Fox Film

The Fox Film Corporation was an American company that produced motion pictures, formed by William Fox on 1 February 1915. It was the corporate successor to his earlier Greater New York Film Rental Company and Box Office Attractions Film Company.

The company's first film studios were set up in Fort Lee, New Jersey but in 1917, William Fox sent Sol M. Wurtzel to Hollywood, California to oversee the studio's new West Coast production facilities where a more hospitable and cost effective climate existed for filmmaking. On July 23, 1926, the company bought the patents of the Movietone sound system for recording sound on to film.

After the Crash of 1929, William Fox lost control of the company in 1930, during a hostile takeover. Under new president Sidney Kent, the new owners merged the company with Twentieth Century Pictures to form 20th Century Fox in 1935.

Fox Film Corporation
FateMerged with Twentieth Century Pictures
Successor20th Century Fox
Founded1 February 1915 in Fort Lee, New Jersey
FounderWilliam Fox
DefunctMay 31, 1935
  • Fox-Case Corporation
  • Fox Movietone Corporation
  • Sunshine Comedy



William Fox entered the film industry in 1904 when he purchased a one-third share of a Brooklyn nickelodeon for $1,667.[a][1] He reinvested his profits from that initial location, expanding to fifteen similar venues in the city, and purchasing prints from the major studios of the time: Biograph, Essanay, Kalem, Lubin, Pathé, Selig, and Vitagraph.[2] After experiencing further success presenting live vaudeville routines along with motion pictures, he expanded into larger venues beginning with his purchase of the disused Gaiety theater,[b] and continuing with acquisitions throughout New York City and New Jersey, including the Academy of Music.[3]

Fox invested further in the film industry by founding the Greater New York Film Rental Company as a film distributor.[4] However, the major film studios formed the Motion Picture Patents Company in 1908 and the General Film Company in 1910, in an effort to create a monopoly on the creation and distribution of motion pictures. Fox refused to sell out to the monopoly, and sued under the Sherman Antitrust Act, eventually receiving a $370,000[c] settlement, and ending restrictions on the length of films and the prices that could be paid for screenplays.[4]

In 1914, reflecting the broader scope of his business, he renamed it the Box Office Attraction Film Rental Company.[5] He entered into a contract with the Balboa Amusement Producing Company film studio, purchasing all of their films for showing in his New York area theaters and renting the prints to other exhibitors nationwide.[6] He also continued to distribute material from other sources, such as Winsor McCay's early animated film Gertie the Dinosaur.[7][8] Later that year, Fox concluded that depending on other companies for the products he depended on was insufficient. He purchased the Éclair studio facilities in Fort Lee, New Jersey, along with property in Staten Island,[9][10] and arranged for actors and crew. The company became a film studio, with its name shortened to the Box Office Attractions Company; its first release was Life's Shop Window.[11]

Fox Film Corporation

This large stage at the Fox Studio on North Western Avenue was used as the men's dressing room when more than 2,000 people were needed for the Jerusalem street scenes in Theda Bara's Salomé (1918)
Silent film The Heart Snatcher (1920) directed by Roy Del Ruth for Fox Film Corporation.

Always more of an entrepreneur than a showman, Fox concentrated on acquiring and building theaters; pictures were secondary. The company's first film studios were set up in Fort Lee, New Jersey where it and many other early film studios in America's first motion picture industry were based at the beginning of the 20th century.[12][13][14]

In 1914, Fox Film began making motion pictures in California, and in 1915 decided to build its own permanent studio. The company leased the Edendale studio of the Selig Polyscope Company until its own studio, located at Western Avenue and Sunset Boulevard, was completed in 1916.[15] In 1917, William Fox sent Sol M. Wurtzel to Hollywood to oversee the studio's West Coast production facilities where a more hospitable and cost-effective climate existed for filmmaking.

With the introduction of sound technology, Fox moved to acquire the rights to a sound-on-film process. In the years 1925–26, Fox purchased the rights to the work of Freeman Harrison Owens, the U.S. rights to the Tri-Ergon system invented by three German inventors, and the work of Theodore Case. This resulted in the Movietone sound system later known as "Fox Movietone" developed at the Movietone Studio. Later that year, the company began offering films with a music-and-effects track, and the following year Fox began the weekly Fox Movietone News feature, that ran until 1963. The growing company needed space, and in 1926 Fox acquired 300 acres (1.2 km2) in the open country west of Beverly Hills and built "Movietone City", the best-equipped studio of its time.


When rival Marcus Loew died in 1927, Fox offered to buy the Loew family's holdings. Loew's Inc. controlled more than 200 theaters, as well as the MGM studio. When the family agreed to the sale, the merger of Fox and Loew's Inc. was announced in 1929. But MGM studio boss Louis B. Mayer was not included in the deal and fought back. Using political connections, Mayer called on the Justice Department's antitrust unit to delay giving final approval to the merger. Fox was badly injured in a car crash in the summer of 1929, and by the time he recovered he had lost most of his fortune in the fall 1929 stock market crash, ending any chance of the merger going through even without the Justice Department's objections.

Overextended and close to bankruptcy, Fox was stripped of his empire in 1930 and ended up in jail for later bribery charges. Fox Film, with more than 500 theatres, was placed in receivership. A bank-mandated reorganization propped the company up for a time, but it soon became apparent that despite its size, Fox could not stand on its own. William Fox resented the way he was forced out of the company and portrayed it as an active conspiracy against him in the 1933 book Upton Sinclair Presents William Fox.


Under new president Sidney Kent, the new owners began negotiating with the upstart, but powerful independent Twentieth Century Pictures in the early spring of 1935. The two companies merged that spring as 20th Century-Fox (50 years later, the hyphen was dropped). For many years, 20th Century Fox claimed to have been founded in 1915. For instance, it marked 1945 as its 30th anniversary. However, in recent years it has claimed the 1935 merger as its founding, even though most film historians agree it was founded in 1915.[16]


Feature films

A 1937 fire in a Fox film storage facility destroyed over 40,000 reels of negatives and prints, including the best-quality copies of every Fox feature produced prior to 1932;[17] although copies located elsewhere allowed many to survive in some form, over 75% of Fox's feature films from before 1930 are completely lost.[18]


Movietone title card
Title card from a 1935 Fox Movietone News newsreel

In 1919, Fox began a series of silent newsreels, competing with existing series such as Hearst Metrotone News, International Newsreel, and Pathé News. Fox News premiered on 11 October 1919, with subsequent issues released on the Wednesday and Sunday of each week. Fox News gained an advantage over its more established competitors when President Woodrow Wilson endorsed the newsreel in a letter, in what may have been the first time an American president commented on a film.[19] In subsequent years, Fox News remained one of the major names in the newsreel industry by providing often-exclusive coverage of major international events, including reporting on Pancho Villa, the airship Roma, the Ku Klux Klan, and a 1922 eruption of Mount Vesuvius.[20] The silent newsreel series continued until 1930.[21]

In 1926, a subsidiary, Fox Movietone Corporation, was created, tasked with producing newsreels using Fox's recently acquired sound-on-film technology. The first of these newsreels debuted on 21 January 1927. Four months later, the 25 May release of a sound recording of Charles Lindbergh's departure on his transatlantic flight was described by film historian Raymond Fielding as the "first sound news film of consequence".[22] Movietone News was launched as a regular newsreel feature 3 December of that year.[23] Production of the series continued after the merger with Twentieth Century Pictures, until 1963, and continued to serve 20th Century Fox after that, as a source for film industry stock footage.[21]

Unlike Fox's early feature films, the Fox News and Fox Movietone News libraries have largely survived. The earlier series and some parts of its sound successor are now held by the University of South Carolina, with the remaining Fox Movietone News still held by the company.[21]


Fox Film briefly experimented with serial films, releasing the 15-episode Bride 13 and the 20-episode Fantômas in 1920. William Fox was unwilling to compromise on production quality in order to make serials profitable, however, and none were subsequently produced.[24]

Short films

Hundreds of one- and two-reel short films of various types were also produced by Fox. Beginning in 1916,[25] the Sunshine Comedy division created two-reel comedy shorts. Many of these, beginning with 1917's Roaring Lions and Wedding Bliss, starring Lloyd Hamilton, were slapstick, intended to compete with Mack Sennett's popular offerings.[26] Sunshine releases continued until the introduction of sound.[27] Other short film series included Imperial Comedies, Van Bibber Comedies (with Earle Foxe), O'Henry, Married Life of Helen and Warren, and Fox Varieties.[28] Fox's expansion into Spanish-language films in the early 1930s also included shorts.[29]


  1. ^ $46.5 thousand in 2018 dollars
  2. ^ Unrelated to the Broadway theatre operating at the same time, also called the Gaiety
  3. ^ $9.38 million in 2018 dollars


  1. ^ Solomon 2011, pp. 10–11.
  2. ^ Solomon 2011, p. 11.
  3. ^ Solomon 2011, pp. 11–12.
  4. ^ a b Solomon 2011, p. 12.
  5. ^ Solomon 2011, p. 13.
  6. ^ Slide 2001, pp. 26–27.
  7. ^ Canemaker 2005, p. 182.
  8. ^ Crafton 1993, p. 112.
  9. ^ Golden 1996, p. 30.
  10. ^ Shepherd 2013, p. 197.
  11. ^ Solomon 2011, pp. 14, 227.
  12. ^ Koszarski, Richard (2004). Fort Lee: The Film Town. Indiana University Press. ISBN 0-86196-652-X.
  13. ^ "Studios and Films". Fort Lee Film Commission. Archived from the original on April 25, 2011. Retrieved May 30, 2011.
  14. ^ Fort Lee Film Commission (2006). Fort Lee Birthplace of the Motion Picture Industry. Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 0-7385-4501-5.
  15. ^ Slide, Anthony (1998). The New Historical Dictionary of the American Film Industry. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press. pp. 78–79. ISBN 0-8108-3426-X.
  16. ^ Is Fox really 75 this year? Somewhere, the fantastic Mr. (William) Fox begs to differ. New York Post, 2010-02-10.
  17. ^ Pierce, David. "The Legion of the Condemned — Why American Silent Films Perished". Film History. 9 (1): 5–22.
  18. ^ Solomon 2011, p. 1.
  19. ^ Fielding 2011, p. 60.
  20. ^ Fielding 2011, p. 61.
  21. ^ a b c Wilsbacher, Greg. "The Fox Movietone News Donation: A Brief History". Moving Image Research Collections. University of South Carolina. Archived from the original on 2015-02-26. Retrieved 2015-02-06.
  22. ^ Fielding 2011, pp. 102–104.
  23. ^ Fielding 2011, p. 105.
  24. ^ Solomon 2011, p. 57.
  25. ^ Solomon 2011, p. 23.
  26. ^ Solomon 2011, pp. 30–31.
  27. ^ Solomon 2011, pp. 49–50.
  28. ^ Solomon 2011, p. 71.
  29. ^ Solomon 2011, p. 145.


  • Canemaker, John (2005). Winsor McCay: His Life and Art (Revised ed.). Abrams Books. ISBN 978-0-8109-5941-5.
  • Crafton, Donald (1993). Before Mickey: The Animated Film 1898–1928. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0-226-11667-9.
  • Fielding, Raymond (2011) [1972]. The American Newsreel: A Complete History, 1911–1967 (2nd ed.). McFarland. ISBN 978-0-7864-6610-8.
  • Golden, Eve (1996). Vamp: The Rise and Fall of Theda Bara. Vestal Press. ISBN 978-1-879511-32-3.
  • Shepherd, David J. (2013). The Bible on Silent Film: Spectacle, Story and Scripture in the Early Cinema. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-1-107-04260-5.
  • Slide, Anthony (2001). The New Historical Dictionary of the American Film Industry (2nd ed.). Scarecrow Press. ISBN 978-1-57886-015-9.
  • Solomon, Aubrey (2011). The Fox Film Corporation, 1915–1935: A History and Filmography. McFarland & Company. ISBN 978-0-7864-6286-5.

External links

Media related to Fox Film Corporation at Wikimedia Commons

1937 Fox vault fire

On July 9, 1937, a major fire broke out in a 20th Century Fox film storage facility in Little Ferry, New Jersey, United States. Flammable nitrate film had previously contributed to several high-profile fires in film industry laboratories, studios, and vaults, although the precise causes were often unknown. In Little Ferry, gases produced by decaying film, combined with high temperatures and inadequate ventilation, resulted in spontaneous combustion.

One death and two injuries resulted from the fire, which also destroyed all of the archived film in the vaults, resulting in the complete loss of most of the silent films produced by Fox Film Corporation before 1932. Also destroyed were Educational Pictures negatives and films of several other studios. The fire brought attention to the potential for decaying nitrate film to spontaneously ignite, and changed the focus of film preservation efforts to include a greater focus on fire safety. Production and use of nitrate film was gradually phased out in favor of safer alternatives.

20th Century Fox

Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation (colloquial: Twentieth Century Fox; Fox; 20th Century Fox) is an American film studio currently owned by Fox Entertainment Group, itself owned by 21st Century Fox. One of the "Big Six" major American film studios, it was formed from the merger of the Fox Film Corporation and Twentieth Century Pictures in 1935, and is located in the Century City area of Los Angeles. The studio was owned by News Corporation from 1984 to 2013. On December 14, 2017, The Walt Disney Company announced its intention to acquire the studio along with the majority of 21st Century Fox's other entertainment assets, which was approved by both companies on July 27, 2018.The studio’s most notable franchises include: the first six Star Wars films, The Simpsons, Avatar, X-Men, Deadpool, Die Hard, Planet of the Apes, Family Guy, Ice Age, Night at the Museum, Independence Day, King of the Hill, Alien and/versus Predator, The Omen, The X-Files, Hitman, The Fly, 24, Dr. Dolitte, DragonBall, Kingsman, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, M*A*S*H, Wrong Turn, Rio, Futurama, Super Troopers, Revenge of the Nerds, Joy Ride, American Dad!, Big Momma's House, 28 Days Later, Fantastic Four, and Bob's Burgers.

20th Century Fox is a member of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA).

20th Century Fox Records

20th Century Fox Records, also known as 20th Fox Records and 20th Century Records, was a wholly owned subsidiary of film studio 20th Century Fox. The history of the label actually covers three distinct 20th Century Fox-related operations in the analog era, ranging chronologically from about 1938 to 1981.

Dante's Inferno (1935 film)

Dante's Inferno is a 1935 motion picture starring Spencer Tracy and loosely based on Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy. The film remains primarily remembered for a 10-minute depiction of hell realised by director Harry Lachman, himself an established post-impressionist painter. This was Fox Film Corporation's last film when the company merged with Twentieth Century Pictures to form 20th Century Fox.

Fantastic Mr. Fox (film)

Fantastic Mr. Fox is a 2009 American stop-motion animated comedy film directed by Wes Anderson, based on Roald Dahl's 1970 children's novel of the same name. The film is about a fox who steals food each night from three mean and wealthy farmers. They are fed up with Mr. Fox's theft and try to kill him, so they dig their way into the foxes' home, but the animals are able to outwit the farmers and live underground.

The film was released in the autumn of 2009 and stars George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Willem Dafoe, Michael Gambon, and Owen Wilson. For director Wes Anderson, it was his first animated film and first film adaptation. Development on the project began in 2004 as a collaboration between Anderson and Henry Selick (who worked with Anderson on the 2004 film The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou) under Revolution Studios. In 2007, Revolution folded, Selick left to direct Coraline, and work on the film moved to 20th Century Fox. Production began in London in 2007. It was released on November 13, 2009, and has a 93% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The film also received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.

Fugitives (1929 film)

Fugitives is a 1929 American pre-Code drama film directed by William Beaudine and starring Madge Bellamy, Don Terry and Arthur Stone. Future stars Jean Harlow and Virginia Bruce both had small parts in the film.

Just Pals

Just Pals is a 1920 American silent Western film directed by John Ford, and was Ford's first film for Fox Film Corporation.

List of American films of 1922

A list of American films released in 1922.

List of American films of 1923

A list of American films released in 1923.

List of American films of 1934

A list of American feature films released in 1934.

It Happened One Night won Best Picture at the 7th Academy Awards on February 27, 1935.

List of songs in Glee (season 4)

Glee is an American musical comedy-drama television series produced by Fox. It focuses on the glee club New Directions, at the fictional William McKinley High School in Lima, Ohio. The show was created by Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Ian Brennan, and features many cover versions of songs sung on-screen by the characters. Murphy is responsible for selecting all of the songs used, and strives to maintain a balance between show tunes and chart hits, as he wants there to be "something for everybody in every episode." Once Murphy selects a song, rights are cleared with its publishers by music supervisor P.J. Bloom, and music producer Adam Anders rearranges it for the Glee cast. Numbers are pre-recorded by the cast, while choreographer Zach Woodlee constructs the accompanying dance moves, which are then taught to the cast and filmed. Studio recordings of tracks are then made. The process begins six to eight weeks before each episode is filmed, and can end as late as the day before filming begins. The list below contains all 136 musical performances of the fourth season, with each performance delivering an individual song or a mashup of two or more songs in a single performance.

Movietone News

Movietone News is a newsreel that ran from 1928 to 1963 in the United States. Under the name British Movietone News, it also ran in the United Kingdom from 1929 to 1979.

Romeo and Juliet (1916 Fox film)

Romeo and Juliet is a 1916 American silent romantic drama film directed by J. Gordon Edwards and starring Theda Bara. The film was based on Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet and was produced by the Fox Film Corporation. The film was shot at the Fox Studio in Fort Lee, New Jersey.

South Sea Rose

South Sea Rose is a 1929 American comedy-drama film distributed by the Fox Film Corporation and produced and directed by Allan Dwan. This picture was Dwan's second collaboration with star Lenore Ulric, their first being Frozen Justice. Much of the cast and crew on Frozen Justice returned for this film.South Sea Rose is based the 1928 Broadway stage play La Gringa by Tom Cushing which starred then unknown theatre player Claudette Colbert. Like Frozen Justice, this film is now presumed lost.

Steamboat Round the Bend

Steamboat Round the Bend is a 1935 American comedy film directed by John Ford, released by 20th Century Fox and produced by Fox Film, based on the 1933 novel of the same name by author Ben Lucien Burman. It was the penultimate film of star Will Rogers and was released posthumously, after he was killed in an airplane crash on August 15, 1935.

The Far Call

The Far Call is a 1929 American lost film directed by Allan Dwan and starring Charles Morton and Leila Hyams. Produced and distributed by the Fox Film Corporation. It is a late silent film with Fox's Movietone sound on film system containing music and sound effects.

The Joy Girl

The Joy Girl is a 1927 American two-strip Technicolor silent comedy film directed by Allan Dwan, released by Fox Film Corporation, starring Olive Borden, Neil Hamilton, and Marie Dressler, and based on the novel of the same name by May Edginton.

The Music Master (film)

The Music Master is a 1927 American silent drama film directed by Allan Dwan and written by Philip Klein. The film stars Alec B. Francis, Lois Moran, Neil Hamilton, Norman Trevor, Charles Willis Lane and William T. Tilden. The film was released on January 23, 1927, by Fox Film Corporation.

William Fox (producer)

William Fox (born as Wilhelm Fuchs January 1, 1879 – May 8, 1952) was a Hungarian-American motion picture executive, who founded the Fox Film Corporation in 1915 and the Fox West Coast Theatres chain in the 1920s. Although he lost control of his movie empire in 1930, his name lives on in the names of various media ventures, which are currently either owned by Fox Corporation, such as the Fox Broadcasting Company and the Fox News Channel, or by The Walt Disney Company, such as 20th Century Fox.

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