After World War II, things were never the same for the motion picture industry. Beginning in 1947, the winds of ill fortune blew incessantly for ten years, during which movie attendance dropped by one-half. Television, the main culprit, replaced the movies as the dominant leisure-time activity of the American people. Studios cut back on production, and audiences became selective and more discerning in their moviegoing tastes. Motion pictures, therefore, were produced and marketed individually. During the 1960s, Hollywood adopted a blockbuster formula to reach the masses. The new formula to "make them big, show them big, and sell them big" succeeded; it resulted in family-oriented hits like Around the World in Eighty Days (1956), Ben-Hur (1959), Exodus (1960), The Sound of Music (1965), and Fiddler on the Roof (1971).

b. Steven Jay Rechnitz, Brooklyn, New York, 19 September 1927, d. 20 December 1992

Regarded in the industry as a consummate deal maker, Steven J. Ross's greatest coup was orchestrating the merger of his company Warner Communications with Time, Inc., in 1989 to create Time Warner, the world's largest media and entertainment company. Anticipating the need to strengthen Warner Communications' distribution capabilities as Hollywood entered an era of globalization, Ross brokered a $14 billion deal that combined his company's record labels, book division, cable television systems, and Hollywood studio with the magazines of Time's publishing empire. Ross became chairman and co–chief operating officer of the new Time Warner, and he received as compensation nearly $80 million in 1990, more than any other executive of a public company.

Ross started out during the Great Depression selling trousers in New York's garment district. Marrying well to Carol Rosenthal in 1954, he joined his father-in-law's funeral business in Manhattan as a trainee. A plan Ross devised to rent out the company's limousines in off hours ultimately led to the creation of Kinney National Services—a conglomerate, which Ross headed, that operated funeral homes, a car rental agency, parking lots and garages, and a building maintenance service. Ross expanded into entertainment by purchasing the Ashley Famous talent agency in 1967 and then, in 1969, the ailing Warner Brothers-Seven Arts, a Toronto-based television syndicator that had recently acquired the venerable Warner Bros. studio in Hollywood, along with its post-1948 film library and record labels. He then branched out into cable television by launching Warner-Amex Cable Communications in partnership with American Express (which he later bought out), and he eventually added toys, cosmetics, video games, and other businesses to his company, which he renamed Warner Communications in 1972 after selling off the old Kinney business.

Following the collapse of Warner's video game business in 1982, Ross downsized the company, selling off Warner's peripheral operations to become a vertically integrated entertainment conglomerate engaged in film and television programming, recorded music, and mass market book publishing. The restructuring allowed for diversification while enabling the company to meet increased demand worldwide for feature films and television shows, videos and compact discs, and cable TV.

During Ross's stewardship, Warner's film division consistently captured top shares of the box office, producing blockbusters such as the Superman , Batman , and Lethal Weapon series, Steven Spielberg's The Color Purple (1985), and numerous Clint Eastwood action films, including The Unforgiven (1992), which won Academy Awards ® for best picture and best director. Ross came under criticism for saddling the company with enormous debt to pay the cost of the merger with Time, for his pay package, and for his lavish treatment of Warner's stars. Nonetheless, Ross is remembered as a creative entrepreneur who was willing to take great risks to realize his vision of a global media complex.


Bruck, Connie. Master of the Game: Steve Ross and the Creation of Time Warner . New York: Simon & Schuster, 1994.

Klein, Alec. Stealing Time: Steve Case, Jerry Levin, and the Collapse of AOL Time Warner . New York: Simon & Schuster, 2003.

Tino Balio

The big picture transformed the three-tier playoff of the run-clearance-zone pattern to a two-tiered playoff. Typically, a blockbuster was released in each market, first to selected houses for extended runs as road shows or exclusive engagements, and subsequently to large numbers of theaters to capture the leavings. Another way of characterizing this distribution pattern is "slow and fast."

Steven J. Ross.

The blockbuster changed release schedules as well. Instead of releasing pictures throughout the year at regular intervals, companies brought out their important pictures during the Christmas and Easter holidays and at the beginning of summer.

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