Associated Artists Productions
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The a.a.p. logo, as seen in the end of many Popeye cartoons.
|Fate||Folded into United Artists|
|Successor(s)||United Artists Associated
United Artists Television Distribution
|Founded||1948 (first incarnation)
1954 (second incarnation)
|Headquarters||New York City, New York, United States|
|Products||Television packages of feature films and theatrical short subjects and cartoons|
|Divisions||United Telefilms Limited
Dominant Pictures Corporation
Associated Artists Productions (a.a.p.)  was a distributor of theatrical feature films and short subjects for television. It was later folded into United Artists. The former a.a.p. library was later owned by MGM/UA Entertainment Co. and then Turner Entertainment Co.. Turner (in conjunction with Warner Bros. Television) continues to own the former a.a.p. library as part of the Time Warner conglomerate.
- 1 History
- 2 Holdings
- 3 Subsidiaries
- 4 Cultural References
- 5 Notes
Associated Artists Productions, Inc. was initially founded in 1948 by Eliot Hyman. It handled syndication of 500 films, including the Republic Pictures and Robert Lippert libraries, but soon both companies entered television distribution. It also served for Monogram Pictures (their 1936-1946 film library was purchased by a.a.p. in 1954) and Producers Releasing Corporation. In 1951, Hyman sold the company; its assets ended up at another outfit, Motion Pictures for Television (MPTV), where Hyman served as a consultant.
In 1954, Hyman launched another TV distribution company which used the Associated Artists name. His son Ken served as vice-president. It bought the syndication rights to the Universal Sherlock Holmes films from MPTV, Johnny Jupiter, and Candid Camera. In 1956 the company was refinanced and its name changed to Associated Artists Productions Corp. (a.a.p.) The new company then purchased the entire pre-1950 library owned by Warner Bros. Pictures for $21 million.
The material a.a.p. bought from Warner Bros. Pictures included all of its features produced and distributed by Warners prior to 1950 (Warner retained the rights to two 1949 films it only distributed), and also included was the film Chain Lightning (produced in 1949 and released in 1950).
Also included were the live-action short subjects released prior to September 1, 1948.
The cartoon library included every color Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies short released prior to August 1, 1948, and all of the Merrie Melodies produced by Harman-Ising Pictures from 1931 to 1933, except Lady, Play Your Mandolin! (1931) which was already sold to Sunset Productions. The remaining black-and-white Merrie Melodies were not part of this package, and the black-and-white Looney Tunes (along with the Schlesinger-produced B&W Merrie Melodies) were also already sold to Sunset Productions. Former Warner cartoon director Bob Clampett was hired to catalog the Warner cartoon library.
a.a.p. also purchased the Popeye cartoons from Paramount Pictures, which had been produced by Fleischer Studios and Famous Studios. This purchase and the Warner Bros. cartoon package combined gave a.a.p. a library of over 568 theatrical cartoon shorts, which would be staples of children's television for decades.
For the Warner Bros. productions, a.a.p. simply inserted their logo at the beginning of the film. For the Popeye cartoons, a.a.p. removed all logos and mentions of Paramount from the Popeye prints they distributed, since Paramount did not want to be associated with television at the time. In recent years, the Paramount references have been restored to the cartoons.
Ownership of properties
The company was acquired by United Artists in 1958. The resulting division was named United Artists Associated (a division of United Artists Television, or UATV for short), and by 1968, United Artists Television Distribution. In 1981, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer purchased United Artists, along with its film library and became MGM/UA Entertainment Co.
The rights to Alfred Hitchcock's 1948 film Rope, originally distributed by Warner Bros. and later copyrighted by UATV, reverted to the director in 1968. Distribution rights were later sold to Universal Pictures in 1983.
Turner Entertainment took over the library in 1986 after Ted Turner's short-lived acquisition of MGM/UA. When Turner sold back the MGM/UA production unit, he kept the MGM library, including select portions of the a.a.p. library (limited to the Warner Bros. films and the Popeye cartoons), for his own company. The Monogram films were not included with the purchase, and thus these films remain with MGM.
The Warner Bros. film libraries were reunited when Time Warner, the studio's parent company since the 1990 merger of Time Inc. and Warner Communications (formerly Kinney National Company), bought Turner in 1996. Turner retains the copyrights to the former a.a.p. properties, while Warner handles their distribution.
UA originally leased video rights to their library (including the a.a.p. library) to Magnetic Video, the first home video company. Magnetic Video was sold to 20th Century Fox in 1981, becoming 20th Century Fox Video. In 1982, Fox and CBS formed CBS/Fox Video, which continued to distribute the UA/a.a.p. library under license from MGM/UA Home Video until the rights reverted to MGM/UA. After Turner's purchase of the MGM/UA library, MGM/UA Home Video continued to distribute the films on video under license until 1999, when the rights were transferred to Warner Home Video.
Recent television screenings and video releases
a.a.p. received 35mm negatives of all films purchased from Warner Bros., some of which were on nitrate stock for the older films. All negatives were in 35mm, the standard for theatrical release. a.a.p., the night before the day of closing of the contract with Warner Bros., removed all material from Ace Laboratory in Brooklyn to Consolidated Labs in N.J. thus avoiding the New York sales tax on the purchase. Subsequently the negatives were split up between several labs in the NY area including DuArt, Mercury, Deluxe and CFI. Each lab made new acetate 16mm internegatives and re-recorded sound tracks. Some of the color films were in Technicolor and, as was Technicolor's policy, they held the 3 color negatives and mage prints. TV stations used 16mm prints for their telecasting and each lab made the prints for the titles they held.
These same prints would be the ones used on pre-1999 VHS and laserdisc releases of former a.a.p.-owned films. The a.a.p. versions of these films were also later used for cable television broadcasts (even as recently as March 2011, a.a.p. prints of WB cartoons have been seen on TV). Early video releases of WB films released between 1928-1931 bore an a.a.p. copyright renewal notice, since these renewals came before the UA purchase.
In the 1990s, Turner began removing the a.a.p. logos from many of the films (although this process started before that by both UA and local television stations). One hundred twenty-three of the Warner Bros. cartoons purchased by a.a.p. were restored from their original negatives for inclusion in Warner Home Video's series of six Looney Tunes Golden Collection DVD box sets (with the color cartoons looking very vibrant, as to attempt to create an experience similar to when the cartoons were first released in theaters). Several more WB cartoons formerly owned by a.a.p. have been restored for other Looney Tunes DVD releases since 2010.
The black and white Popeye cartoons (and the three Color Specials) were also restored from their original negatives for a series of three Popeye the Sailor DVD sets  (a production error on Volume 2, later corrected, resulted in the accidental usage of prints with a.a.p. titles on two cartoons, though the Paramount logos were still seen). The Famous-produced color Popeye cartoons will be released in later years, though no dates have been set. Prior to 2007, no official video releases of the Popeye cartoons were available due to licensing issues with King Features (MGM/UA had attempted to release some cartoons in the 1980s, but KFS blocked their attempt).
Some of the films and short subjects bought by a.a.p. fell into the public domain, and are available on various low-budget video releases, although the owners of the original film elements also gave some of this material official releases as well. These include:
- 34 Popeye cartoons
- 61 WB cartoons
- All Merrie Melodies from Smile, Darn Ya, Smile! through The Shanty Where Santy Claus Lives
- 40 color cartoons released between 1936–44
- 2 cartoons from 1947
- Several WB features, such as Santa Fe Trail and Life with Father
11 a.a.p.-owned cartoons were pulled from circulation by UA in 1968, at the height of the Civil Rights movement. These cartoons, banned because they were based around African American stereotypes, included:
- Hittin' the Trail for Hallelujah Land
- Sunday Go to Meetin' Time
- Clean Pastures
- Uncle Tom's Bungalow
- Jungle Jitters
- The Isle of Pingo Pongo
- All This and Rabbit Stew
- Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs
- Tin Pan Alley Cats
- Angel Puss
- Goldilocks and the Jivin' Bears
Later owners of the library would also keep these shorts from circulation. However, the cartoons are available online and on many unauthorized collections of mainly-public domain cartoons on VHS and DVD, despite eight of the cartoons remaining under copyright.
a.a.p. Records, Inc.
a.a.p. Records, Inc. was a music arm of a.a.p., which had distributed the Official Popeye TV Album.
United Telefilms Limited
United Telefilms Limited was the Canadian division of a.a.p., which existed around the same time. Live action films used a variation of the main a.a.p. logo, but the initials "UTL" would be spelled out, and a notice at the bottom said "Distributed in Canada by United Telefilms Limited".
United Telefilm Records, Inc.
United Telefilm Records was a music label of United Telefilms.
UT Records was a subsidiary of United Telefilm Records.
Warwick Records was also a subsidiary of United Telefilm Records.
Tel Records was a subsidiary of United Telefilms.
Dominant Pictures Corporation
Dominant Pictures Corporation was a subsidiary of a.a.p. which distributed the features that the company purchased to theaters. It re-released a number of films from the pre-1950 WB library, as well as a number of British films which a.a.p. bought the rights to. Dominant also sold and/or leased 16mm prints of WB library titles to non-theatrical rental libraries.
The subsidiary was later folded into UA's main theatrical distribution arm after the company was sold to UA.
- Billboard (August 28, 1954), p. 6)
- Alcott v. Hyman, 208 A.2d 501 (1965).
- Fleischer v. Phillips, 264 F.2d 515 (1959).