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Adolph Zukor, born Adolph Cukor, (January 7, 1873 – June 10, 1976) was a film mogul and founder of Paramount Pictures.

Early life

Zukor was born to a Jewish family in Ricsemarker, Hungarymarker, which was then a part of the Austro-Hungarian empire. In 1889, at the age of 16, he emigrated to Americamarker. Like most immigrants, he began modestly. When he first landed in New York, he stayed with his family and worked in an upholstery shop. A friend got him a job as an apprentice at a furrier. Zukor stayed there for two years. When he left to become a "contract" worker, sewing fur pieces and selling them himself, he was nineteen years old and an accomplished designer. But he was young and adventuresome, and the 1892 Columbian Expositionmarker in Chicagomarker, commemorating Columbus's discovery of America, drew him to the Midwest. Once there, he started a fur business. In the second season of operation, Zukor's Novelty Fur Company expanded to twenty-five men and opened a branch.

Historian Neal Gabler wrote "one of the stubborn fallacies of movie history is that the men who created the film industry were all impoverished young vulgarians.... Zukor clearly didn't fit this profile. By 1903, he already looked and lived like a wealthy young burgher, and he certainly earned the income of one. He had a commodious apartment at 111th Street and Seventh Avenue in New York Citymarker's wealthy German-Jewish section."

Early movie career

He became involved in the motion picture industry when in 1903 his cousin, Max Goldstein approached him for a loan. Mitchell Mark needed investors in order to expand his chain of similar theaters that had begun in Buffalo, New Yorkmarker with Edisonia Hall. The arcade salon was to feature Thomas Edison's marvels: phonographs, electric lights and moving pictures. Zukor not only gave Goldstein the money but insisted on forming a partnership to open another one. Another partner in the venture was Marcus Loew.

Famous Players

In 1912, Adolph Zukor established Famous Players in Famous Plays as the American distribution company for the Frenchmarker film production Les Amours de la reine Élisabeth starring Sarah Bernhardt. The following year he obtained the financial backing of the Frohman brothers, the powerful New York City theatre impresarios. Their primary goal was to bring noted stage actors to the screen and they created the Famous Players Film Company that produced The Prisoner of Zenda (1913). He purchased an armoury on 26th Street in Manhattan and converted it into a movie studio that is still used today.

Paramount Pictures

The studio evolved into Famous Players-Lasky and then Paramount Pictures, of which he served as president until 1936 when he was elevated to chairman of the board. He revolutionized the film industry by organizing production, distribution, and exhibition within a single company.

Zukor was also an accomplished director and producer. He retired from Paramount Pictures in 1959 and thereafter assumed Chairman Emeritus status, a position he held up until his death at the age of 103 in Los Angelesmarker. He was a leading character in The Biograph Girl, a 1980 musical about the silent film era.

Further reading

  • Adolph Zukor, The Public Is Never Wrong: My 50 Years in the Picture Industry (New York: G. P. Putnam, 1953)
  • David Balaban, The Chicago Movie Palaces of Balaban and Katz (Arcadia Publishing, 2006)
  • Neal Gabler, An Empire of Their Own: How the Jews Invented Hollywood (New York: Anchor Books, 1989)
  • Will Irwin, The House That Shadows Built (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, Doran, 1928)


  1. New York: The Movie Lover's Guide: The Ultimate Insider Tour of Movie New York - Richard Alleman - Broadway (February 1, 2005) ISBN 0767916344

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