depending upon the powerful commercial studios.
The current United Artists formed in November 2006 under a partnership between producer/actor Tom Cruise and his production partner, Paula Wagner, and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Paula Wagner left the studio on August 14, 2008. Cruise owned a small stake in the studio until late 2011.
It is now a subsidiary of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, which itself is owned by MGM Holdings.
In 1958, a.a.p. shut down, and United Artists bought the company becoming the owners of the a.a.p. library of pre- August 1948 Looney Tunes cartoons (which were technically under UA's television division). The company Transamerica bought 98% of UA's stock in the 60s. When the company decided to exit the film business, they put up United Artists for sale. When United Artists was acquired by MGM in 1981, the rights to the pre- August 1948 Looney Tunes went to MGM.
Due to UA not having interest in renewing copyright, a handful of pre-1944 shorts have fallen into the public domain as a result of their actions. Turner has access to the original negatives and have restored some of these cartoons on DVD and Blu-Ray although the restored print is the original negative, thus it is still in the public domain.
In 1986, Ted Turner and his company Turner Entertainment, bought all of MGM's assets but not the company itself. This library would merge with Warner Bros. library in 1996, when Turner merged with Time Warner.
The assets Turner bought from United Artists were:
- The pre-1948 cartoons
- The Popeye cartoons
- The distribution rights to half of the RKO Radio Pictures titles (some of RKO's films were sold to United Artists for distribution only, however RKO still retains the copyrights to their films)
- The pre-1950 Warner Bros. material
- Some United Artists assets
However, Turner did not buy the copyrights to the Pink Panther, which were still with the hands with MGM. Turner also did not buy the copyrights to some of Warner Bros. Monogram films and some of these remain with MGM/UA.