Movie studio founded in 1919 by four of the largest movie personalities of that time: Mary Pickford
, Douglas Fairbanks
, Charlie Chaplin
, and D.W. Griffith
. At that time as much as 70 percent of the revenue generated by a movie went to the distributor of the movie. The production side of the movie business --in short those that made the movies-- were left to split the other 30 percent.
United Artists simple plan used distribution as a service to producers. The trade off was that a producer was responsible for funding his own movie AND the distribution of that movie. United Artists helped with contacts, contracts and services (like print making), but both its liability and its percentage of revenue were far less than the average distributor.
After a strong initial twenty years (thanks in large part to films made by the partners Pickford and Fairbanks), UA stumbled on hard time through the 30's and 40's. In the early fifties Arthur Krim, an accountant no less, took the reigns of the studio. Within a few years, he had bought out the remnaining two original UA partners (Pickford and Chaplin). Krim ran the company for 25 years, until resigning after a dispute with executives at Transamerica Corp., who had bought UA from Krim and his investors in the mid 60's. Krim went on to found Orion Pictures.
United Artists went on to make Heaven's Gate in 1978 through 1980. That movie came in at six times its 7.5 million dollar budget, made only $100,000, and effectively bankrupted a studio that in the 70's made the hugely succesfull James Bond and Rocky movies. MGM absorbed what was left of UA in early 1981.