Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

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Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Division of Walt Disney Studios
Industry Motion pictures
Founded 1953; 63 years ago (1953) (as Buena Vista Film Distribution Company, Inc.)
Headquarters 500 S. Buena Vista Street
Burbank, California
, United States
Key people
Dave Hollis (Vice-president)[1]
Services Film distribution and marketing
Website Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures is an American motion picture distribution division owned by The Walt Disney Company.[2]

Established in 1953 as Buena Vista Distribution Company, the unit handles distribution, marketing and promotion for films produced by the Walt Disney Studios; including Walt Disney Pictures, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Pixar Animation Studios, DisneyToon Studios, Lucasfilm, Marvel Studios, UTV Motion Pictures, Disneynature and Touchstone Pictures.[3]

The division took on its current name in 2007,[3] which before that had been Buena Vista Pictures Distribution since 1987.[4]


Buena Vista Pictures Distribution[edit]

Prior to 1953, Walt Disney's productions were distributed by Columbia Pictures, United Artists and RKO Radio Pictures.[3] However, a dispute over the value of Disney's True-Life Adventures series of live-action documentary featurettes[citation needed] in 1953 led to Walt and his older brother Roy O. Disney to form its wholly owned subsidiary, the Buena Vista Film Distribution Company, Inc. (BVDC), to handle North American distribution of their own products.[3] Buena Vista's first release was the Academy Award–winning live-action feature The Living Desert on November 10, 1953 along with Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom, Buena Vista's first animated release.[5] Notable subsequent releases include the foreign film, Yang Kwei Fei (Most Noble Lady), released in US theaters in September 1956,[6][7] The Missouri Traveler in March 1958,[5] and The Big Fisherman in July 1959 (the first third-party production financed by Disney).[5]

In April 1960, the company dropped "Film" from its name.[4] In 1961, Disney incorporated Buena Vista International (BVI),[8] distributing its first PG rated film, Take Down, in January 1979.[5] In July 1987, Buena Vista changed its name to Buena Vista Pictures Distribution, Inc. (BVPD).[4]

Late in the 1980s, Disney purchased a controlling stake in one of Pacific Theatres' chain[9] leading to Disney's Buena Vista Theaters and Pacific to renovate the El Capitan Theatre and the Crest by 1989.[10] The Crest was finished first while El Capitan opened with the premiere of The Rocketeer film on June 19, 1991.[11]

In 1992, Buena Vista made production loans totaling $5.6 million to Cinergi Pictures for its film Medicine Man and its 1994 film Renaissance Man and was distributing its films. The corporation purchase a 12.8% share in Cinergi with its initial public offering in 1994.[12] Soon, BVPD signed a 25 picture distribution deal with Cinergi.[13][14]

Gaumont and Buena Vista International formed Gaumont Buena Vista International, their joint venture French distribution company, in 1993.[15] In August 1996, Disney and Tokuma Shoten Publishing agreed that Disney would distribute internationally Studio Ghibli animated films.[16] In September 1996, following Disney's acquisition of Capital Cities/ABC, Buena Vista Pictures Distribution, Inc. was merged[4] into ABC, Inc.,[17] the parent company of that group.

For the November 1995 Toy Story premiere, Disney rented the Hollywood Masonic Temple — adjacent to the El Capitan Theatre — for Totally Toy Story, a multimedia funhouse and a promotional event for the movie.[18] In July 1998, Buena Vista Pictures Distribution purchased the Hollywood Masonic Temple building to continue using it as a promotional venue.[19]

By 1997, BVPD's share in Cinergi dropped to 5%. After nine films were delivered under the agreement, Cinergi sold Disney on November 22, 1997 all of its 12 film library except for Die Hard with a Vengeance plus $20 million in exchange for Disney' Cinergi share holdings, production advances of $35.4 million and other loans.[13][14]

In 2002, Disney signed a four animated film deal with Vanguard Animation,[20] however, only one film was released under that negotiation.[21]

As of June 30, 2004, BVI and Gaumont dissolved their French distribution joint venture, Gaumont Buena Vista International.[15] Buena Vista International agreed to a distribution deal with MegaStar Joint Venture Company Limited in April 2006 for the Vietnam market.[22]

Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures[edit]

In April 2007, Disney discontinued using the Buena Vista moniker in its distribution branding.[3] A reorganized DreamWorks Studios in 2011 signed a distribution agreement with the company. The deal called for six a year films over a five-year period from DreamWorks and would be released under the Touchstone Pictures label.[23] The distribution deal will end in August 2016, after DreamWorks and Disney decided to not renew their agreement in December 2015, with Universal Pictures replacing Disney as DreamWorks' distributor.[24][25] By the end of the deal, Disney will have distributed 14 of DreamWorks' original 30-picture agreement.[26][27] Disney will retain the distribution rights for these DreamWorks films in perpetuity.[28]

The Walt Disney Company[edit]

  • Star Wars
  • DC Comics
  • Marvel
  • The Muppets
  • Fraggle Rock
  • Dragon Ball Z
  • Pokémon
  • Doraemon
  • Care Bears
  • My Little Pony
  • Naruto


Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures has released the most films that have crossed the $1-billion-mark (nine, in worldwide grosses) among major Hollywood studios, with eight of the twenty highest-grossing films of all time being distributed by Disney.[29] In addition, Disney is the first of only three studios that have released at least two billion-dollar films in the same year (the others being Warner Bros. and Universal Pictures).[30][31][32] Furthermore, Disney is the only studio that has achieved this thrice, in 2010, 2013 and 2015. Three of the top five highest-grossing animated films have been released by Disney, as well as sixteen of the twenty highest-grossing G-rated films.[33] In addition, four of the top-five opening weekends were Disney releases.[34] In 2015, Disney achieved its largest yearly box-office gross worldwide, as well as in North America.[35][36]

In its 62-year history, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures has distributed 27 films that have received nominations for the Academy Award for Best Picture; four from Walt Disney Pictures, six from Touchstone Pictures, two from Hollywood Pictures, and fifteen from Miramax Films. Of those nominations, four Miramax films won the accolade; The English Patient (1996), Shakespeare In Love (1998), Chicago (2002), and No Country for Old Men (2007).[37]

The company distributes all feature films produced by the Walt Disney Studios, other Disney film units and some third-party studios including:

Currently distributed[38] Formerly distributed Tertiary distribution deals

International arrangements[edit]

Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures International was formed in 1961 as Buena Vista International, Inc..[5] In 1992, Disney opted to end a previous joint venture with Warner Bros., that began in 1988 to distribute their films in overseas markets (UK, Ireland, Benelux & Scandinavia). In those territories from 1993-2007, Disney reactivated the Buena Vista International name, and also sent distribution under it in countries that did not have any current arrangements with other companies. Distribution rights in West Germany were given to MGM (under CIC in the early 1970s) and later to 20th Century Fox before the Warner Bros. joint venture. In Russia and CIS, Mexico, Brazil, Thailand, Singapore and the Philippines, Disney films had been distributed in a joint venture with Sony Pictures Entertainment.[48] In Japan, distribution rights are handled in partnership with Toho.

Other international distributors

Highest-grossing films[edit]

Highest-grossing films in the United States
Rank Title Year Studio label Domestic gross
1 Star Wars: The Force Awakens 2015 Lucasfilm $905,961,469
2 The Avengers 2012 Marvel $623,357,910
3 Avengers: Age of Ultron 2015 Marvel $459,005,868
4 Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest 2006 Disney $423,315,812
5 The Lion King* 1994 Disney $422,783,777
6 Toy Story 3 2010 Disney/Pixar $415,004,880
7 Iron Man 3 2013 Marvel $409,013,994
8 Frozen 2013 Disney $400,738,009
9 Finding Nemo* 2003 Disney/Pixar $380,843,261
10 Inside Out 2015 Disney/Pixar $356,002,827
11 Alice in Wonderland 2010 Disney $334,191,110
12 Guardians of the Galaxy 2014 Marvel $333,176,600
13 Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End 2007 Disney $309,420,425
14 Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl 2003 Disney $305,413,918
15 The Sixth Sense 1999 Hollywood $293,506,292
16 Up 2009 Disney/Pixar $293,004,164
17 The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe 2005 Disney $291,710,957
18 Monsters, Inc.* 2001 Disney/Pixar $289,916,256
19 Toy Story 2* 1999 Disney/Pixar $276,554,625
20 Monsters University 2013 Disney/Pixar $268,492,764
21 The Incredibles 2004 Disney/Pixar $261,441,092
22 Captain America: The Winter Soldier 2014 Marvel $259,766,572
23 Cars 2006 Disney/Pixar $244,082,982
24 Maleficent 2014 Disney $241,410,378
25 Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides 2011 Disney $241,071,802
Highest-grossing films worldwide
Rank Title Year Studio label Worldwide gross
1 Star Wars: The Force Awakens 2015 Lucasfilm $2,003,231,469
2 The Avengers 2012 Marvel $1,519,557,910
3 Avengers: Age of Ultron 2015 Marvel $1,505,805,868
4 Frozen 2013 Disney $1,279,852,693
5 Iron Man 3 2013 Marvel $1,215,439,994
6 Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest 2006 Disney $1,066,179,725
7 Toy Story 3 2010 Disney/Pixar $1,063,171,911
8 Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides 2011 Disney $1,045,713,802
9 Alice in Wonderland 2010 Disney $1,025,467,110
10 The Lion King* 1994 Disney $987,483,777
11 Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End 2007 Disney $963,420,425
12 Finding Nemo* 2003 Disney/Pixar $936,743,261
13 Inside Out 2015 Disney/Pixar $851,175,046
14 Guardians of the Galaxy 2014 Marvel $774,176,600
15 Maleficent 2014 Disney $758,410,378
16 The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe 2005 Disney $745,013,115
17 Monsters University 2013 Disney/Pixar $743,559,607
18 Up 2009 Disney/Pixar $731,342,744
19 Captain America: The Winter Soldier 2014 Marvel $714,766,572
20 The Sixth Sense 1999 Hollywood $672,806,292
21 Big Hero 6 2014 Disney $657,827,828
22 Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl 2003 Disney $654,264,015
23 Thor: The Dark World 2013 Marvel $644,783,140
24 The Incredibles 2004 Disney/Pixar $631,442,092
25 Ratatouille 2007 Disney/Pixar $623,722,818

(*)—Includes theatrical reissue(s).


  1. ^ Disney's most recent Studio Ghibli theatrical release in North America was The Wind Rises in 2014 (thru the Touchstone Pictures banner).[49][50] GKIDS has since distributed all subsequent new Studio Ghibli releases in North America.[51][52]


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External links[edit]