1931 in film


  • January 5: RKO acquires the producing and distribution arm of Pathé for $4.6 million.[1]
  • June 20: Monogram Pictures releases its first film, Ships of Hate.[2]
  • July 7: Anti-competitive practices disclosed about certain distributors and producers in Canada.[3]
  • November 17: E. R. Tinker elected president of Fox Films replacing Harley L. Clarke.[3]
  • December 14: RKO refinancing plan approved.[3]

Top-grossing films

RankTitleStudioWorldwide Gross
1. Frankenstein Universal $12,000,000
2. City Lights United Artists $5,019,181
3. Trader Horn MGM $3,595,000[4]
4. Mata Hari MGM $2,227,000[4]
5. Hell Divers MGM $2,161,000[4]
6. The Champ MGM $1,615,000[4]
7. Palmy Days United Artists $1,601,000[5]
8. Possessed MGM $1,522,000[4]
9. Susan Lenox MGM $1,506,000[4]
10. Reducing MGM $1,505,000[4]
11. Daddy Long Legs Fox Film $1,500,000[5]

Best money stars

Variety reported the following as the biggest male stars in the U.S. in alphabetical order although grouped George Arliss and Ronald Colman together as having equal ranking.[6]

George Arliss

Ronald Colman

Wallace Beery
Maurice Chevalier
Clark Gable
Edward G. Robinson
Will Rogers

The following were the biggest women names in the U.S. in alphabetical order but again grouped two actresses together to denote they were ranked the same.[6]

Constance Bennett
Joan Crawford
Marlene Dietrich
Greta Garbo

Marie Dressler

Janet Gaynor
Norma Shearer

Academy Awards

The 4th Academy Awards were awarded to films completed and screened released between August 1, 1930, and July 31, 1931, by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Most Nominations: Cimarron (RKO Pictures) – 7

Major Awards

Most Awards: Cimarron – 3 (Best Picture; Best Adaptation and Best Art Direction)

Cimarron was the first Western to win Best Picture, and would remain the only one to do so for 59 years (until Dances with Wolves won in 1991). It received a then-record seven nominations, and was the first film to win more than two awards.

The 5th Academy Awards were conducted by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on November 18, 1932,[7] at a ceremony held at The Ambassador Hotel[7] in Los Angeles, California. The ceremony was hosted by Conrad Nagel.[7] Films screened in Los Angeles between August 1, 1931, and July 31, 1932, were eligible to receive awards.[7]

Most nominations: Arrowsmith (Samuel Goldwyn Productions) and The Champ (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer) – 4

Major Awards

Most Awards: Bad Girl (Best Director and Best Adaptation) and The Champ (Best Actor and Best Original Story) – 2 Note: The Academy Award for Best Picture went to 1932's Grand Hotel.

1931 film releases





Notable films released in 1931

United States unless stated


Short film series

Animated short film series



Film debuts


  1. "Att'y Gen Scans R-K-O-Pathe Deal on Plea of Defeated Insurgents". Variety. January 7, 1931. p. 3. Retrieved May 8, 2018.
  2. Ships of Hate at the American Film Institute Catalog
  3. Ten Leading Events in the News of Motion Pictures During the Year 1931. The Film Daily Yearbook 1932. p. 9. Retrieved May 8, 2018.
  4. The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles, California: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study.
  5. "The All Time Best Sellers". International Motion Picture Almanac 1937–38. Quigley Publishing Company. p. 942. Retrieved April 8, 2018.
  6. "Six Best Money Stars". Variety. January 5, 1932. p. 1.
  7. "The 5th Academy Awards – 1933". Archived from the original on 2012-09-04.
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