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


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