Hollywood has given birth to an industry unlike any other in the past century. While foreign markets like Europe and Asia continue to make strides in the movie industry, “The Big Five” still hold dominance through their worldwide presence. The Big Five represents a set of film studios that have operated in some capacity almost since the advent of Hollywood as we know it.
Odds are that the latest movie you’ve watched was filmed, produced, or in some way backed by one of these studios and their subsidiaries. Let’s take a look at just how impactful their worldwide presence is, as cinemas continue to reopen in the wake of the 2020 global pandemic.
- Walt Disney Studios
The Walt Disney Company needs no introduction even if we weren’t talking about Hollywood studios. Operating since 1923, Walt Disney Studios paved the way for animation studios across the globe with their animated portfolio. Major subsidiaries of Walt Disney Studios include 20th Century Studios, Lucasfilm, and Marvel Studios best known for their Avengers properties. The company continues to be a pioneer of cinematic storytelling and with their acquisitions, they are bound to remain in The Big Five.
- Sony Pictures
Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc. (or Sony Pictures) was formed in 1924 as a subsidiary of Sony, a Japanese conglomerate focused on technological development. Their major film units are split into Colombia Pictures and TriStar Pictures, each responsible for several successful movie franchises. Thanks to its parent company Sony, Sony Pictures also holds a majority of shares in the anime industry, including Funimation, Aniplex, and Madman Studios. Given the abundance of Asian content under its umbrella, it’s worth using professional online translation services when subbing or dubbing their content for international audiences. Sony Pictures is a diverse conglomerate of live-action and animated studios working in tandem to make an impact on Hollywood.
- NBC Universal
Owned by Comcast and launched in 1912, NBC Universal is a major player among The Big Five thanks to its presence in the television world. Its subsidiary studios include Universal Pictures, DreamWorks Animation, and Big Idea Entertainment. However, the majority of their stakes are in the TV sphere where it is also considered one of “The Big Three” networks. It is the oldest member of the Hollywood big five and is responsible for movies such as The Mummy, Jurassic Park, and Fast & Furious.
- Viacom CBS
Viacom CBS is best known for its movie division, Paramount Pictures, as well as MTV and Nickelodeon which are both found in its list of subsidiaries. Launched in 1912 alongside NBC Universal, it is the fifth-oldest movie studio in the world and an inseparable part of The Big Five. On the topic of the international movie industry, here are the top 10 foreign movies from 80’s era you should watch to learn about cinema. Viacom CBS’s biggest blockbusters include Titanic, the Transformers series, and Forrest Gump. Viacom CBS also holds a minority share in Miramax which adds to its Hollywood presence.
- Warner Media
Warner Media finds itself in a state of flux after operating since 1923, pending a merger with Discovery, Inc. as of June 2020. Warner Media is a major presence in Hollywood and the world of movies and television as a whole. Its repertoire of studios and properties includes HBO, Cartoon Network, New Line Cinema, and the Warner Bros. Animation studio. Warner Media is best-known today for its widely-acclaimed HBO Max streaming platform and a plethora of DC Comic adaptations including Justice League. Even with a pending merger on the horizon, Warner Media continues to dominate the film industry.
The current Hollywood is very different from what it was almost a hundred years ago, as today’s The Big Five differs from its original lineup. Radio-Keith-Orpheum Pictures (RKO) was also a major film studio in the early 20th century, however, with a slew of poor business decisions, it ceased production.
Sony Pictures on the other hand entered the market thanks to foreign investment from Japan and turned yesterday’s Columbia Pictures into Sony Pictures in 1991. Only time will tell how The Big Five will look in a few decades, however, one thing is for certain. Even with 2020 being a major setback for Hollywood, cinema is poised to make a comeback and continue to be the giant it always was.
Bio: Michael Carr is a content writer, digital marketer, and movie aficionado with years of experience writing about the film industry. Michael loves to write articles, news reports and to cover trends not only in film but also in marketing and sales as its adjacent industries. He tends to spend his free time catching up on the latest movies as well as honing his writing skills.