RKO was originally
founded in 1882 with the opening of a single vaudeville
theater, and grew in the following decades into the
Keith-Albee-Orpheum theater circuit of vaudeville fame, the
then-largest theater chain in the world. In 1928, David
Sarnoff, president of Radio Corporation of America (RCA),
joined forces with Joseph P. Kennedy, business tycoon and
father of the future President, to merge the theater chain
with the infant Pathe Studios and the Film Booking Office of
America (FBO), a movie distribution organization acquired by
Kennedy two years earlier. The new company was renamed the
Radio-Keith-Orpheum Corporation, or RKO Corporation,
combining modern motion picture production activities with
hundreds of theaters in which to exhibit them.
To promote a connection between radio and the movies (the
new media of the 1920's), RKO film productions were released
under the trademark "Radio Pictures," and featured
the now-famous RKO logo of the gigantic radio tower atop the
spinning Earth, transmitting signals to the universe.
Early in its development, RKO attracted top Hollywood
talent. Its impressive list of writers included some of the
greatest scribes in show business. Its stable of stars
consisted of some of the most durable names in motion
pictures. Its directors were among the most innovative and
celebrated. The creative environment at RKO drew some of
Hollywood's most creative professionals, resulting in the
immense and famous library of RKO movies as an enduring
testament to the RKO culture.
RKO Pictures occupies a
unique place in the history of filmmaking; founded in 1929
from the merger of the Keith Orpheum theater circuit (1882),
Joesph P. Kennedy’s Film Booking Office (1917) and Radio
Corporation of America (RCA) (1909). This is the
oldest of the continuously operating movie studios.
During the Golden Age of Hollywood, RKO released an average
of 40 movies per year and in some years one film each week.
The studio had some of the industry's most talented artists
under contract including such luminaries as Katherine
Hepburn, Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman, Orson Welles, Robert
Mitchum, Bette Davis, Lucille Ball, John Ford and Alfred
Hitchcock. In its list of productions you will find
such classics as King Kong,
Citizen Kane, It's a Wonderful Life, The
Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Belles of St. Mary, The
Best Years of Our Lives, as well as a host of
Astaire-Rogers musicals. Note the famous stripper Lili
St. Cyr acted in The Son of Sinbad (1955)
also distributed by RKO.
The 1980’s were
troubled times for several of the big Hollywood studios.
Columbia was swallowed by Sony; MGM and RKO had trouble
adjusting to the changes brought by video, satellite and
television but survived.
In the 1990’s, RKO
began its climb back to prominence. With an aggressive
development slate and strong Hollywood relationships, the
company produces, distributes and finances new films and
digital content. Its international distribution
division, RKO International, markets RKO’s films in the
foreign territories and works closely with all major
domestic distributors. The studio’s production team
creates its features by re-envisioning films from its fabled
library along with original material acquired or developed
for their movies and TV projects, including children’s
animation. RKO’s production slate is currently being
produced with some of the industry’s hottest filmmakers
and featuring some of the world’s biggest stars.
Once again, RKO’s
famous Globe and Tower logo sends out its beep-beep-beep at
the beginning of great programs for all media