WB

Warner Bros

One of the major film studios. The corporate name honors the four founding Warner brothers (born Wonskolaser) who emigrated from Poland, which was at that time part of the Russian Empire, to London, Ontario, Canada. The three elder brothers began in the movie theatre business, having acquired a movie projector with which they showed films in the mining towns of Pennsylvania and Ohio. They opened their first theater, the Cascade, in New Castle, Pennsylvania in 1903. (The site of the Cascade is now the Cascade Center, a shopping, dining and entertainment complex honoring its Warner Bros. heritage.)

When this original theatre building in New Castle, Pennsylvania was in danger of being demolished, the modern Warner Bros. called the modern building owners, and arranged a 3 way even splitting of the cost of saving it, between the state, Warner Bros, and the modern owners. The owners noted the fact that they were taking phone calls from all over the country in reference to the historical significance of the humble building that should be saved historically.

In 1904, the Warners founded the Pittsburgh-based Duquesne Amusement & Supply Company, to distribute films.

Within a few years this led to the distribution of pictures across a four-state area. In 1912, Harry Warner hired an auditor named Paul Ashley Chase. By the time of World War I they had begun producing films, and in 1918 the brothers opened the Warner Bros. studio on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. Sam and Jack Warner produced the pictures, while Harry and Albert Warner and their auditor and now controller Chase handled finance and distribution in New York City. It was during World War I and their first nationally syndicated film was My Four Years in Germany based on a popular book by former American Ambassador James W. Gerard. On April 4, 1923, with help from a loan given to Harry Warner by his banker Motley Flint,they formally incorporated as Warner Brothers Pictures, Incorporated. However, as late as the 1960s, Warner Bros. claimed 1905 as its founding date.

The first important deal for the company was the acquisition of the rights to Avery Hopwood’s 1919 Broadway play, The Gold Diggers, from theatrical impresario David Belasco. However, what really put Warner Bros. on the Hollywood map was a dog, Rin Tin Tin, brought from France after World War I by an American soldier. Rin Tin Tin debuted in the short Where the North Begins. The short was so successful Jack Warner agreed to sign the dog to star in more short films for $1,000 per week. Rin Tin Tin became the top star at the studio.Jack Warner nicknamed him “The Mortgage Lifter” and the success boosted Darryl F. Zanuck’s career. Zanuck eventually became a top producer for the studio and between 1928 and 1933 served as Jack Warner’s right-hand man and executive producer, with responsibilities including the day-to-day production of films.More success came after Ernst Lubitsch was hired as head director; Harry Rapf left the studio and accepted an offer to work at MGM. Lubitsch’s film The Marriage Circle was the studio’s most successful film of 1924, and was on The New York Times best list for the year.

Despite the success of Rin Tin Tin and Lubitsch, Warners was still unable to achieve star power. As a result, Sam and Jack decided to offer Broadway actor John Barrymore the lead role in Beau Brummel. The film was so successful, Harry Warner agreed to sign Barrymore to a generous long-term contract; like The Marriage Circle, Beau Brummell was named one of the ten best films of the year by The New York Times. By the end of 1924, Warner Bros. was arguably the most successful independent studio in Hollywood, but it still competed with “The Big Three” Studios (First National, Paramount Pictures, and MGM).As a result, Harry Warner — while speaking at a convention of 1,500 independent exhibitors in Milwaukee, Wisconsin — was able to convince the filmmakers to spend $500,000 in newspaper advertising,and Harry saw this as an opportunity to finally be able to establish theaters in big cities like New York and Los Angeles.

As the studio prospered, it gained backing from Wall Street, and in 1924 Goldman Sachs arranged a major loan. With this new money, the Warners bought the pioneer Vitagraph Company which had a nation-wide distribution system. In 1925, Warners also experimented in radio, establishing a successful radio station, KFWB, in Los Angeles.

Read more http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warner_Bros.

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