Twentieth Century Fox
Twentieth Century Fox is one of the biggest movie-making machines in the world, a Pepsi or Coke of popcorn experiences. But it started as an indie enterprise, when in 1915, the son of German-Jewish immigrants named William Fox decided to buy a nickelodeon (which, before it was a kids' cable channel, was a small storefront that showed film shorts set to music.)
No More Nickelodeon
By the '30s, the company had grown into a full-fledged production, distribution, and theatrical venue conglomerate, which was the usual model in pre-WWII Hollywood. (William Fox was eventually forced out, and died soon after.)
In the studio system of that time, executives and producers would sign performers, directors, and writers to contracts, and their work would in turn become part of that brand. In the '40s, '50s, and '60s, Fox made such classics as Christmas-fave Miracle on 34th Street and film-nerd, award-nominated delights like All About Eve, Zorba the Greek, and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
Despite these hits, 20th Century Fox was also making enough quickly-forgotten flops to chip away at the foundation of the company. The French Connection, though by all accounts successful both by public and critical standards, was just a drop of water for the very parched company.
The company wasn't the first choice for the d'Antoni/Friedkin/Tidyman team. In fact, The French Connection was turned down by six or seven studios before Twentieth Century gave it the go-ahead. Other execs thought the script was too "arty-tarty" and the two that finally accepted it said only, (according to d'Antoni) "Okay—go ahead."
Those execs were fired just two weeks after shooting was under way, but it was too late: the movie that some say changed cop cinema forever would be loosed on the world, even as the production company was reorganizing management (never a good sign) and doing its best to fend off another year of losses.
A New Hope
It would be nothing less than Star Wars that brought the company out of the hole, and the company's recovered riches made it a popular investment property, eventually attracting British media mogul Rupert Murdoch, the dude financially responsible for bringing Americans such beloved entertainment as The Simpsons.
The mega-entertainment corporation exists today with a crazy multitude of divisions, including one for films like feeling like indies but aren't (Searchlight) and one for cartoons like the aforementioned Simpsons and Family Guy (Digital).
A New Century
Oh, we're not the only ones who noticed that it's a new millennium? No worries. In 2013 the company switched it up to 21st Century Fox, which will be good for at least eighty more years. And in 2100? By then it'll probably be all holograms and virtual reality, right?