United International Pictures (UIP)

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United International Pictures (UIP) was a long-standing worldwide distribution joint venture between the film studios Paramount and Universal. It was officially terminated at the end of 2006, although in effect it continued to operate until the beginning of 2009 while the two studios slowly established separate local operations of their own. At its peak it was the world's most extensive international film distribution network, with offices in 34 countries and representation in another 23. In addition to distribution and marketing of movies outside North America on behalf of Paramount, Universal and latterly DreamWorks SKG, UIP also had a specific undertaking with the European Commission to promote locally produced independent films within Europe. However the company's biggest hits were all from its US parents. In both 2004 and 2005, the company grossed more than $2bn worldwide in revenues, the first film distribution company ever to achieve that figure.

The business was first created in 1973 as Cinema International Corporation (CIC) to pool Paramount and Universal's respective marketing and distribution networks outside the US. This new entity also took over responsibility for the international output of a third studio, MGM, previously handled under contract by Paramount. In 1981, following the purchase by MGM of United Artists, which had its own worldwide distribution network, CIC and United Artists International were merged to form a three way joint venture under the new name of UIP. The CIC name was retained for a separate unit responsible for Universal and Paramount's home video releases. However, CIC Home Video was eventually disbanded in 1999, with both partners taking distribution of their video catalogues inhouse. Universal established Universal Pictures International (UPI) for this purpose.

Also in the 1980s, UIP dabbled in pay-TV, launching cable TV movie channels in several European markets with local partners. These were later sold off to local cable groups. DreamWorks hired UIP to handle international distribution in 1996, but MGM pulled out in 2001, aligning itself with Fox instead. Despite fears that UIP might face restrictions from EU monopoly regulators, or that Universal would pull out in order to expand its UPI network, Paramount and Universal agreed to renew the joint venture agreement in 1999.

Following the partners' decision to finally unwind their joint venture, UIP was gradually disbanded during 2007 and 2008. Universal took over UIP's existing operations and infrastructure in much of continental Europe, including Russia, Germany, Spain, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Austria. Paramount inherited the United Kingdom, Ireland, Brazil, Mexico, France, Australia and New Zealand. Both companies launched start-up units in the markets they surrendered. Stewart Till was outgoing chairman & CEO of UIP. Andrew Cripps, previously president & COO, became head of Paramount Pictures International; David Kosse took control of Universal Pictures International.


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Last full revision 25th July 2013

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