"So that 100 years from now, the Columbia Lady's torch has stood in front of more memorable, moving and enduring stories" Columbia Pictures' 100th Anniversary

Columbia Pictures, the cornerstone of today's Sony Pictures Entertainment, celebrated its 100th anniversary on January 10, 2024. Many of you may remember the "Columbia Lady" holding up the torch in the opening image before the movie starts, reminiscent of the Statue of Liberty, but Columbia Pictures has grown from humble beginnings to one of the major studios in Hollywood, and has become a major presence in the film industry. On the occasion of its 100th anniversary, we look back at the company's history with words by Tom Rothman, Chairman and CEO of Sony Pictures Entertainment's Motion Picture Group.

Tom Rothman
Chairman and CEO of
Sony Pictures Entertainment's Motion Picture Group

"The one thing that separates a major studio from all other content producers is our history"

Tom: The one thing that separates a major studio from all other content producers is our history and at Columbia, that history is reflected in the countless cultural talismans created for now 100 years. The studio came from humble beginnings to become one of the leading film studios, renowned for producing award-winning and trailblazing films that boldly reflected societal issues of the times. And our unparalleled commitment to the big screen, inspires filmmakers to work with our studio time and time again.

Formerly CBC (Cohn-Brandt-Cohn) Film Sales, founded in 1918 by brothers Harry and Jack Cohn and their associate Joe Brandt, became Columbia Pictures Corporation incorporated on January 10, 1924. Offices were set up along a section in Hollywood known as "Poverty Row" because it was home to several low-budget film production companies.

Columbia Pictures' offices as they looked in 1924

The catalyst for the conversion to a major studio was the employment of a young director named Frank Capra. Together with Frank Capra, Columbia Pictures produced The Certain Thing in 1928, followed by its first full-length talkie film (with sound), The Donovan Affair in 1929. Subsequently, Frank Capra's gem of films won numerous awards including an Academy Award®, and the company's prestige and reputation as a formidable player in Hollywood grew during the 1930s and 1940s.

Tom: From sweeping the Oscars in 1934 with Frank Capra's It Happened One Night, as well as in 1963 with Lawrence of Arabia, which is regarded one of the greatest films ever made, to Easy Rider which helped kick-start the New Hollywood era of filmmaking, to more current original movies such as Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood, to breaking box office records with Spider-Man: No Way Home in the midst of a global pandemic, we remain dedicated to making movies that will endure. Indeed, over the years, Columbia has earned 12 Best Picture Oscars, more than any other studio.

Upper left: It Happened One Night
Upper right: Lawrence of Arabia
Lower left: Easy Rider
Lower middle: Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood
Lower right: Spider-Man: No Way Home
  • Winners of the Academy Award® for Best Picture from Columbia Pictures

Columbia also launched a television division in 1948, an early entrant into the industry. In 1979, the company launched a new division to introduce its hit films on home video aligning with the emergence of the home entertainment market, and expanding its business to keep pace with the times.

After its acquisition by the Coca-Cola Company in 1982, Columbia Pictures Corporation and all of its entertainment holdings were purchased by Sony Corporation from The Coca-Cola Company in 1989, and the company was renamed Sony Pictures Entertainment in 1991. As one of the key entertainment businesses of the Sony Group, the company now also produces animation using state-of-the-art technology, and delivers innovative visual content while enhancing collaboration with the Group's technologies, products, and games and music businesses.

What kind of future is Columbia Pictures aiming for in the next 100 years? According to Tom:

We hope to continue to push creative boundaries, to innovate and take the kind of risks that have led to our first 100 years of success, so that 100 years on from now, the Columbia Lady's torch has stood in front of more memorable, moving and enduring stories.

Sony Pictures plans to mark this year as an anniversary year with a variety of initiatives, including revival screenings of nostalgic masterpieces, in order to look back over the past 100 years of visual history and to create and deliver excitement that can be shared across generations, now and in the next 100 years to come. For more details, please visit the official 100th anniversary website and the official Sony Pictures X (formerly Twitter).

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