Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures (formerly Buena Vista Pictures Distribution and Buena Vista Film Distribution Company) is an American film distributor owned by The Walt Disney Company. Established in 1953 as Buena Vista Film Distribution Company, the company handles theatrical distribution, marketing and promotion for films produced and released by the Walt Disney Studios, including Walt Disney Pictures, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Pixar Animation Studios, DisneyToon Studios, Marvel Studios, Lucasfilm, Disneynature, and Touchstone Pictures. The division took on its current name in late 2007, which before that had been Buena Vista Pictures Distribution since 1987.
Before 1953, Walt Disney's productions were distributed by Columbia Pictures, United Artists and RKO Radio Pictures. However, a dispute over the value of Disney's True-Life Adventures series of live-action documentary featurettes in 1953 led to Walt and his older brother Roy O. Disney to form its wholly owned subsidiary, the Buena Vista Film Distribution Company, Inc. (BVDC), to handle North American distribution of their own products. The name "Buena Vista" came from the street in Burbank, California, where Disney Studios was located (and remains to this day). Buena Vista's first release was the Academy Award–winning live-action feature The Living Desert on November 10, 1953 along with Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom, Buena Vista's first animated release. Notable subsequent releases include the foreign film, Yang Kwei Fei (Most Noble Lady), released in US theaters in September 1956, The Missouri Traveler in March 1958, and The Big Fisherman in July 1959 (the first third-party production financed by Disney).
In April 1960, the company dropped "Film" from its name. In 1961, Disney incorporated Buena Vista International (BVI), distributing its first PG rated film, Take Down, in January 1979. The low-budget movie was not produced by the Disney studios and was acquired from an independent studio, making The Black Hole the first PG-rated Disney film. In July 1987, Buena Vista changed its name to Buena Vista Pictures Distribution, Inc. (BVPD).
Late in the 1980s, Disney purchased a controlling stake in one of Pacific Theatres' chain leading to Disney's Buena Vista Theaters and Pacific to renovate the El Capitan Theatre and the Crest by 1989. The Crest was finished first while El Capitan opened with the premiere of The Rocketeer film on June 19, 1991.
In 1992, Buena Vista made production loans totaling $5.6 million to Cinergi Pictures for its film Medicine Man and its 1994 films Renaissance Man and Color of Night and were distributing Cinergi's films. The corporation purchased a 12.8% share in Cinergi with its initial public offering in 1994. Soon, BVPD signed a 25 picture distribution deal with Cinergi.
The Gaumont Film Company and Walt Disney formed Gaumont Buena Vista International, their joint venture French distribution company, in 1993. In August 1996, Disney and Tokuma Shoten Publishing agreed that Disney would distribute internationally Studio Ghibli animated films. In September 1996, following Disney's acquisition of Capital Cities/ABC, Buena Vista Pictures Distribution, Inc. was merged into ABC, Inc., the parent company of that group.
For the November 1995 Toy Story premiere, Disney rented the Hollywood Masonic Temple — adjacent to the El Capitan Theatre — for Totally Toy Story, a multimedia funhouse and a promotional event for the movie. In July 1998, Buena Vista Pictures Distribution purchased the Hollywood Masonic Temple building to continue using it as a promotional venue.
By 1997, BVPD's share in Cinergi dropped to 5%. After nine films were delivered under the agreement, Cinergi sold Disney on November 22, 1997 all of its 12 film library except for Die Hard with a Vengeance plus $20 million in exchange for Disney' Cinergi share holdings, production advances of $35.4 million and other loans.
Since 2004, BVI and Gaumont dissolved their French distribution joint venture, Gaumont Buena Vista International. Buena Vista International agreed to a distribution deal with MegaStar Joint Venture Company Limited in April 2006 for the Vietnam market.
In April 2007, Disney discontinued using the Buena Vista brand in its distribution branding. In 2009, Disney entered a distribution agreement with a reorganized DreamWorks; the deal called for an estimated 30 films over a five-year period from DreamWorks and they would be released through the Touchstone Pictures label. The distribution deal ended in 2016, after DreamWorks and Disney decided to not renew their agreement in December 2015, with Universal replacing Disney as DreamWorks' distributor. By the end of the deal, Disney had distributed 14 of DreamWorks' original 30-picture agreement. Disney took complete ownership of the DreamWorks II film library in exchange for loans made to that company.
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures has released the most films that have crossed the $1-billion-mark (fourteen, in worldwide grosses) among major Hollywood studios, with nine of the twenty highest-grossing films of all time being distributed by Disney. In addition, Disney is the first of only three studios that have released at least two billion-dollar films in the same year (the others being Warner Bros. and Universal Pictures). Furthermore, Disney is the only studio that has achieved this four times, in 2010, 2013, 2015, and 2016—that latter year of which included four $1 billion releases, a record for any studio. Four of the top five highest-grossing animated films have been released by Disney, as well as sixteen of the twenty highest-grossing G-rated films. In addition, four of the top-five opening weekends were Disney releases. In 2015, Disney achieved its largest yearly box-office gross worldwide and in North America. In 2016, Disney surpassed $7 billion in worldwide yearly box-office gross—the first of any major studio—surpassing the previous 2015 record.
In its 62-year history, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures has distributed 27 films that have received nominations for the Academy Award for Best Picture; four from Walt Disney Pictures, six from Touchstone Pictures, two from Hollywood Pictures, and fifteen from Miramax Films. Of those nominations, four Miramax films won the accolade; The English Patient (1996), Shakespeare In Love (1998), Chicago (2002), and No Country for Old Men (2007).
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures currently distributes films from Walt Disney Studios, other Disney film units and some third-party studios including:
|Walt Disney Studios||Active distribution deals||Formerly distributed|
Other Disney units
Former distribution deals
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures International was formed in 1961 as Buena Vista International, which is the owner of Disney Channel Asia. In 1992, Disney opted to end a previous joint venture with Warner Bros., that began in 1988 to distribute their films in overseas markets (UK, Ireland, Benelux & Scandinavia). In those territories from 1993–2007, Disney reactivated the Buena Vista International name, and also sent distribution under it in countries that did not have any current arrangements with other companies. Distribution rights in West Germany were given to MGM (under CIC in the early 1970s) and later to 20th Century Fox before the Warner Bros. joint venture. In Russia and CIS, Mexico, Brazil, Thailand, Greece, Singapore and the Philippines, Disney films had been distributed in a joint venture with Sony Pictures Entertainment. In Japan, distribution rights are handled in partnership with Toho.
‡—Includes theatrical reissue(s).
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