Paramount Pictures has a lengthy legacy of churning out box office juggernauts, going all the way back to the Golden Age of Hollywood in the 1920s. This tradition carried into the 1970s, and coming off the wake of worldwide successes like Saturday Night Fever and Grease at the end of the decade, Paramount decided to press on, albeit in a John Travolta-less direction.
Putting $3.5 million worth of eggs in the basket of little-known comedy team comprised of Jim Abrahams, and brothers Jerry and David Zucker, Paramount took a huge risk. Plenty of other studios had passed on the project, but Paramount CEO Michael Eisner and production exec Jeffrey Katzenberg saw the script's potential. (Source)
ZAZ loved working with Paramount. Jerry Zucker said, "We were funny guys, but we knew nothing about crafting a movie. The people at Paramount really taught us about making plot points into jokes, about making jokes into plot points, and showed us places where we were probably taking too much time with plot and needed to make cuts." (Source)
The honchos at Paramount were also helpful in landing the actors that ZAZ wanted to cast—serious actors who might have balked at being asked to film a comedy with young, inexperienced directors.
Airplane! was a hit, kicking off a fantastically fruitful decade for Paramount, featuring a slew of commercial smashes from Top Gun to Pretty in Pink to the Indiana Jones Trilogy.