Filmways, Inc. (also known as Filmways Pictures and Filmways Television) was a television and film production company founded by American film executive Martin Ransohoff, and Edwin Kasper in 1952.[1] It is probably best remembered as the production company of CBS’ “rural comedies” of the 1960s, including Mister Ed, The Beverly Hillbillies, Petticoat Junction, and Green Acres, as well as the comedy-drama The Trials of O'Brien, the western Dundee and the Culhane, the adventure show Bearcats!, the police drama Cagney & Lacey, and The Addams Family. Notable films the company produced include The Sandpiper, The Cincinnati Kid, The Fearless Vampire Killers, Ice Station Zebra, Summer Lovers, The Burning, King, Brian De Palma's Dressed to Kill, and Blow Out.

Filmways, Inc.
IndustryMotion pictures, television programs
FateAcquired by Orion Pictures and renamed as Orion Pictures Corporation
SuccessorOrion Pictures Corporation
Founded1952; 67 years ago
FounderMartin Ransohoff 
Defunct1983; 36 years ago
HeadquartersSonoma County, California
Key people
Martin Ransohoff, Edwin Kasper, Rodney Erickson

Filmways acquired famous companies throughout the years, such as Heatter-Quigley Productions, Ruby-Spears Productions and American International Pictures. It was also the owner of the film distributor Sigma III Corporation (Closely Watched Trains, Hi, Mom!), Wally Heider Recording, Studio 3 Inc.


Filmways was formed by Martin Ransohoff and Edwin Kasper in 1952, who would part with Filmways 5 years later. The company originally produced television commercials and documentary films. In 1959, Filmways entered the television sitcom arena in a big way, when many executives of McCadden Productions, (a production company founded by comedian and actor, George Burns) decided to join Filmways after McCadden filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 1959. Filmways TV Productions was formed and named former McCadden exec, Al Simon as its new president and produced its first TV series, 21 Beacon Street. During that time, McCadden also produced the pilot which would later become the series Mister Ed. Burns sold the rights to Filmways, and Burns and director Arthur Lubin formed The Mister Ed Company as a joint venture. As a result, Mister Ed became a smash hit. In 1962, Filmways produced its biggest hit, The Beverly Hillbillies for CBS, created by Paul Henning, another McCadden exec. In 1966, the company acquired Heatter-Quigley Productions, the game show producer known for their biggest hit, Hollywood Squares. In 1969, it bought Sears Point Raceway in Sonoma County, California, outside of San Francisco, and Wally Heider Recording with studios in Hollywood and San Francisco, along with Studio 3 Inc in Hollywood.[2] In 1972, Ransohoff left Filmways as president.

Filmways housed studios in Manhattan at 246 East 127th Street, which were built for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in the 1920s.

In 1974, it acquired book publisher Grosset & Dunlap from American Financial Group. In May 1975, it bought the television syndication firm Rhodes Productions from Taft Broadcasting. In 1956, Richard L. Bloch became CEO. In 1978, it acquired Ruby-Spears Productions, which had launched a year earlier. In 1979, after Arkoff's retirement, Filmways purchased American International Pictures. Their TV subsidiary, AITV, became a Filmways' new syndication division in 1980, spinning off Rhodes into an independent corporation.

Filmways had lost nearly $20 million during the nine months ending in November 1981. However, it partially exited bankruptcy by selling a few of its previously acquired assets. In 1981, Ruby-Spears Productions was sold to Taft Broadcasting and Sears Point Raceway was sold to Speedway Motorsports. In 1982, Grosset & Dunlap was sold to G. P. Putnam's Sons.

In 1982, Filmways was acquired by Orion Pictures (with E. M. Warburg Pincus & Company and Home Box Office for its pay and cable television rights). Filmways was then reincorporated as Orion Pictures Corporation on August 31, 1982.[3]

Announcements at the end of productions

Most productions ended with the announcement, “This has been a Filmways presentation”. For some shows, the voice-over was made by a cast member:

Ownership of film, television properties

Today, most of the Filmways library, including Green Acres, The Addams Family, Cagney & Lacey (continued by Orion), Death Wish II (a Cannon film), The Hollywood Squares, and Mister Ed is owned by MGM (successor-in-interest to Orion which it purchased in 1998, and also owners of the Cannon Films library prior to 1988) until Orion Pictures was quietly relaunched by MGM on September 11, 2014.

CBS holds distribution rights to The Beverly Hillbillies and Petticoat Junction. Viacom (the parent of CBS from 1999–2005, actually started as CBS’ syndication arm) syndicated these two programs since the 1970s. In the case of Hillbillies, Orion Television (now a subsidiary of MGM Television in 2013) still owns the copyrights to the episodes, excluding episodes from the first season and the first half of the second season, which have fallen into the public domain. However, any new compilation of Hillbillies material will be copyrighted by either MPI Media Group or CBS, depending on the series content.

Filmways co-produced Eye Guess, The Face Is Familiar, Personality, and You're Putting Me On with Bob Stewart Productions. Those four game shows are currently owned by Sony Pictures Television (SPT). Filmways syndicated Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman that was produced by T.A.T. Communications Company. That too is owned by SPT via ELP Communications. SPT co-distributed the MGM library for a short time.

Almost all movies Filmways co-produced with major studios have remained with the studios they were released by; 10 Rillington Place is owned by Columbia Pictures, Save the Tiger is owned by Paramount Pictures, Two-Minute Warning, is owned by Universal Studios, and so forth. Most of the foreign-language films released by their Sigma III division have reverted to their original producers, but a small number of English-language films Sigma III handled such as Cul-de-sac and Hi, Mom! were retained by Filmways and are now owned by MGM. The rest that were released by MGM are owned by Warner Bros. via its Turner Entertainment Co. subsidiary.

Television series

Title Years Network Notes
21 Beacon Street1959NBC
Mister Ed1961–66Syndication/CBS
The Beverly Hillbillies1962–71CBS
Petticoat Junction1963–70CBS
The Addams Family1964–66ABC
Green Acres1965–71CBS
The Trials of O'Brien1965–66CBS
Eye Guess1966–69NBCco-production with Bob Stewart Productions
The Hollywood Squares1966–81NBCco-production with Heatter-Quigley Productions
The Double Life of Henry Phyfe1966ABC
The Face Is Familiar1966CBSco-production with Bob Stewart Productions
The Pruitts of Southampton1966–67ABC
Dundee and the Culhane1967CBS
The Debbie Reynolds Show1969–70NBC
Ozzie's Girls1973–1974Syndication
Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman1976–1977Syndicationproduced by T.A.T. Communications Company. T.A.T. took over syndication during season 2
Big Hawaii1977NBC
Thundarr the Barbarian 1980–82ABC (1980-82)/NBC (1983)co-production with Ruby-Spears
Cagney & Lacey1982–88CBScontinued by Orion Television

Feature films

Release Date Title Notes
November 14, 1963The Wheeler Dealersdistributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
September 17, 1964Topkapidistributed by United Artists
October 27, 1964The Americanization of Emilydistributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
June 23, 1965The Sandpiperdistributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
October 11, 1965The Loved Onedistributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
October 15, 1965The Cincinnati Kiddistributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
1967Too Many Thievesdistributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
June 20, 1967Don't Make Wavesdistributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
November 13, 1967The Fearless Vampire Killersdistributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
December 6, 1967Eye of the Devildistributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
October 23, 1968Ice Station Zebradistributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
November 17, 1968Journey to Jerusalemdistributed by Sigma III
February 9, 1969A Midsummer Night's Dreamtelevision film
July 23, 1969Castle Keepdistributed by Columbia Pictures
December 21, 1969Hamletdistributed by Columbia Pictures
July 1970The Moonshine Wardistributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
May 12, 197110 Rillington Placedistributed by Columbia Pictures
June 30, 1971What's the Matter with Helen?distributed by United Artists
September 2, 1971See No Evildistributed by Columbia Pictures
November 22, 1971King Leardistributed by Altura Films
July 14, 1972Fuzzdistributed by United Artists
February 14, 1973Save the Tigerdistributed by Paramount Pictures
July 21, 1974The White Dawndistributed by Paramount Pictures
November 14, 1975The Other Side of the Mountaindistributed by Universal Pictures
November 7, 197621 Hours at Munichtelevision film
November 12, 1976Two-Minute Warningdistributed by Universal Pictures
February 10, 1978The Other Side of the Mountain Part 2distributed by Universal Pictures
July 24, 1980The Earthling
July 25, 1980Dressed to Kill
October 3, 1980The First Deadly Sin
May 8, 1981The Burningproduced by Miramax Films
July 24, 1981Blow Out
October 9, 1981Full Moon High
November 12, 1981Roarinternational distribution
December 11, 1981Four Friends
February 20, 1982Death Wish IIUS distribution; produced by The Cannon Group, Inc.
July 16, 1982Summer Lovers


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