Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (commonly known as MGM and also known as Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures or Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.), is an American media company, involved primarily in the production and distribution of films and television programs. Once the largest and most glamorous of film studios, MGM was founded in 1924 when the entertainment entrepreneur Marcus Loew gained control of Metro Pictures, Goldwyn Pictures Corporation and Louis B. Mayer Pictures. Its headquarters is in Beverly Hills, California.
On November 3, 2010, MGM filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. MGM emerged from bankruptcy on December 20, 2010, at which time the executives of Spyglass Entertainment, Gary Barber and Roger Birnbaum, became co-Chairmen and co-CEOs of the holding company of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.
The studio's official motto, "Ars Gratia Artis", is a Latin phrase meaning "Art for art's sake"; it was chosen by Howard Dietz, the studio's chief publicist. The studio's logo is a roaring lion surrounded by a ring of film inscribed with the studio's motto. The logo, which features Leo the Lion, was created by Dietz in 1916 for Goldwyn Pictures and updated in 1924 for MGM's use. Dietz based the logo on his alma mater's mascot—the Columbia University lion. Originally silent, the sound of Leo the Lion's roar was added to films for the first time in August 1928. In the 1930s and 1940s the studio billed itself as having "more stars than there are in heaven", a reference to the large number of A-list movie stars under contract to the company. This second motto was also coined by Deitz, and was probably first used in 1932.
MGM was the last studio to convert to sound pictures, but in spite of this fact, from the end of the silent film era through the late 1950s, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer was the dominant motion picture studio in Hollywood. Always slow to respond to changing legal, economic, and demographic nature of the motion picture industry during the 1950s and 1960s, and although at times its films did well at the box office the studio lost significant amounts of money throughout the 1960s. In 1966, MGM was sold to the Canadian investor Edgar Bronfman, Sr., whose son Edgar, Jr. would later buy Universal Studios. Three years later, an increasingly unprofitable MGM was bought by Kirk Kerkorian, who slashed staff and production costs, forced the studio to produce low-budget fare, and then shut down theatrical distribution in 1973. The studio continued to produce five to six films a year that were released through other studios, mostly United Artists. Kerkorian did, however, commit to increased production and an expanded film library when he bought United Artists in 1981.
MGM ramped up internal production as well as keeping production going at UA which included the lucrative James Bond film franchise. It also incurred significant amounts of debt in order to increase production. The studio took on additional debt as a series of owners took charge in the 1980s and early 1990s. In 1986, Ted Turner bought MGM, but a few months later, sold the company back to Kerkorian to recoup massive debt, while keeping the library assets for himself. The series of deals left MGM even more heavily in debt. MGM was bought by Pathé Communications (led by Italian publishing magnate Giancarlo Parretti) in 1990, but Parretti lost control of Pathé and defaulted on the loans used to purchase the studio. The French banking conglomerate Crédit Lyonnais, the studio's major creditor, then took control of MGM. Even more deeply in debt, MGM was purchased by a joint venture between Kerkorian, producer Frank Mancuso, and Australia's Seven Network in 1996.