Company History

Founded: April 4, 1923

WARNER BROS. ENTERTAINMENT, a fully integrated, broad-based entertainment company, is a global leader in all forms of entertainment and their related businesses across all current and emerging media and platforms. The fully integrated, broad-based company stands at the forefront of every aspect of the entertainment industry from feature film, television and home entertainment production and worldwide distribution to DVD and Blu-ray, digital distribution, animation, comic books, product and brand licensing and broadcasting.

In addition to its long-standing position as the industry’s preeminent creator and distributor of feature films, television programs, animation, video and DVD, Warner Bros. Studios has also become one of the foremost authorities on utilizing licensing and merchandising to grow and reinforce its brands, on pioneering new forms of distribution, and on marshaling its vast creative and business resources to build world-renowned entertainment franchises that become appreciating assets in its unrivaled library.

One of the most respected, diversified and successful motion picture and television studios in the world, Warner Bros. Studios began when the brothers Warner (Albert, Sam, Harry and Jack L.) incorporated their fledgling movie company on April 4, 1923. In 1927, the release of the world’s first “talkie,” (synchronized-sound feature film), The Jazz Singer, set a character and tone of innovation and influence that would become synonymous with the name Warner Bros. And—as Al Jolson foretold in this milestone movie—“you ain’t heard nothin’ yet!”

Since those early days, Warner Bros. Studios has amassed an impressive legacy based on world-class quality entertainment and technological foresight and created a diversified entertainment company with an unparalleled depth and breadth. Its unmatched consistency and success is built on a foundation of stable management throughout its history (especially by entertainment industry standards), long-term creative relationships with many of the world’s leading talent, and an unwavering dedication to excellence.

Today, the vast Warner Bros. library, one of the most prestigious and valuable in the world, consists of more than 61,000 hours of programming, including nearly 6,500 feature films and 3,000 television programs comprised of tens of thousands of individual episodes.

Warner Bros. began with the four Warner brothers—Albert, Sam, Harry and Jack. In books chronicling the American film industry, the brothers are all legendary, especially the flamboyant showman Jack L. Warner. Pioneers in their own right, the Warners brought sound to movies, introduced the first “four-legged star,” revitalized the movie musical, created the gangster-picture era, and produced a number of socially significant films that evoked national awareness about growing problems of their times.

In 1903, the brothers began in the film business as traveling exhibitors, moving throughout Ohio and Pennsylvania with their portable projector. One of the first pictures they showed was Edwin S. Porter's The Great Train Robbery, the first motion picture to tell a definite story. By 1907, they were operating from a converted store in New Castle, Pennsylvania, which they named the Cascade Theatre. With Albert and Harry selling tickets, Sam ran the hand-crank projector while Jack sang “illustrated” songs during the intermissions to sister Rose's piano accompaniment. Within the year, they had opened two more theaters in New Castle.

By 1908, the Warners had acquired 200 film titles, distributing films throughout western Pennsylvania (as the Duquesne Film Exchange) and, later, opened new exchanges in Norfolk, Virginia and Atlanta, Georgia. Realizing, however, that the large profits from movies would come not just from distribution and exhibition, but also from production, the Warners moved to California and established a small production base at 18th and Main Streets in Culver City.

Their first full-scale picture, My Four Years in Germany, based on the best-selling book by America's ambassador to the court of Kaiser Wilhelm, premiered in 1918 and grossed an amazing (for that time) $1.5 million.

Later that year, the Warner brothers purchased property at 5842 Sunset Boulevard for $25,000, and the Warner Bros. West Coast Studios was born. With Harry as president and Albert as treasurer, guiding the company's finances, Sam and Jack focused on production, incorporating their new movie studio on April 4, 1923. Their projects included The Beautiful and Damned, which employed a young writer named F. Scott Fitzgerald, adapting his novel for the screen. In 1924, they created the world's first “four-legged superstar,” Rin Tin Tin, who would become known to the Warners as “the mortgage lifter” for his box-office reliability. At the other end of the artistic spectrum, the Warners could proudly point to Beau Brummel, starring a handsome young John Barrymore. They also enjoyed an alliance with director Ernst Lubitsch, whose The Marriage Circle and Kiss Me Again brought the Studio much critical acclaim.

And although Warner Bros. was now established as a complete film company, showcasing both successful commercial and artistic properties, it lacked company-owned theaters and thus struggled to compete in the Hollywood community.

In May 1925, Sam and Harry heard the first faint sounds of “talking pictures” in the New York offices of Bell Laboratories' parent company, Western Electric. Sam, self-taught in mechanics, instantly recognized the groundbreaking potential of this new technology and immediately installed the new sound equipment in their just-acquired Vitagraph Studios in Brooklyn.

On October 6, 1927, Warner Bros. Pictures released The Jazz Singer, starring Al Jolson, and a whole new era began, with “pictures that talked,” bringing the Studio to the forefront of the film industry. The Jazz Singer played to standing-room-only crowds throughout the country and earned a special Academy Award for technical achievement. However, Sam Warner paid for his family’s triumphant achievement with his life—dying of sheer exhaustion the day before the movie premiered. The Warners went on to quickly produce the first “all-talking” movie and their first “talking” gangster film, The Lights of New York. By late 1928, the rush for sound was on, with the Warners well out in front.

In 1928, the brothers bought The Stanley Company of America for its theater chain, which included one-third ownership of First National Pictures. Later that year, they purchased the rest of First National, acquiring a newly built studio in Burbank (in California’s San Fernando Valley, which today remains the home of Warner Bros. Studios). The Warners invested heavily into converting the new studio into the finest movie sound facility in the world. Stages were soundproofed, and underground conduits linked each stage with a special state-of-the-art sound building where recording could take place under exacting laboratory conditions.

The Studio’s “contract players” became some of the greatest stars of all time: Bette Davis, James Cagney, Paul Muni, Humphrey Bogart, Edward G. Robinson and Errol Flynn, among others. Behind the camera were Hal Wallis, Darryl F. Zanuck, Busby Berkeley, Michael Curtiz, William Wellman, Howard Hawks and Mervyn LeRoy, to name just a few.

Among the major films produced during the 1930s were The Petrified Forest (Bette Davis, Leslie Howard and Humphrey Bogart), Little Caesar (Edward G. Robinson) and The Public Enemy (James Cagney)—the latter two ushering in a “neo-realistic” approach to film storytelling and the trend toward “tough-guy” movies. With Darryl F. Zanuck as Jack Warner's production chief, director Mervyn LeRoy made I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang, a film that led to prison reform. Black Legion (dealing with the Ku Klux Klan), Black Fury (about the mistreatment of coal miners) and They Won't Forget (about prejudice and lynching in the Deep South) were all fact-based, hard-hitting exposés reflecting America’s social problems. The company also produced A Midsummer Night’s Dream, directed by the great Max Reinhardt and William Dieterle, Busby Berkeley's 42nd Street, and many lavish Errol Flynn swashbucklers. These were intermixed with classic filmed biographies on the lives of Benjamin Disraeli, Louis Pasteur, Benito Juarez and Émile Zola, the latter earning the Studio its first Oscar for Best Picture in 1937. The ‘30s also marked the beginning of the now-classic Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons.

Releasing some 40 pictures a year in the 1940s, the Studio produced such classics as The Maltese Falcon, Sergeant York, King's Row, Yankee Doodle Dandy, Casablanca (the Studio’s second Best Picture Oscar), Mildred Pierce, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre and Johnny Belinda.

The 1950s brought A Streetcar Named Desire, House of Wax (in 3-D), A Star Is Born, The High and the Mighty, Dial ‘M’ for Murder, Mister Roberts, Hondo, Moby Dick, The Bad Seed, The Searchers, Sayonara, Marjorie Morningstar, Auntie Mame, The Nun's Story and the three films which made James Dean a legend: East of Eden, Rebel Without a Cause and Giant.

The Warner Bros. Television story began in 1955 when the venerable Warner Bros. film studio made a bold move into what was then a fledgling new arena—television—with the debut of the western adventure Cheyenne. In those early pioneering days, comedy was the king of the small screen, but Warner Bros. Television targeted a different genre, the dramatic series—and carved out an important new and very successful niche. Cheyenne was only the first of the many hits to come in the ‘50s. Also launched that decade were the now-classic series Maverick, 77 Sunset Strip, Colt .45 and Hawaiian Eye. In July of 1958, Harry Warner died peacefully at home.

During the 1960s, Warner Bros. Pictures released such notable films as Ocean’s Eleven, Splendor in the Grass, Gypsy, The Music Man, My Fair Lady (the Studio’s third Best Picture Oscar), The Great Race, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, Bonnie and Clyde, Camelot, Cool Hand Luke and The Wild Bunch. On the television side, Warner Bros. Television debuted such hits as F Troop and The FBI. In 1967, an aging Jack Warner sold the Studio to Elliot and Ken Hyman, and it was renamed Warner Bros.-Seven Arts. In November of the same year, Albert Warner died at the age of 83.

Seven Arts’ association with the Studio was short-lived. In November 1969, Steve Ross and his Kinney Corporation purchased the company, and it became Warner Communications, Inc. Ross had also purchased DC Comics (and its classic characters) in 1968 and Ted Ashley’s talent agency, Ashley Famous Agency in 1967. DC Comics was folded into WCI, while Ashley Famous was spun off to avoid conflicts of interest. Ted Ashley stayed on board as Chairman & CEO of Warner Bros., who with the help of Frank Wells and John Calley, ushered the Studio into the next decade.

The 1970s saw the release of such landmark films as Woodstock, A Clockwork Orange, Klute, Dirty Harry, What's Up, Doc?, The Exorcist, Blazing Saddles, Mame, Barry Lyndon, Dog Day Afternoon, All the President's Men, The Outlaw Josey Wales, Oh, God!, The Goodbye Girl, a remake of A Star Is Born and Superman. And, in the television arena, such hits as Kung Fu, Harry O, Alice, Chico and the Man, Wonder Woman, Welcome Back, Kotter and The Dukes of Hazzard made their debuts.

The ‘70s also saw the rise of a new genre of television programming—the miniseries—in which the Studio established an almost unequaled record of excellence from the start. The incomparable David L. Wolper began his exclusive agreement with Warner Bros. in 1976 and went on to produce some of television's most-watched and most-honored productions, including Roots, Roots: The Next Generations, The Thorn Birds, North & South and Alex Haley's Queen. In 1978 Jack Warner died—the same year that the studio he had co-founded showed record profits.

Beginning in December of 1980, under the new leadership of Robert A. Daly and Terry Semel, Warner Bros. made artistic and box-office history with such films as the Academy Award-winning Chariots of Fire, The Right Stuff, The Killing Fields, The Color Purple, The Mission, The Accidental Tourist, Dangerous Liaisons, the Police Academy films, Arthur, Private Benjamin, The World According to Garp, the National Lampoon's Vacation movies, Empire of the Sun, Full Metal Jacket, The Witches of Eastwick, Stand and Deliver and Bird, as well as such worldwide phenomena as Superman II, Superman III, Lethal Weapon, Lethal Weapon 2 and Batman (which spawned one of the most lucrative franchises in movie history and the establishment of Warner Bros. Consumer Products). In the ‘80s, Warner Bros. Television launched some of its most-popular and most-acclaimed programming ever, including Murphy Brown, Life Goes On, China Beach, Growing Pains, Spenser: For Hire, Scarecrow and Mrs. King and Head of the Class.

In 1989, Warner Bros. initiated its strategy of growing a market for its films by building state-of-the-art multiplex theaters in underserved territories overseas, operating them until they are mature businesses and then moving onto new frontiers. The first of these ventures was in Australia.

That same year, Warner Communications, Inc. acquired entertainment powerhouse Lorimar Telepictures, one of the most prolific and highly regarded production companies of the day. Putting the rich Lorimar library under the extraordinary Warner Bros. Studios umbrella secured Warner Bros.’ place as the leader in both feature films and television.

Beginning with its multi-Emmy Award-winning series The Waltons, Lorimar had built a tradition of quality and innovative programming. The company not only introduced television's first miniseries, The Blue Knight, in 1972, but also presented the first primetime serial and forebear of primetime soap operas, Dallas. Along with Dallas, Lorimar produced a number of notable series, including Knots Landing, Falcon Crest, Eight is Enough, Full House, The Hogan Family, Perfect Strangers, Step by Step and Family Matters.

The 1990s was a seminal decade for the Studio, starting with the 1990 merger of Warner Communications, Inc. and Time Inc. to form Time Warner, Inc., one of the world’s largest communications and entertainment companies. Other important milestones include: the Studio’s creation and utilization of a unique film co-financing and worldwide distribution business model; the revitalization of Warner Bros. Animation with the animated television series Steven Spielberg Presents Tiny Toon Adventures (1991); the opening of Warner Bros.’ first international theme park (Movie World in Australia, 1991); the consolidation of Warner Bros. Television and Lorimar Television (1993); the debut of such megahits as ER, Friends and The Drew Carey Show (1994, 1994 and 1995, respectively); the launch of the company’s first, and the country’s fifth, national television network, The WB (1995); becoming a dominant force in the production and worldwide distribution of first-run syndicated programming; taking over of the management of the Turner library (1996); becoming an early adopter of the Internet as a promotional tool and outlet for original content; and leading the development and the launch of the revolutionary DVD format.

At the box office in the 1990s, Warner Bros. Pictures continued to break records and earn critical raves around the world. The decade got off to a great start as Driving Miss Daisy won Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Actress and Best Screenplay for 1989. Best Picture Oscar nominations followed for GoodFellas (1990) and JFK (1991). Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven (1992) garnered four Oscars (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor and Best Editing), followed by an Oscar nomination for The Fugitive (1993). The Studio made history in 1999 when, for the first time, its domestic box office surpassed the $1 billion mark and for the third time in the 1990s, it passed $1 billion internationally. The Matrix, alone, took in some $460 million at the worldwide box office, breaking Warner Bros. Pictures’ worldwide revenue record and creating an extraordinary new brand for the Studio.

On October 4, 1999, 28-year-Warner Bros. veteran Barry Meyer and Castle Rock Entertainment’s Alan Horn took over the reins of Warner Bros. (as Chairman & CEO and President & COO, respectively) from Daly and Semel, marking the end to one of the most enduring and successful partnerships in the history of the entertainment industry and the beginning of a new, record-breaking era of profitability in the history of the Studio. The year 2000 brought the Studio continued success with such films as The Perfect Storm, Space Cowboys and Castle Rock’s Miss Congeniality.

In 2001, Warner Bros. Pictures shattered every one of its own box office records and several industry records thanks to the beginning of the Harry Potter phenomenon (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone), Ocean’s 11, A.I. Artificial Intelligence, Cats & Dogs and, internationally, Miss Congeniality. Domestic box office reached $1.23 billion, and international box office soared to $1.34 billion. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone took in a worldwide box office of $973.6 million, and became the Studio’s highest-grossing film and the industry’s third-highest grossing film of all time in worldwide box office.

The second Harry Potter film (Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, which became the fourth-highest grossing film internationally of all time), Scooby-Doo, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, Insomnia, A Walk to Remember and Two Weeks Notice made 2002 another record-breaking year for Warner Bros. Pictures, with box office receipts surpassing the $1 billion mark for the third time domestically and the fifth time internationally. Warner Bros. Pictures’ $1.6 billion in international receipts led all studios and was both a new record for Warner Bros. Pictures, as well as the second-highest gross ever from a major studio.

Warner Bros.’ various businesses continued to be category leaders in 2003. Warner Bros. Pictures had its second-best domestic box office year in history ($1.16 billion) and its best-ever year at the international box office ($1.63 billion), becoming the Studio’s most successful worldwide box office year ever. Warner Home Video was number one in overall market share, and Warner Bros. Television was the industry’s number-one supplier of television programming. Consumer Products celebrated its 20th anniversary having racked up $50 billion in worldwide retail sales in two decades, and International Cinemas opened Paradise Warner Cinema City in Shanghai, marking the first time the Chinese government allowed a major U.S. theatrical company to extensively brand an in-country theater.

2004 was a history-making year for the Studio. Warner Bros. Pictures had its most successful year ever, with $3.41 billion in worldwide box office, which included $2.19 billion in overseas receipts, marking the first time a studio crossed the $2 billion mark internationally in a single year (it was also the fifth time domestically and seventh time internationally Warner Bros. Pictures broke the billion-dollar barrier). Contributing to this success were Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Troy, Ocean’s 12 and The Polar Express. WBTV was again the industry’s leading supplier of programming to the broadcast networks, and Warner Home Video finished the year as the industry’s market share leader (for the sixth time in the preceding eight years).

In 2005, Clint Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby brought the Studio four Oscars, including Best Picture and Director. In February of that year, Warner Home Video established an in-country video distribution and marketing operation in China, making WHV the first U.S. company ever to do so. Batman Begins and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory were two of the summer’s biggest hits with more than $370 and $470 million in worldwide box office, respectively. In an unprecedented entertainment industry trifecta, Warner Home Video, Warner Bros. Pictures and Warner Bros. Pictures International all finished 2005 as the market share leaders in their respective business categories.

In 2006, Warner Bros. Pictures’ domestic and international divisions each had their sixth consecutive billion-dollar-plus years at the box office; Warner Home Video was the industry’s market share leader; and the Warner Bros. Television Group was the industry’s leading supplier of primetime series to the broadcast networks. The Studio’s The WB Television Network was replaced by The CW, a joint venture with CBS Corporation; the Warner Bros. Television Group launched Warner Horizon Television (lower-budgeted scripted and reality primetime series for network and cable) and Studio 2.0 (original short-form digital programming for broadband and wireless devices); and Warner Premiere, a new direct-to-platform production arm, was founded.

In 2007, Warner Bros. Pictures’ domestic and international divisions each had their most successful years ever, as well as their seventh consecutive billion dollar-plus years at the box office. The Studio’s domestic box office reached $1.42 billion, and overseas receipts soared to $2.24 billion, an industry record. Warner Home Video was once again the industry’s leader, with an overall 20 percent market share. The Warner Bros. Television Group’s companies remained category leaders, producing for all platforms and outlets, and moving boldly into the digital realm with ad-supported video-on-demand as well as broadband and wireless destinations.

In 2008, Warner Bros. had a worldwide box office of $3.59 billion. Warner Bros. Pictures set a Studio and an industry record with $1.78 billion in domestic receipts, international box office reached $1.81 billion, and the year marked the eighth time Warner Bros. crossed the billion-dollar mark domestically and the 11th time internationally. Warner Home Video dominated the U.S. sales categories as the number one company in total video sales (DVD and Blu-ray combined), DVD, new theatrical releases, TV on DVD releases and total high-definition titles sold. Internationally, WHV was the number one studio, with 16 percent worldwide market share and a 23 percent worldwide market share among all Hollywood studios. The Warner Bros. Television Group’s companies remained category leaders, producing for all platforms and outlets, including ad-supported video-on-demand as well as broadband and wireless destinations.

In 2009, Warner Bros. had a record-breaking worldwide box office of $4.01 billion. Warner Bros. Pictures set a Studio and industry record with $2.13 billion in domestic receipts, international box office reached $1.88 billion, and the year marked the ninth time Warner Bros. crossed the billion-dollar mark domestically and the 12th time internationally. Warner Home Video dominated the U.S. sales categories as the number one company in a number of key categories, including total video sales (DVD and Blu-ray combined). Internationally, WHV remained the number one studio with 14 percent worldwide market share and a 21 percent worldwide market share among all Hollywood studios. The Warner Bros. Television Group’s companies remained category leaders, producing more than 40 series for the broadcast, cable and first-run programming marketplaces. Charged with growing the Studio’s entire portfolio of television businesses, WBTVG began developing new business models for the evolving television landscape, including VOD, broadband, wireless and home video exploitation of its vast library.

In 2010, the Warner Bros. Pictures Group broke the all-time industry worldwide box office record with receipts of $4.814 billion, which surpassed the prior record of $4.010 billion (set by the Studio in 2009). Warner Bros. also established a new industry benchmark for the international box office with a total of $2.93 billion (marking a record third time of crossing the $2 billion threshold) and retained its leading domestic box office ranking with receipts of $1.884 billion. 2010 also marked the 10th consecutive year Warner Bros. Pictures passed the billion dollar mark at both the domestic and international box offices. Warner Home Video was, once again, the industry's leader, with an overall 20.6 percent market share in total DVD and Blu-ray sales. The companies comprising the Warner Bros. Television Group and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Group remained category leaders, working across all platforms and outlets, and were trendsetters in the digital realm with video-on-demand (transaction and ad-supported), branded channels, original content, anti-piracy technology and broadband and wireless destinations.

In 2011, the Warner Bros. Pictures Group grossed $4.7 billion at the worldwide box office ($1.83 billion domestic, $2.87 international) with both its domestic and international divisions crossing the billion-dollar mark for an 11th consecutive year, a feat unmatched by any other studio. The Pictures Group exceeded $4 billion globally for the third consecutive year, also a milestone no other studio had ever achieved. Warner Home Video was, once again, the industry’s leader, with an overall 21.9 percent market share in total DVD and Blu-ray sales. WHV was also the number one home entertainment studio internationally in 2011. The companies comprising the Warner Bros. Television Group and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Group remained category leaders, working across all platforms and outlets. WBTVG produced some of the most popular and successful television series in broadcast, cable and first-run syndication and continued to increase its footprint in branded channels and local-production around the world. WBHEG was the driver behind a number of key industry-wide initiatives to promote digital ownership, including UltraViolet and Project Phenix, as well as the Studio’s anti-piracy operations. Both WBTVG and WBHEG supported Warner Bros.’ video-on-demand (transaction and ad-supported), original digital content, and broadband and wireless destinations.

In 2012, the Warner Bros. Pictures Group grossed $4.3 billion at the worldwide box office ($1.66 billion domestic, $2.67 international) with both its domestic and international divisions crossing the billion-dollar mark for a 12th consecutive year, a feat unmatched by any other studio. The Pictures Group exceeded $4 billion globally for the fourth consecutive year, also a milestone no other studio had ever achieved. Despite challenging market conditions, Warner Home Video was, once again, the industry’s leader, with an overall 21 percent market share in total DVD and Blu-ray sales. WHV was also the number one home entertainment studio internationally in 2012. The companies comprising the Warner Bros. Television Group produced more than 50 series for broadcast, first-run syndication and cable in the 2012-13 season. WBTVG and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment continued to be category leaders, working across all platforms and outlets.

In 2013, the Studio enjoyed record-breaking success across all businesses, including the most successful theatrical year in company history. Warner Bros. Pictures grossed an industry-leading $5.038 billion in global box office ($1.893 billion domestic, $3.145 international) to take the number one positions in domestic, international and worldwide box office. The year marked the first time the Studio surpassed the $5 billion mark and only the second time that feat has been achieved by any studio in Hollywood. Both the domestic and international divisions crossed the billion-dollar mark for the 13th consecutive year, and the Pictures Group exceeded $4 billion globally for the fifth consecutive year, both milestones no other studio has ever achieved. For the 13th consecutive year, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment was, once again, the industry’s leader, with 17.9 percent market share, and was number one in the DVD and Blu-ray, electronic sell-through, catalog, television and family categories. Warner Bros. Television Groups’ WBTV, Warner Horizon Television, Telepictures Productions and Warner Bros. Animation continued to produce television’s most popular and successful series for the broadcast, cable, pay and digital marketplaces, producing more than 60 series in the 2013-14 season. WBTVG and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment continued to be category leaders, working across all platforms and outlets, and remaining trendsetters in the digital realm with video-on-demand (transactional and ad-supported), branded channels, original content, apps, anti-piracy technology and broadband and wireless destinations.