Adolph Zukor-Loew

adolph zukor and marcus loew. 1924

My Cousin Adolph Zukor

A friend sent me The Hollywood Reporter’s Feb 29 article on Paramount Studios (you can see it in the links at the bottom of the page.) It inspired me to tell the stories of my connections to Paramount, Loew’s Theaters and Sony Pictures,

When I was growing up, my grandmother Julia would say that Adolph Zukor, the founder of Paramount Studios was her cousin. I was a big film buff and was impressed but skeptical. My cousin Ervin Foldi and I began researching our family tree and confirmed that Zukor is indeed my 1st cousin, three times removed. There is an enormous family tree on geni dot com with the extended family, huge mostly through marriages. But I am proud to share DNA with him via my 2nd great-grandmother who was Zukor’s father’s sister. We trace our Hungarian Zukor roots to 3rd great grandparents Nuchem and Nuchemne Zukor born around 1810.

Adolph Zukor was born in Ricse Hungary in 1873. He went to live with an uncle who was a rabbi after becoming an orphan at age 7. Rabbi Lieberman saw promise in young Adolph and wanted him to be a rabbi, but Adolph had other passions. He emigrated to the U.S. at age 16 and went into the fur trade in Chicago. In 1900 he and a partner entered the nickelodeon business in New York City. Nickelodeon theaters usually charged a nickel (5 cents) and played short films to piano accompaniment.

Adolph Zukor
Adolph Zukor

What’s a Nickelodeon?

Zukor partnered with Marcus Loew to open a string of nickelodeon theaters but soon realized that the key to their success was making their own films. Zukor and partners created The Famous Players Film Company in 1912 which launched him into film production.

Famous Players-Lasky (with partner Jesse Lasky) eventually morphed into Paramount Pictures with Zukor as president. The detailed history is fascinating as a study of the early film business.

 

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Marcus Loew founded Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1924 to provide films for his theaters. Sadly, he died in 1927.

MGM and Paramount would continue to be rival studios during Hollywood’s Golden Age (1930s and 1940s) along with RKO, 20th Century Fox, Warner Brothers. Universal, the home of classic horror and monster films and United Artists and Columbia.

 

MGM Lion

Adolph and My Family

Back to the personal story: Adolph Zukor was the first of his family to “make it big” in the U.S. and offered to pay for Hungarian relatives to move to emigrate. I have heard stories of several who did and at least one who did not and regretted it, as conditions in Europe deteriorated for Jews.

Family stories say that Adolph honored my great grandmother Mali as the matriarch of her family and would send his limo to bring her to his estate in upstate New York. She was a shy, simple woman so this seems unlikely, but one cousin said he heard it from his grandparents.

Working at Sony Pictures

In 1989, I began working on a consulting project with two friends helping the executives of Columbia-Tristar which had recently been purchased by the Sony Corporation. Cultural and business issues were beyond challenging as Sony had little experience outside the technology industry. The U.S. Sony executives all felt they were celebrities in their own right, likely because they helped the careers of so many stars. Their egos were huge as you can imagine but my two partners were skilled in keeping everyone focused on the planning objectives. I remember meeting with a client and the phone rang and he had a ten-minute chat with Barbra Streisand. Her former boyfriend Jon Peters ran Sony Pictures with his friend Peter Guber for a few years.

Loew’s and Columbia Pictures

Now closing the loop on Marcus Loew: My other project was working with the president of the remaining Loew’s theater chain which Sony inherited when it bought Columbia-Tristar. I do not remember his name, but he had been in the movie theater business since he was a teenager. He was an elegant gentleman, full of amazing stories.

Since he was using the old offices of Columbia Pictures in New York, the display cases were filled with Oscars from some of my favorite films.

Although a smaller studio in the Golden Age, Columbia has more best picture Oscars than any other studio including:

 

  • Lost Horizon (1937)
  • All The King’s Men (1949)
  • From Here To Eternity (1953)
  • Lawrence Of Arabia (1962)
  • A Man For All Seasons (1966)
Lost Horizon
Lawrence of Arabia

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