During the 'Hollywood Golden Era', the success of each studio was based on its own ability to vertically integrate ownership of the production, distribution and exhibition of the movies. Throughout the Golden Era of Hollywood, there were Eight Studios which were commonly known as "The Majors". Out of these eight Studios, the most successful ones were regarded as "The Big Five", while the least successful were regarded as "The Little Three", or the "Minor Majors".
a map of the hollywood studios:
The 'Big-Five' studios;
MGM, Paramount, RKO, 20th Century Fox, Warner Brothers.
The Big Five had vast studios with elaborate sets for film production. They owned their own film-exhibiting theaters as well as production and distribution facilities. They distributed their own films to a network of studio-owned theaters, mostly in urban areas, which charged high ticket prices and drew huge audiences. In sum, "The Big Five" had vertically integrated their Studio's Systems.
The 'Little Three' studios;
Universal, Columbia, United Artists.
These three studios were called the "Little Three" because each of these studios lacked ONE of the THREE key elements required in a vertically integrated system. Of the "Little Three", Universal and Columbia came the closest at reaching full integration. The problem was that neither Columbia, nor Universal owned enough theater circuits. United Artists, on the other hand, never reached full integration because the studio was regarded as a "backer-distributor"; loaning their money to independent producers and releasing their films.
Quick Facts: "At the midpoint of the Golden Age, 1939, the Big Five had market shares ranging from 22% (MGM) to 9% (RKO). While each of the Little Three had around a 7% share. In sum, the eight majors controlled 95% of the market and all the smaller companies combined had a total of 5%".