TriStar Pictures, Inc. (spelled as Tri-Star until 1991) is an American film production studio of the Columbia TriStar Motion Picture Group, owned by Sony Pictures Entertainment, a subsidiary of the Japanese conglomerate Sony.
The concept for TriStar Pictures was the brainchild of Victor Kaufman, a senior executive of Columbia Pictures (then a subsidiary of Coca-Cola), who convinced the studio, HBO, and CBS, to pool resources to split the ever-growing costs of making movies, creating a new joint venture in 1982. On May 16, 1983, it was given the name Tri-Star Pictures (when the new company was formed and did not have an official name, the press used the code-name "Nova", but the name could not be obtained as it was being used as the title for the PBS science series). It was the first new major Hollywood studio to be established since RKO Pictures was founded over 50 years earlier.
Their first produced film in 1984 was intended to be The Natural starring Robert Redford, but their first released film, Where the Boys Are '84, the 1984 remake of the 1960 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer picture, Where the Boys Are, co-distributed on behalf of ITC Entertainment after Universal rejected it, was a commercial flop. During this venture, many of Tri-Star's releases were released on VHS by either RCA-Columbia Pictures Home Video (now Sony Pictures Home Entertainment), CBS/Fox Video (now CBS Home Entertainment and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment), or HBO Video. In addition, HBO would gain exclusive cable distribution rights to these films, and broadcast television licenses would go to CBS.
CBS dropped out of the venture in 1985, though they still distributed some of TriStar's films on home video until at least 1992. In 1986, HBO dropped out of the Tri-Star venture as well and sold half of its shares to Columbia Pictures. The same year, Tri-Star entered into the television business as Tri-Star Television. It was formed when the studio joined forces with Stephen J. Cannell Productions and Witt/Thomas/Harris Productions and created a television distribution company called TeleVentures.
Columbia Pictures Entertainment era
On December 21, 1987, Tri-Star Pictures, Inc. was renamed to Columbia Pictures Entertainment, Inc. when Coke sold its entertainment business to Tri-Star for $3.1 billion, also creating Columbia/Tri-Star by merging Columbia and Tri-Star. Both studios continued to produce and distribute films under their separate names. On April 13, 1988, CPE spun off Tri-Star Pictures, Inc. as a reformed company of the Tri-Star studio.
In 1989, all of Coke's entertainment holdings were acquired by Sony Corporation of Japan, who merged Columbia and Tri-Star, but continued to use the separate labels. On July 11, 1990, Tri-Star Pictures dissolved and sold its venture in TeleVentures to Stephen J. Cannell Productions and TeleVentures became Cannell Distribution Co. Most of the series and the Tri-Star film packages that were distributed by TeleVentures were transferred to Columbia Pictures Television Distribution. Most of the series and the Tri-Star film packages that were also distributed by D.L. Taffner Syndication Sales were transferred to Columbia Pictures Television Distribution. Sony Pictures Entertainment later revived TriStar Television as a television production banner in 1991 and merged with its sister television studio Columbia Pictures Television to form Columbia TriStar Television on February 21, 1994. Both studios continued to operate separately until TriStar folded in 1999 and CPT in 2001.
In addition to its own slate, TriStar was the theatrical distributor for many films produced by Carolco Pictures (the rights to only one of their films, Cliffhanger, has been retained by TriStar). TriStar also theatrically distributed some FilmDistrict titles in the U.S.
Around summer 1998, Sony Pictures Entertainment merged Columbia and TriStar to form the Columbia TriStar Motion Picture Group, but just like Columbia Pictures Entertainment, both divisions continued producing and distributing films under their own names.
TriStar was relaunched in 2004 as a marketing and acquisitions unit that will have a "particular emphasis on genre films". However, the release of its 2013 film Elysium represents the label's first big-budget release since The Mask of Zorro in 1998.
The same year, former 20th Century Fox co-chairman Tom Rothman joined Sony Pictures and created TriStar Productions as a joint venture with existing Sony Pictures executives. The new TriStar will develop, finance and produce up to four films per year, as well as television programming and acquisitions, starting on September 1. Sony's TriStar Pictures unit will be retained for "other product, including titles from Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions", and will distribute product from the new TriStar.
The company's logo of a Pegasus (either stationary or flying across the screen), introduced in 1984, has become something of a cultural icon. The idea came about because of executive Victor Kaufman and his family's interest in riding horses. The original logo was created with the assistance of Sydney Pollack, who was an adviser at Tri-Star. The horse in that logo was the same one used in Pollack's film The Electric Horseman. The horse in said movie was dark, so Pollack transposed it to look white in the logo.
The second logo was originally painted by Alan Reingold and debuted in 1992, along with sister studio Columbia Pictures, with both logos sharing a background of clouds. The theatrical version was animated by Intralink Creative in 1993. The white stallion was shot in a hangar at the Santa Monica Airport, The wings were done by combining real white feathers and digitized computer-generated-imagery and were merged with the white stallion by computer morphing. The background is nighttime blue. The clouds are brownish-gold and were shot from the Haleakala Crater on Maui. The grey fog below was done in computer-generated-imagery. The logo debuted on Sleepless in Seattle and made its final on-screen appearance on War Room. The Sony Pictures Entertainment byline was introduced in 1995. Starting in 2014, The Sony logo transitions to the movie logo and the byline reads: "a Sony Company".
The third logo was made in 2015, this time animated by JAMM VFX by animating the Pegasus, the clouds and all of its elements using CGI. References from the 1984 and the 1993 logos. It debuted officially on The Walk.
The short TriStar theme, which accompanied the studio's logo, was composed by jazz musician Dave Grusin. The theme was remixed in 1993 by Bill Johnson and again in 1998.
Parodies and references
The TriStar logo has spawned many parodies, such as:
- The 1990 TriStar film Look Who's Talking Too contains both a spoof and a reference to the logo. First, during the opening ident, "Mister Ed"–type noises are added by Bruce Willis. Later in the film, when Julie first walks, the TriStar theme plays.
- Mad About You, produced by TriStar Television, ended the 1993 episode "It's a Wrap" with Paul Reiser arguing with his producer. Paul tells Lou to show "...and the stupid horse with the wings. That'll work.".
- The Family Guy episode "Petergeist" contains a parody of the original 1984 logo, where the character Joe Swanson (voiced by Patrick Warburton) takes the place of the Pegasus mascot.
- The 1991 TriStar film Another You, where the film's star, Richard Pryor, is freaking out off-camera as the Pegasus makes his approach in the opening ident. This is then followed by an off-camera noise of the Pegasus (presumably) crashing into a bunch of cans. Thus prompting Pryor to exclaim profanity as to what he just witnessed.