The Samuel Goldwyn Company, Inc., was an American independent film company founded in 1978 by Samuel Goldwyn Jr. (7 Sep 1926 - 9 Jan 2015), the son of the famous Hollywood mogul, Samuel Goldwyn (born Szmuel Gelbfisz: 17 Aug 1879 - 31 Jan 1974). Sam Jr.'s company was dedicated to preserving the integrity of Goldwyn Sr.'s ambitions and work, and was one of the most significant distributors of independent art-house films during the 1980s and 1990s. Among the films the company acquired and distributed were David Lynch's Palme d'Or winner Wild at Heart, Jim Jarmusch's Stranger Than Paradise, Bill Forsyth's Gregory's Girl, Alex Cox's Sid and Nancy, Stephen Frears' Prick Up Your Ears, Robert Townsend's Hollywood Shuffle, John Sayles' City of Hope, Ang Lee's The Wedding Banquet and Kenneth Branagh's Much Ado About Nothing. The Company soon added original productions to their roster as well, starting with The Golden Seal in 1983, followed by Once Bitten in 1985, and Mystic Pizza in 1988.¹
In succeeding years, the Samuel Goldwyn Company was able to obtain (from Samuel Sr.'s estate) the rights to all films produced under the elder Goldwyn's supervision, including the original Bulldog Drummond (1929), Arrowsmith (1931), and Guys and Dolls (1955). The company also acquired some distribution rights to several films and television programs that were independently produced but released by other companies, including Sayonara, the Hal Roach-produced Laurel & Hardy-starring vehicle Babes in Toyland (1934), the Flipper TV series produced by MGM Television, the Academy Award-winning Tom Jones (1963), and the Rodgers and Hammerstein film productions of South Pacific (1958) and Oklahoma! (1955), as well as the CBS Television adaptation of Cinderella (1965).
Animated films include Swan Lake, Aladdin and the Magic Lamp, The Care Bears Movie, The Chipmunk Adventure and Rock-a-Doodle. Among the television programs in the Goldwyn company's library are the television series American Gladiators and Steve Krantz's miniseries Dadah Is Death.
In 1991, after a merger with Heritage Entertainment, Inc., the company went public as Samuel Goldwyn Entertainment. Heritage and Goldwyn attempted to merge during late 1990,² but the plans fell apart while Heritage went through a Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The merger did allow Goldwyn to inherit the Landmark Theatres chain, which was a unit of Heritage.
But the movie industry changed, and Independent-minded film companies were getting swallowed up by larger corporations. Faux-Indie studios like Miramax (funded by Disney) and New Line (funded by Turner Broadcasting) began overtaking over the Independent film market, with deeper pockets of advertising and promotional money from their major studio benefactors. So in 1995, the Samuel Goldwyn Companyas well as its chain of theaters, and its library of 850 films and 700 television episodeswas up for sale.³ On July 2, 1996, the company and its library were acquired by Metromedia for US$125 million. To coincide with the purchase, the Samuel Goldwyn Company was renamed Goldwyn Entertainment Company, and was reconstituted as a subsidiary of Metromedia's Orion Pictures unit. That year, Orion and Goldwyn became part of the Metromedia Entertainment Group (MEG). Goldwyn became the specialty films unit of MEG, though they would seek out films with crossover appeal. While Orion and Goldwyn would share the overhead costs, the production/acquisition operations would operate independently from each other.⁴
In 1997, Metromedia sold its entertainment group to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. The Goldwyn Entertainment Company was renamed Goldwyn Films and operated as MGM's specialty films unit. A month later, Samuel Goldwyn Jr. sued MGM and Metromedia, claiming that he was abruptly let go of the company despite promises that he would continue to run it under different ownership. Another concern in the lawsuit was the use of the Goldwyn name, with the defendants being accused of "palming off specialized films produced or acquired by" the unit as though the plaintiff was still involved in its management. Goldwyn Films changed its name to G2 Films in January 1999 as part of the settlement.⁵
In July 1999, G2 Films was renamed United Artists International. As well as all that, UA became an arthouse film producer/distributor. Samuel Goldwyn Jr. went on to found Samuel Goldwyn Films. This successor company has continued to release independent films such as What the Bleep Do We Know!? and the Academy Award-nominated The Squid and the Whale. Until his passing in 2015, Samuel Goldwyn owned sole rights to the use of the name and signature logo as part of the settlement of his 1999 lawsuit against MGM. The company is currently headed by Samuel Goldwyn Jr.'s son, Peter Goldwyn.
MGM now holds much of the original Goldwyn Company's holdings (including Once Bitten). One Goldwyn Sr.-produced film, The Hurricane, which was a part of the original Goldwyn Company library, has had its ownership returned to its original distributor, United Artists (also an MGM division). Sam Jr.'s son John Goldwyn (himself a producer), said of his father: "He evoked his father quite a lot. He worshipped him and I guess chafed under him as well. But he shouldered the great legacy with a sense of style and great humor. He was born with a job to perpetuate the legacy of what they created. He did that very capably. It was a big job. He also created his own identity and left an indelible mark on Hollywood, first doing the specialty business and understanding there was a hole that no one filled."⁶
NOTES ON THIS PAGE
¹Dagan, Carmel (January 9, 2015 8:52PM PT). "Samuel Goldwyn Jr. Dies at 88". Variety. (Pat Saperstein contributed to this report.)
²Glover, Karen (September 23, 1991). "Goldwyn, Heritage Entertainment merging (Samuel Goldwyn Co.)". Los Angeles Business Journal. 13 (38): 50.
³Pristin, Terry (31 July 1995). "What Forced Goldwyn to Seek Sale?." New York Times. Section D, Page 7.
⁴Bates, James (30 October 1997). "Goldwyn Suing Metromedia, MGM Over Firing, Contract". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 21, 2017.
⁵Higgins, Bill (January 10, 1999). "G2 Films emerges as Goldwyn, MGM settle". Variety.
⁶Foreman, Liza (January 20, 1999; updated April 14, 2017). "Farewell to a Tinseltown Original: In Memory of Samuel Goldwyn Jr.". The Daily Beast.