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Who owns the rights

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  • Who owns the rights

    I think I am in the proper section for this question. Who owns the rights to, Gone with the wind? A film with 3 British actors. Metro Goldwyn Mayer released the film in 1939. The blue ray 70th anniversary edition I purchased, was released by Warner Brothers. Home entertainment. I would think that M.G.M, who had the rights to distribute that film in 1939, would want to keep the rights for future releases. To the best of my knowledge, M.G.M did merge with United Artists, but Warner Brothers has released the DVD’s. Hope my English is better.
    Last edited by Kevinspencer; 21st May 2020, 09:40 PM. Reason: Spelling

  • #2
    I think it's simply that MGM/United Artists did deals over the years which resulted in Warner Bros. Home Entertainment releasing on DVD or bluray films MGM originally made or released.


    • #3
      I think it's simply that MGM/United Artists did deals over the years which resulted in Warner Bros. Home Entertainment releasing on DVD or bluray films MGM originally made or released.
      Pretty much, although it turns out its way more complicated than that, as you'd expect. Frankly, you could write a book about it.

      Selznick of course was essentially an independent producer at the time (with his films being distributed by UA), but when he bought the rights to the book in 1936, he really wanted Gable for the lead. And MGM had Gable under contract. So eventually he made a deal which meant that he got Gable and $1.25m (half the films budget). In return, he would pay Gables weekly salary and MGM/Loew's would get half the profits and distribution. It should be remembered that Mayer was Selznicks father in law....

      And that was a good deal, because it was a blockbuster - in fact it was a roadshow way longer than most most movies (MGM got 70% of the box office!) and only went to ordinary theaters in 1941. But in 1942, for tax reasons, Selznick liquidates his company and sells the rights to his business partner for half a million. And then the rights got sold onto MGM directly for $2.8m (Hollywood accounting!). So they owned the lot. And since the film played in London until 1945, they did really well, even after the c.$4m they had put up.

      But after mergers , corporate raiders, casinos, executive fraud, and the like MGM sold off the pre 1986 library to Ted Tuner (they had UA's back catalogue and the rights for pre 1950 Warners as well as well as RKO), or at least much of the rights for showing it (its complicated, because having bought MGM for $600m, debt meant that Turner had to sell it back for $300m, but kept the library). And Warners bought Ted Tuners rights in 1997, but Warners had already had deals for much of the stuff for video release, and this carried on, however MGM/UA had been distributors for much of what was owned by Turner on home video. And then there were more complex deals as to who had the video rights in what countries Oh, and MGM bought Orion in 1997. Told you it was complicated.

      Turner then formed TNT, etc to use the catalogue, including Gone With the Wind. And since its owned now by Warners, they own the rights.

      BTW - MGM got partially owned by Sony, then went bankrupt but got out of it in 2010, but now does co distribution deals with the likes of Fox and Warners, but some films have been handled by Paramount and Sony! Oh, and Kino Lorber (silents) and Criterion (classics) also have deals. If you want to know why Bond films have had God knows how many studios involved in the past 20 years, this is why.

      This is why lawyers in Hollywood earn a lot of money. Because who owns the rights is really really complicated. And that story is a sad indictment of money men destroying good companies to asset strip and play corporate/financial games. But at least the films survive. If they get made.


      • #4
        It's always massively difficult to work out who own the rights to any piece of work. Not only to companies that originally owned them often collapse or merge with other companies. When they do so they often bundle up the right to a random bunch of titles & sell them as part of the deal. The new company can then take that bundle or part of it & make a new bundle of titles which they can then sell to another company. After that's happened a few times, or many, many times over the decades, you can see why it gets massively difficult to sort it all out.

        Many lawyers get very rich trying to untangle it all

        If only there was a simple "rights ownership" table somewhere. But then the lawyers wouldn't get so rich



        • Bonekicker
          Bonekicker commented
          Editing a comment
          Life is complicated, and films rights really complicated, as you say. So you can see that they earn their money - and there is a lot riding on it for whoever does own the rights. Media rights generally is a nightmare.

          BTW - Kevinspencer just mentioned the Atlanta premiere - a black childrens choir was hired for the event (outside the all white theatre of course), and one of the children was Martin Luther King! And yes, British actors taking American roles is nothing new.

      • #5
        When the world premiere, Atlanta, Georgia, took place in 1939, News media reports, many southerners resented British actors portraying southerners. British talent, alway been a demand by American film makers.