United International Pictures

United International Pictures (UIP) is a joint venture of Paramount Pictures (part of ViacomCBS, owned by National Amusements) and Universal Pictures (part of NBCUniversal, owned by Comcast) which distributes some of their films outside the United States and Canada. UIP also had international distribution rights to certain Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and United Artists films when MGM was part of the venture. In 2001, MGM left UIP,[1] and signed a distribution deal with 20th Century Fox's overseas arm. The company formerly distributed DreamWorks releases internationally as well.

United International Pictures
Joint venture
PredecessorCinema International Corporation (1970–1981)
CIC Video (1980–1999)
Founded1981 (1981)
FoundersArthur Abeles
Lew Wasserman
HeadquartersLondon, United Kingdom
ProductsMotion pictures
OwnerViacomCBS (50%)
NBCUniversal (50%)


Cinema International Corporation

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 pre-1950 Paramount sound feature film library. In 1962, MCA purchased Universal Studios. In 1966, Gulf+Western purchased Paramount.

In a cost-cutting move, in 1970, as a result of American antitrust laws, and due to declining movie-going audiences, both Paramount and Universal agreed to merge their international operations into a new company: Cinema International Corporation, registered in England and Wales. It even operated in Canada and the Caribbean until the late 70s, when those territories were considered part of the "domestic" North American market.

In 1973, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer closed down its distribution offices and became a partner in CIC, which took over international distribution for MGM's films; however, United Artists took over the US, Canadian and Caribbean distribution for MGM's films that time. 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 to MGM Home Entertainment).

United International Pictures

In 1981, MGM merged with United Artists, which had its own international distribution unit. CIC refused to let MGM drop out of the venture at the time, but let them merge UA's overseas arm into CIC, which led to the reorganization of the company as United International Pictures. MGM eventually left the venture in 2001, when it moved its international distribution to 20th Century Fox. The last MGM film to be released through UIP was Hannibal.

In 1986, Ted Turner purchased MGM/UA, but later resold the company except for its film library, which included the pre-May 1986 MGM film and television library and the pre-1950 Warner Bros. film library (which the latter was sold to Associated Artists Productions in 1956, and got acquired by United Artists in 1958). After that library was acquired by Turner, UIP (through MGM/UA) signed a deal to continue distributing the pre-May 1986 MGM and pre-1950 Warner Bros. film libraries for theatrical release.

CIC's 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 (which was a joint venture with what is now Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, and remains so to this day) under the Universal name, while Paramount took over full ownership of CIC Video and merged it under its own video division.

UIP also had a subscription television arm, UIP Pay TV, which distributed Paramount, MGM/UA, and Universal releases to pay TV broadcasters outside the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico and the Anglophone Caribbean. UIP Pay TV was broken up in 1997 after a 4-year investigation by the European Union, as it accused UIP as a cartel-like organisation. The pay TV rights for the films were eventually transferred to Paramount International Television (later renamed CBS Paramount International Television and currently known as CBS Studios International; today, the Paramount films are distributed by Trifecta Entertainment & Media), Universal Worldwide Television (currently known as NBCUniversal International Television Distribution) and MGM Worldwide Television.

2007 reorganization

As the international box office started to exceed the US box office, Paramount Pictures and Universal Pictures started discussions about the future of United International Pictures under Universal Pictures vice chairman Marc Shmuger and Paramount vice-chairman Rob Friedman. Shmuger completed them with Rob Moore, recently appointed Paramount Pictures president of worldwide marketing and distribution. The two firms agreed on the countries where UIP would continue operating and on a draft system to select countries where that company would take over UIP operations and the other would have to start up operations. Either may sub-distribute films in the other former UIP countries until 2009. Starting January 1, 2007, United International Pictures considerably reduced its international operations. At least 15 key countries are now directly managed separately by Universal, taking over operations in Austria, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Russia, South Korea, Spain and Switzerland and Paramount, taking over operations in Australia, Brazil, France, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, Russia and the United Kingdom. UIP was planned to continue in Japan, Korea, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Denmark, Greece, Hungary, India, Malaysia, Norway, Panama, Peru, Poland, Singapore, South Africa, Sweden, Taiwan, Thailand and Turkey.[2] Universal announced in November 2007 their withdrawal from UIP in South Korea to set up its own branch at the same time as the other UIP operation ceased; Paramount announced that in that country, CJ Entertainment would be the company's exclusive distributor.[3] UIP president and chief operating officer Andrew Cripps[2] was hired as the head of Paramount Pictures International. In its first year, Paramount Pictures International distributed films that made the 1 billion mark in July 2007, the fifth studio that year to do so.[4]

Though their Japanese operations were initially planned to be kept intact, United International Pictures withdrew from the Japanese market in late 2007.[5] As a result, Paramount Pictures started handling their Japanese distribution of their movies themselves until January 31, 2016, when they formed a distribution alliance with TOWA PICTURES Company, Ltd. for Japanese theatrical distribution of their films, starting with The Big Short on March 4, 2016.[6] Universal Pictures Japan also formed distribution alliances with TOHO-TOWA Company, Limited for theatrical distribution[7] and Geneon Entertainment (now NBCUniversal Entertainment Japan) for home entertainment distribution.[8]

In 2002, United International Pictures withdrew from the Finnish market. As a result, their releases in that country from that point onwards were handled by Buena Vista International Finland until 2006, when distribution passed on to national cinema operator Finnkino.

Past organization

The company was formerly based in London, United Kingdom, though their operations in that country have been taken over by Paramount Pictures. However, as of 2010, they continue to directly distribute films in 20 countries: Argentina, Ecuador, Venezuela, Colombia, Denmark, Greece, Hungary, Indonesia, Malaysia, Norway, Panama, Peru, Poland, Singapore, South Africa, Sweden, Taiwan, Thailand, UAE and Turkey. In addition, the company has distribution agreements with locally owned distribution companies in a further 43 countries.[9] One such example is Bontonfilm in the Czech Republic, who previously distributed material from CIC & UIP in both the Czech and the Slovak markets.

See also


  1. "Paramount Pictures and Universal Pictures to begin self-distribution of films in 15 key countries beginning in January 2007". IndependentFilm.com. Retrieved 18 July 2013.
  2. Thompson, Anne (September 7, 2005). "'End of an Era' for United International Pictures". Backstage. Retrieved May 16, 2019.
  3. Whiteman, Bobbie (November 29, 2006). "CJ to carry Paramount pix for South Korea". Variety. Retrieved May 22, 2019.
  4. McNary, Dave (August 1, 2007). "Paramount joins billion-dollar club". Variety. Retrieved May 22, 2019.
  5. "Foreign film distributor closing down". The Japan Times Online. 2007-08-12. Retrieved 2012-03-04.
  6. Variety Asia Online Archived August 9, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  7. "Show Biz Japan!#7 - JETRO USA - Japan External Trade Organization". Jetro.org. Archived from the original on 2012-02-13. Retrieved 2012-03-04.
  8. "Geneon to Merge with Universal Pictures Japan - News". Anime News Network. Retrieved 2012-03-04.
  9. UIP website: Who We Are Retrieved 2012-09-10
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