Institution Research: Columbia Pictures


Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. is an American film studio, production company, and film distributor part of the Sony Pictures Motion Picture Group, a division of Sony Entertainment’s Sony Pictures subsidiary of the Japanese multinational conglomerate Sony Corporation.

CBC Film Sales Corporation, what would eventually become Columbia Pictures, was founded on June 19, 1918, by Harry Cohn, his brother Jack Cohn, and Joe Brandt. It adopted the Columbia Pictures name in 1924 and went public two years later, with the name derived from “Columbia”, a national personification of the United States, which is used as the studio’s logo. In its early years, it was a minor player in Hollywood but began to grow in the late 1920s, spurred by a successful association with a director Frank Capra. With Capra and others, Columbia became one of the primary homes of the screwball comedy. In the 1930s, Columbia’s major contract stars were Jean Arthur and Cary Grant. In the 1940s, Rita Hayworth became the studio’s premier star and propelled their fortunes into the late 1950s. Rosalind Russell, Glenn Ford, and William Holden also became major stars at the studio.

Columbia Pictures is one of the leading film studios in the world and is a member of the “Big Six” major American film studios. It was one of the so-called “Little Three” among the eight major film studios of Hollywood’s Golden Age. Today, it has become the world’s fifth largest major film studio.

Start Of Columbia Pictures:

Columbia originated in 1920 when Cohn, Joe Brandt, and Harry’s brother Jack Cohn founded the C.B.C. Sales Film Corporation to produce shorts and low-budget westerns and comedies. In an attempt to refurbish the studio’s reputation, its name was changed to Columbia Pictures in 1924. Brandt was company president from 1924 to 1932, but Cohn was the driving force behind Columbia’s rise to a position of equality with the other major Hollywood studios. Cohn served as president from 1932 until his death in 1958.

Columbia’s breakthrough came after Harry Cohn hired Frank Capra in the late 1920s to direct the studio’s comedies. In 1934 Capra made the hit It Happened One Night, starring Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert; it won the Academy Award for best picture of 1934. Capra’s other comedies for Columbia include Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936) and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939). During this same period, Howard Hawks and others made some of the finest screwball comedies of the 1930s for Columbia: The Awful Truth (1937), Holiday (1938), and His Girl Friday (1940), all starring Cary Grant.

After Capra’s departure in 1939, Columbia languished because leading directors were reluctant to work for the notoriously hard-driving and vulgar Cohn. But in the 1950s Columbia regained its stature through its backing of various independent producers and directors, among them Elia Kazan, Fred Zinnemann, David Lean, Robert Rossen, Otto Preminger, and Joseph Losey. The result was such films as All the King’s Men (1949), Born Yesterday (1950), From Here to Eternity (1953), On the Waterfront(1954), The Caine Mutiny (1954), The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), Lawrence of Arabia (1962), A Man for All Seasons (1966), Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), Tootsie (1982), Gandhi (1982), and The Last Emperor (1987). Columbia also financed some of the better youth-oriented films from the late 1960s to the early 1980s, such as Easy Rider (1969), Five Easy Pieces (1970), The Last Picture Show(1971), and The Big Chill (1983).

Columbia was purchased by The Coca-Cola Company in 1982. That same year, Columbia helped launch a new motion-picture studio, Tri-Star Pictures, which was merged with Columbia in 1987 to form Columbia Pictures Entertainment, Inc. In 1989 Columbia was acquired by the Sony Corporation of Japan.

The Brand Or Logo

The “brand” of any company usually refers to what is instantly recognizable, if the “brand” is a good one, that is – its logo.  Columbia Pictures’ logo is one of the best ever conceived.

The Lady with the Torch, as Columbia’s logo has always been referred to, is as American a symbol as there has ever been.  When one thinks of the years during which Columbia Pictures enjoyed its greatest success, it’s no coincidence that the company’s “brand” looked a lot like one of America’s greatest symbols, Lady Liberty.  The Lady with the Torch symbolized American pride when national pride was at its height and when going to the movies showed national unity, especially during the Second World War.  In my opinion, when she appeared on-screen to introduce a Columbia production, the message would have been clear – “you’re watching an American production.” The picture below shows the lady as she appeared during WWII. Initially introduced in 1924, she went through several incarnations through the years. However, with slight variations, she has always resembled lady liberty, has always been draped by an American flag (or has given the impression it was an American flag), and she has always held a torch.  No doubt she’s always welcomed sight.

Columbia Pictures makes all sorts of movies. Some of the most popular movies are:

  1. The Shawshank Redemption
  2. Ghostbusters
  3. Stand by Me
  4. Groundhog Day
  5. Lawrence of Arabia.


History of Columbia Pictures, Part 2

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