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Cinema International Corporation

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Cinema International Corporation
Company typeJoint-venture
Founded1970; 54 years ago (1970)
Defunct1981; 43 years ago (1981)
FateMerged with United Artists International to form United International Pictures
SuccessorUnited International Pictures
DivisionsCIC Video

Cinema International Corporation (CIC) was a film distribution company started by Paramount Pictures and Universal Pictures in the early 1970s to distribute the two studios' films outside the United States – it even operated in Canada before it was considered part of the "domestic" market. During the 1970s, CIC was the "most important agent of overseas distribution" for American films.[2] In 1981, CIC merged with United Artists' international units and became United International Pictures. The formation of CIC, and the profit-sharing arrangement that made it work, has been described as the product of "revolutionary thinking".[1]


Paramount's early history with MCA dates back to the 1950s, when part of its talent pool worked for Paramount Pictures; Alfred Hitchcock was among the best known. In 1958, MCA purchased the Paramount sound feature film library from 1929 to 1949. In 1962, MCA purchased Universal Pictures. In 1966, Gulf+Western purchased Paramount.

Paramount had sought to merge its international operations with 20th Century Fox in the late 1960s to save the expenses of releasing films internationally, as they felt the costs of international distribution by individual companies was insufficiently profitable to be sustained, but their attempt did not succeed.[3]: 163 

In February 1970, Gulf+Western chairman Charles Bludhorn was on a flight with Henri Michaud, the president of Paramount International, who suggested that they contact Lew Wasserman, chairman of MCA-Universal, on arrival in Los Angeles. Bludhorn and Wasserman met for lunch that day and agreed to merge their international operations into a new company. Cinema International Corporation (CIC) was created July 1, 1971, incorporated in the Netherlands for tax purposes, but with its head office in London. Michaud and Arthur Abeles became co-chairmen.[4] The original scope of distribution for CIC consisted of Europe, South America and South Africa.[2]

In November 1973, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer closed down its distribution offices and became a partner in CIC, which took over international distribution for MGM's films for an initial ten-year period;[4] this made CIC a fifty-percent shareholder of South Africa's Film Trust, an owner-operator of theaters,[3]: 163  which persisted into 1976, when Film Trust bought its way out of the partnership.[3]: 170  The theater operating concern co-owned by CIC and Film Trust was called Cinitrust.[5] This had a secondary effect of supporting Paramount and Universal in expanding beyond their singular association in South Africa with Ster.[3]: 164  By 1975, CIC was operating in forty-seven countries, and had distribution rights to about forty percent of Hollywood's output.[3]: 167  By 1976, Warner Bros. International began working with CIC on international distribution, including in South Africa.[3]: 168  Beyond distribution, CIC had ventures with MGM and Warner Bros. International (CIC-MGM and CIC-Warner) for the operation of cinemas outside the United States.[3]: 172 

CIC also entered the home video market by forming CIC Video, which distributed Paramount and Universal titles on video worldwide. MGM however, had its own video unit, which later became a joint venture with CBS as MGM/CBS Home Video (later known as MGM/UA Home Video, which was later renamed MGM Home Entertainment).

In 1981, MGM purchased United Artists, but could not drop out of the CIC venture to merge with UA's overseas operations.[6] However, with future film productions from both names being released domestically through the MGM/UA Entertainment plate, CIC decided to merge with UA's international units and reformed as United International Pictures on November 1.[7][8] By this time, CIC was one of the two largest distribution companies in the British Isles, the other being Columbia-EMI-Warner Distributors.[9]

The CIC name lived on in its video division, which became directly managed as a joint venture of Paramount Home Video and MCA Videocassette, Inc. (later MCA Home Video and MCA/Universal Home Video). CIC Video survived until 1999, when Universal purchased PolyGram Filmed Entertainment and reorganized its video division under the Universal name, while Paramount took over full ownership of CIC Video and merged it under its own video division.

CIC also served as the theatrical distributor of Disney films in some territories such as Italy, Brazil and West Germany during the 1970s to mid-1980s, when it changed its corporate name to UIP.


Practices conducted through CIC have come to be considered anti-competitive and likely would have run afoul of anti-trust laws if conducted in the United States.[2][10][11]

CIC made headlines in 2012 because both Universal Pictures and Paramount Pictures denied ownership of director William Friedkin's film, Sorcerer. The studios claimed they transferred ownership to CIC, which later dissolved, causing the rights to be in limbo. In April 2012, Friedkin sued the studios to discover who owned the domestic theatrical rights and to capture any royalty payments from VHS and DVD releases. At one point, a court date for March 2013 was set if the parties could not reach a settlement.[12] However, it was exactly that month that Friedkin revealed that he had dropped his lawsuit against Universal and Paramount, and that he and a "major studio" (which was later revealed as Warner Bros.) were involved in the creation of a new, recolored digital print of Sorcerer, to be screened at the Venice Film Festival and to receive a Blu-ray release:

We're working off the original negative, which is in pretty good shape, but without changing the original concept we have to bring it back in terms of color saturation, sharpness and all the stuff... [The film's] been in a legal whirlpool for 30 or 35 years. And a lot of people have come and gone from the studios during that time, so it just takes awhile to unravel everything, but we're very close to announcing a premiere date.[13]

See also[edit]

References and notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b Galloway, Stephen (27 November 2001). "Universal appeal: Twenty years ago, an unprecedented joint venture between three entertainment giants gave rise to universal international pictures -- now the world's biggest, most successful film distributor". Hollywood Reporter. Vol. 371, no. 2. p. S-2. Retrieved 26 July 2020 – via Gale General OneFile.
  2. ^ a b c Cook, David A. (2000). "Formative Industry Trends, 1970-1979". In Harpole, Charles (ed.). Lost Illusions: American Cinema in the Shadow of Watergate and Vietnam, 1970-1979. History of American Cinema. Vol. 9. New York City: Charles Scribner's Sons. p. 21. ISBN 978-0-684-31528-7. Retrieved 26 July 2020 – via Gale eBooks.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Tomaselli, Keyan (1988). The Cinema of Apartheid. New York City: Smyrna Press. ISBN 0-918266-19-X – via Internet Archive.
  4. ^ a b Groves, Don (February 6, 1990). "Star Child". Daily Variety. p. 124.
  5. ^ Shepperson A, Tomaselli K (2000). "South Africa (9)". In Kindem G (ed.). The International Movie Industry. Carbondale, Illinois: Southern Illinois University Press. p. 148. ISBN 0-8093-2299-4 – via Internet Archive.
  6. ^ Bart, Peter (1990). Fade Out. New York City: William Morrow and Company. p. 182. ISBN 0-688-08460-5 – via Internet Archive.
  7. ^ "CIC Status Update". Variety. October 14, 1981. p. 5.
  8. ^ Wasko, Janet (2003). How Hollywood Works. Sage Publications. pp. 178–179. ISBN 0-7619-6813-X – via Internet Archive. ...United International Pictures (UIP), representing Paramount, Universal, MGM/UA, and successor to Cinema International Corporation (CIC)....
  9. ^ McDonald, Paul (2008). "Britain: Hollywood, UK". In McDonald, Paul; Wasko, Janet (eds.). The Contemorary Hollywood Film Industry. Blackwell. p. 228. ISBN 978-1-4051-3387-6.
  10. ^ Pendakur, Manjunath (2008). "Hollywood and the State: The American Film Industry Cartel in the Age of Globalization". In McDonald, Paul; Wasko, Janet (eds.). The Contemorary Hollywood Film Industry. Blackwell. p. 187. ISBN 978-1-4051-3387-6.
  11. ^ Hillier, Jim (1992). The New Hollywood. New York City: Continuum. p. 15. ISBN 0-8264-0638-6 – via Internet Archive.
    Note: this source contains an incorrect start date for the company: 1977.
  12. ^ Adams, Sam (27 July 2012). "Interview: William Friedkin talks Killer Joe and shares some choice words about Hollywood". The A.V. Club.
  13. ^ Smith, Jeremy (20 December 2012). "AICN Legends: William Friedkin Talks KILLER JOE, Clarence Carter, SORCERER And More With Mr. Beaks!". Ain't It Cool News.

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