Although MGM was originally found in 1915 as Triangle Pictures located in Culver City which was 7 miles south west of Hollywood. Thomas Ince, D.W. Griffith and Mack Sennett then owned the Studio. Samuel Goldwyn then acquired the studio in 1918 and the name was changed to Goldwyn Studios. It is then when it got its Leo the Lion logo. It merged with Metro Pictures and Mayer Pictures in 1924 and the studio went onto become the greatest studio in the history of Hollywood by the name Metro Goldwyn Mayer (MGM) on April 16, 1924. The inauguration took place with a grand ceremony attended by Former President both President Calvin Coolidge and famous performer Will Rogers. This is how the legendary MGM Studios was born.
MGM became the powerhouse of cinema pretty soon and was renowned for its lavish sets, stylish films and unmatched array of Film stars in their productions. It was a dream for many new actors to work for MGM. Within a year of its formation MGM took over Universal Studios as the biggest producer of movies in the year 1925 and retained this distinction for next quarter of the century. The studio also inherited the classic silent movie Ben-Hur that was under production when the studio was formed. The movie was the most expensive silent movie ever made with the cost of production of over $5 million. The movie was also a blockbuster hit.
The Studio was city in itself having its own police, fire, telegraph and post departments. It had everything that a city has so that a complete movie can be shot inside the studio without ever going to different places. With the advent of talkies in the late twenties the Studio attracted best of the talent of that era with big names like Clark Gable, Jean Harlow, Robert Montgomery, Myrna Loy, Jeanette MacDonald, Nelson Eddy, Frank Sinatra, Fred Astaire, Jimmy Stewart, Elizabeth Taylor etc. the list goes on.
During the peak years MGM churned as many as fifty films a year and it has as many as five thousand employees. The studio once bragged that there are more stars in MGM than sky. The studio acquired one more building for administration in 1938, which was named after Irving Thalberg who was the head of production. Then Louis B. Mayer took over the reins until 1951 when he lost power to Dore Schary. The golden age of the studio was from its inception to the Second World War during which it gave memorable movies like ‘The Wizard of Oz’, ‘Gone with the wind’, ‘The Tarzan Adventures’, ‘The Thinman Series’ and many Marx Brothers comedies. ‘Gone with the wind’ is still the highest earning movie till date if you adjust for inflation. MGM movies created many more records with Ben-Hur made in 1959 bagging 11 Oscars which was a record until recently when it was equaled by ‘Titanic’ and ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King’.
The golden era of MGM ended after the Second World War when it became expensive to produce large number of movies and the when viewers attention was diverting towards the television. The 1950’s and 1960’s saw one of the worst periods in the history of the studio with company making loses for the first ever time. To offset these loses and to get into the television market slowly they sold the rights of their movie ‘The Wizard of Oz’ to CBS which made a lot of money back then. But even as the company tried to come out of the financial turmoil it sank further deep each year. The studio was ultimately sold to Edgar Bronfman, Sr., a Canadian Investor. When he too was not able to manage the studio he sold it to Nevada millionaire Kirk Kerkorian who was more interested in it as a real estate property than a studio. He sold the vast collection of Studio’s props, furnishings and memorabilia; the lot was used for a huge real estate project.
The company almost stopped producing movies in 1970’s and 1980’s. The company acquired United Artists in 1981 and in 1986 Ted Turner bought it. It again changed many owners in 1990’s. In 2004 there was a cat race to buy MGM with Turner, Sony and many other big companies bidding to acquire it. But the highest bidder proved to be Sony with the support of other firms like Comcast and venture capital bankers Texas Pacific Group and Providence Equity Partners.
MGM ventured into theatrical distribution in 2006 releasing over fourteen films in the year. The studio also restructured itself and is once again back in business and keeping with the modern day demands by announcing in 2007 that all MGM movies can be downloaded through Apple’s iTunes. With the company molding itself to the needs of the digital world we only hope that the company regains its lost reputation once again.