Paramount Pictures is the longest operating and only remaining major studio in Hollywood. This historic studio has produced thousands of memorable films and movies over more than a century. Its iconic mountain logo still opens many famous movies.
Started with a Nickelodeon
Paramount Pictures had its start in 1912. Adolph Zukor was a New York City businessman who owned a nickelodeon, which was the name of the original movie theaters. The name came from the fact that admission cost one nickel.
Most nickelodeons showed short films that lasted 10 to 15 minutes. In 1912, Zukor showed the first full-length feature film released in the U.S. It was titled Queen Elizabeth and starred Sarah Bernhardt.
After the success of this venture, he founded the Famous Players Film Company to produce and distribute more movies.
Headed To Hollywood
In 1913, Zukor joined forces with William Wadsworth Hodkinson, who had founded a film distribution company named Paramount Pictures. Hodkinson always went by the initials W.W.
Initially, they operated as Paramount-Artcraft, which was the name on the studio’s first corporate logo.
Zukor and Hodkinson began working with another film distribution company. They combined their operations under the Paramount Pictures name. Zukor moved to Hollywood, where Paramount was based.
From 1914 to 1918, the studio’s corporate logo was typical of business logos of the time. It featured an oval shape in an elaborate, intricate frame. The words “Paramount-Artcraft Motion Pictures” appeared in scripted font on the front.
After the various production companies were blended into one, Paramount released its first movies.
During its early years, the studio released many well-known movies, including The Sheik, starring Rudolph Valentino, and Coconuts, starring the Marx Brothers. Its well-known stars included Mary Pickford, Rudolph Valentino and Gloria Swanson.
In 1926, the studio paid $1 million to build a new studio and backlot in Hollywood. This is still Paramount’s location.
In 1927, Paramount’s movie Wings, a drama about World War I fighter pilots, won the Academy Award. That put the studio firmly on the map.
Inspiration for the Mountain
In 1916, Hodkinson created the mountain logo that is still the studio’s most recognizable symbol. He said he had two sources of inspiration. The name Paramount was the name of an apartment building he walked past daily on his way to the studio. The mountain peak was based on his memories of the mountains he had seen as a child in Utah.
The 1914 corporate logo depicted a mountain peak holding up a circle of stars. Inside the circle are the words “Paramount Pictures.” Behind the mountain, wispy clouds appear in the sky.
The original logo had 22 stars. They represented the 22 stars the studio had under contract when it opened.
After winning the Academy Award in 1927, Paramount Pictures enjoyed a long string of hits. For the next 20 years, Paramount Pictures created some of the most successful movies of every year.
These included the Bob Hope and Bing Crosby “Road” movies in the 1940s, White Christmas in 1954 and The Ten Commandments in 1956. It had Gary Cooper, Mae West and Elvis Presley under contract.
In 1944, Paramount won its second Academy Award for Going My Way. In 1945, it won for The Lost Weekend. Some of its famous 1950s movies were Shane and The Rose Tattoo.
Move To Television
In the 1960s, the studio moved into television production. It purchased Desilu Studios from actress and producer Lucille Ball. Desilu Studios produced many famous series, including the Andy Griffith Show, the original Star Trek and The Brady Bunch.
The corporate logo saw changes during these years. In the 1950s, the designers added a layer of large, fluffy clouds to the base of the mountain. The wispy clouds became solid lines.
In the 1950s, the screen logo showed a mountain peak against a cloudy blue sky. The Paramount circle of stars topped the peak.
Although it now focused on television, Paramount did not abandon films. Some of its best-known movies were released during the 1960s, including Breakfast at Tiffany’s, True Grit and Psycho.
The string of hits continued in the next decade, which saw the studio release Apocalypse Now, The Godfather and The Godfather Part Two.
The studio’s screen logo went through another change in these years. The new design was very modern. It was a field of solid blue with a small white mountain set against a darker blue background. It was simple and clean, and it lasted until 1987.
Modernizing the Logo
Many companies completely changed their corporate logos during the 1960s and 70s. Paramount didn’t completely change the mountain logo, but it did modernize the design.
The 1967 corporate logo is clean and uncluttered. The mountain has no clouds at the base and has a modern, angular shape.
The partially striped background is gone, and the new background is solid black. The stars are smaller and more widely spaced. In white script, the single word “Paramount” appears over the mountain.
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In the 1980s, the studio released Ordinary People, Terms of Endearment and Saving Private Ryan.
In the 1990s, Paramount released its biggest hit. Titanic was the highest grossing film of its time until it was beat by Avatar.
Paramount’s Screen Logo
The studio’s screen logo is based on the same mountain design. The screen version has gone through several changes.
In early movies, the logo resembled the corporate logo. By 1967, it was a picture of a vast expanse of clouds surrounding a mountain peak. In this version, the mountain was on one side of the screen.
In 1987, the studio returned to a full-color painting as its screen logo. This colorful logo moved the mountain to the middle of the screen. In this beautiful painting, the peak is surrounded by a circle of stars against a background of vivid blues and reds depicting a sunset.
An Iconic Symbol
With minor changes, this was the studio’s screen logo until 2011, when it created a new painting. This new version still shows a mountain surrounded by clouds, but the colors are less vivid. Instead of appearing in the forefront, the mountain appears at a distance against a sky of pink and blue.
Since then, the company has made changes to commemorate specific anniversaries, but it has never changed the basic design. Hodkinson’s original logo is still the symbol of this iconic American movie studio.