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Warner Bros.

 

Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. (formerly Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.), commonly referred to as Warner Bros. and abbreviated as WB, is an American entertainment company headquartered in Burbank, California and a subsidiary of AT&T's WarnerMedia. Founded in 1923, it has operations in film, television and video games and is one of the "Big Five" major American film studios, as well as a member of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA).
Don Juan premiered at the Warners' Theatre in New York on August 6, 1926. Throughout the early history of film distribution, theater owners hired orchestras to attend film showings, where they provided soundtracks. Through Vitaphone, Warner Bros. produced eight shorts (which were played at the beginning of every showing of Don Juan across the country) in 1926. Many film production companies questioned the necessity. Don Juan did not recoup its production cost and Lubitsch left for MGM. By April 1927, the Big Five studios (First National, Paramount, MGM, Universal, and Producers Distributing) had ruined Warner's, and Western Electric renewed Warner's Vitaphone contract with terms that allowed other film companies to test sound.
In 1933, Warner was able to link up with newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst's Cosmopolitan Films. Hearst had previously worked with MGM, but ended the association after a dispute with head producer Irving Thalberg over the treatment of Hearst's longstanding mistress, actress Marion Davies, who was struggling for box office success. Through his partnership with Hearst, Warner signed Davies to a studio contract. Hearst's company and Davies' films, however, did not increase the studio's profits.
Major Paramount star George Raft also eventually proved to be a problem for Jack. Warner had signed him in 1939, finally bringing the third top 1930s gangster actor into the Warners fold, knowing that he could carry any gangster picture when either Robinson or Cagney were on suspension. Raft had difficulty working with Bogart and refused to co-star with him. Eventually, Warner agreed to release Raft from his contract in 1943. After Raft had turned the role down, the studio gave Bogart the role of "Mad Dog" Roy Earle in the 1941 film High Sierra, which helped establish him as a top star. Following High Sierra and after Raft had once again turned the part down, Bogart was given the leading role in John Huston's successful 1941 remake of the studio's 1931 pre-Code film, The Maltese Falcon, based upon the Dashiell Hammett novel.
Warner Bros. bought Schlesinger's cartoon unit in 1944 and renamed it Warner Bros. Cartoons. However, senior management treated the unit with indifference, beginning with the installation as senior producer of Edward Selzer, whom the creative staff considered an interfering incompetent. Jack Warner had little regard for the company's short film product and reputedly was so ignorant about the animation division of the studio that he was mistakenly convinced that the unit produced cartoons of Mickey Mouse, the flagship character of Walt Disney Productions. He sold off the unit's pre-August 1948 library for $3,000 each, which proved a shortsighted transaction in light of its eventual value.
Within a few years, the studio provoked hostility among their TV stars such as Clint Walker and James Garner, who sued over a contract dispute and won. Edd Byrnes was not so lucky and bought himself out of his contract. Jack was angered by their perceived ingratitude. Television actors evidently showed more independence than film actors, deepening his contempt for the new medium. Many of Warner's television stars appeared in the casts of Warner's cinema releases. In 1963, a court decision forced Warner Bros. to end contracts with their television stars, and to cease engaging them for specific series or film roles. That year, Jack Webb, best known for originating the role of Sgt. Joe Friday in the Dragnet franchise, became the head of the studio's TV division.