|Industry||Motion pictures, television programs|
|Fate||Acquired by Orion Pictures|
|Headquarters||Sonoma County, California|
|Martin Ransohoff, Edwin Kasper, Rodney Erickson|
Filmways, Inc. (also known as Filmways Pictures and Filmways Television) was a television and film production company founded by both American film executive Martin Ransohoff and Edwin Kasper in 1952. It is probably best remembered as the production company of CBS’ “rural comedies” of the 1960s, including The Beverly Hillbillies, Petticoat Junction, and Green Acres, as well as the comedy-drama The Trials of O'Brien, the western Dundee and the Culhane, the adventure show Bearcats!, the police drama Cagney & Lacey, and the sitcoms Mr. Ed and The Addams Family. Notable films the company produced include The Sandpiper, The Cincinnati Kid, The Fearless Vampire Killers, Ice Station Zebra, Summer Lovers, The Burning, King and Brian De Palma's Dressed to Kill and Blow Out.
Filmways acquired famous companies throughout the years, such as Heatter-Quigley Productions (for Hollywood Squares), Ruby-Spears Productions and American International Pictures. It was also the owner of the film distributor Sigma III Corporation (Closely Watched Trains, Hi, Mom!).
Filmways was formed by Martin Ransohoff and Edwin Kasper in 1952,who would part with Filmways five years later. In 1966, The company acquired Heatter-Quigley Productions for Hollywood Squares. In 1969, it bought Sears Point Raceway in Sonoma County, California, outside of San Francisco. In 1972, Ransohoff left Filmways as president.
In 1974, it acquired book publisher Grosset & Dunlap from American Financial Group. In May 1975, it bought television syndication firm Rhodes Productions from Taft Broadcasting. In 1978, it acquired Ruby-Spears Productions, which had launched a year earlier. In 1979, after Arkoff's retirement, Filmways purchased American International Pictures. Their TV subsidiary, AITV, became Filmways' new syndication division in 1980, spinning off Rhodes into an independent corporation.
Filmways had lost nearly $20 million during the nine months ending in November 1981. However, it partially exited bankruptcy by selling few of its previously acquired assets. In 1981, Ruby-Spears Productions was sold to Taft Broadcasting and Sears Point Raceway was sold to Speedway Motorsports. In 1982, Grosset & Dunlap was sold to G. P. Putnam's Sons.
In 1982, Filmways was acquired by Orion Pictures (with E. M. Warburg Pincus & Company and Home Box Office for its pay and cable television rights).Filmways was then reincorporated as Orion Pictures Corporation in June 1982.
Announcements at the end of productions
Most productions ended with the announcement, “This has been a Filmways presentation”. For some shows, the voice-over was made by a cast member:
- Petticoat Junction: First, Billie Jo Bradley, (Jeannine Riley) and, later, Betty Jo Bradley (Linda Kaye Henning)
- Green Acres: Lisa Douglas (Eva Gabor), who says, “This has been a Filmways presentation, darling.”
- The Beverly Hillbillies: Elly May Clampett (Donna Douglas). Following a few episodes, the voice of Jethro, Max Baer, Jr., can be heard saying, "Aww, shuddup, Elly May", following her announcement. Seasons 1-3, however, feature Bill Baldwin, the announcer for the show's sponsors.
- Mister Ed: Roger Addison (Larry Keating). Later seasons feature Mister Ed (Allan Lane) saying it after Keating's death in 1963.
- The Addams Family: The logo was silent, but in some episodes the phrase was said in a deep baritone voice by Ted Cassidy, but he did not say it in his usual “Lurch” voice. Other times, Carolyn Jones said the phrase and added "darling" at the end.
Ownership of film, television properties
Today, most of the Filmways library, including Green Acres, The Addams Family, Cagney & Lacey (continued by Orion), Death Wish II (a Cannon film), The Hollywood Squares, and Mister Ed is owned by MGM (successor-in-interest to Orion which it purchased in 1998, and also owners of the Cannon Films library prior to 1988) until Orion Pictures was quietly relaunched by MGM in September 11, 2014.
CBS holds distribution rights to The Beverly Hillbillies and Petticoat Junction. Viacom (the parent of CBS from 1999-2005, actually started as CBS’ syndication arm) syndicated these two programs since the 1970s. In the case of Hillbillies, Orion Television (now an in-name-only unit of MGM) still owns the copyrights to the episodes, excluding episodes from the first season and the first half of the second season, which have fallen into the public domain. However, any new compilation of Hillbillies material will be copyrighted by either MPI Media Group or CBS, depending on the series content.
Filmways co-produced Eye Guess, The Face Is Familiar, Personality, and You're Putting Me On with Bob Stewart Productions. Those four game shows are currently owned by Sony Pictures Television (SPT). SPT co-distributed the MGM library for a short time.
Almost all movies Filmways co-produced with major studios have remained with the studios they were released by; 10 Rillington Place is owned by Columbia Pictures, Save the Tiger is owned by Paramount Pictures, Two-Minute Warning, is owned by Universal Studios, and so forth. Most of the foreign-language films released by their Sigma III division have reverted back to their original producers, but a small number of English-language films Sigma III handled such as Cul-de-sac and Hi, Mom! were retained by Filmways and are now owned by MGM.