Is Warner Brothers Owned By Disney? (Explained) (2023)

Is Warner Brothers Owned By Disney? (Explained) (1)

One of the big movie studios that often pushes out high-quality movies and TV shows is Warner Brothers.

Because Warner Brothers is also behind some great animated movies and shows, it’s sometimes easy to believe that the studio is owned by Disney.

This is especially true when considering how many studios and intellectual properties Disney has bought thus far.

Here’s what you need to know about Warner Brothers and whether Disney owns it or not.

Is Warner Brothers Owned By Disney?

Is Warner Brothers Owned By Disney? (Explained) (2)

No, Disney does not own Warner Brothers.

It’s a separate studio from Disney and has its own various intellectual properties.

Although Disney doesn’t own Warner Brothers currently, it did almost buy a part of Warner Brothers.

Back in 2021, Disney was considering buying the DC Comics part of the studio.

The offer fell flat, however, and Disney hasn’t pursued the idea since.

Considering that Disney owns Marvel, the idea that they also could have owned DC could have led to some mind-bending crossovers.

Warner Brothers is part of the WarnerMedia Studios & Networks Group,

Who Started Warner Brothers?

Is Warner Brothers Owned By Disney? (Explained) (3)

As its name might suggest, it was a group of brothers who started the film studio.

The original Warner Brothers creators were the Warner brothers themselves, Harry, Albert, Samual, and Jack Warner.

Most of the brothers lived briefly in Poland before their family immigrated to the United States.

Their father, in particular, was a Polish cobbler and peddler.

His name was Benjamin Eichelbaum, but the sons decided to change their names to Warner.

The brothers first showcased their interest in movies by showing them at traveling shows.

They’d take the movie reels that they could afford and set themselves up in a makeshift theater.

After they finished showing the movie, they’d pack up and head on to the next town.

They showed movies from Ohio to Pennsylvania, making the rounds.

Once they had enough money, they started to buy movie theaters.

In 1903, they started buying up theaters.

This enabled them to stay in one place and let the theaters generate money for them.

With their theaters in place, they were able to transition into film distribution.

It was about 10 years later, in 1913, when they started to produce their own films.

When Did Warner Brothers Studios Begin?

Is Warner Brothers Owned By Disney? (Explained) (4)

Although the brothers had always had an interest in movies, they didn’t start producing films until 1913.

They made the trip to Hollywood, California where they established their production headquarters.

In 1923, Warner Brothers Pictures, Inc. became official.

Harry Warner, the eldest brother, took the lead as president of the company.

He kept his headquarters in New York City.

Albert Warner became the studio’s treasurer.

He was in charge of sales and distributing films and resources.

The youngest two brothers, Sam and Jack, managed the studio in Hollywood.

Did Warner Brothers Invent Movies With Sound?

Is Warner Brothers Owned By Disney? (Explained) (5)

No, Warner Brothers Studios did not invent movies with sound, but they did play an integral role in their evolution.

When Warner Brothers first got started in the business, silent films were king.

Although some studios had dabbled with sound, they had been complete failures.

There was an almost passionate refusal to include sound in movies.

There were several reasons for this.

For one, the experiments from the past showed that audiences and studios did not appreciate movies with sound.

They were financial disasters that ran some studios into the ground.

There was also the cost of transitioning movie theaters into using sound.

At that time, movie theaters weren’t independent.

Studios owned them and only showed their produced films in those theaters.

The studio would have to take on the cost themselves if they wanted to make the transition.

The cost of doing so drove most away.

There was also the question of what was going to happen to the musicians who played in the theaters.

During silent movies, theaters had orchestras or musicians playing along with the movie.

If movies suddenly had sound, then their services wouldn’t be needed anymore.

There was also the question of what to do with actors and actresses whose entire identity revolved around the silent cinema.

They weren’t trained for talking or dialogue.

It could put them out of work, too.

All these reasons kept most studios from wanting to pursue movies with sound.

Warner Brothers, however, had an interest in it.

They partnered with Bell Telephone Laboratories to create Vitaphone.

Through Vitaphone, they were able to synchronize sound with a movie.

They started their experiment off small.

Their first film with sound, Don Juan, was released in 1926 and featured music rather than dialogue.

Everything else was silent except for the musical score.

The film met some success, so Warner Brothers produced another film.

In 1927, they released The Jazz Singer.

This was the first film that featured synchronized dialogue.

Unfortunately, Sam Warner died just 24 hours before the movie premiered.

Despite that, The Jazz Singer was a success.

Warner Brothers had proven that talkies were the future of cinema.

What Are Some Of Warner Brothers Studios’ Big Hits?

Is Warner Brothers Owned By Disney? (Explained) (6)

With the introduction of talking films, Warner Brothers saw a lot of success.

During the 1930s, they were producing about 100 films a year.

They even ended up owning 360 theaters in the US with another 400 across the world.

During that time, Warner Brothers had some big hits.

In particular, they started the gangster craze for mafia-related films.

Some of their biggest hits were Little Caesar, The Public Enemy, and Scarface (1932).

They also had musicals led by Busby Berkeley.

They produced several action-packed movies that featured Errol Flynn.

Perhaps one of the most famous things to come out of the 1930s, in particular, was the release of its animated short film series called The Looney Tunes.

The Looney Tunes was a direct competitor to the animated films from Disney.

It’s often why the two studios are sometimes confused with one another or why one believes that one studio owns another.

The Looney Tunes have persisted to this day with several films and TV shows released including them.

The 1940s and 50s also saw releases of famous films.

Some of the biggest hits included Casablanca, A Streetcar Named Desire, and Rebel Without a Cause.

At this time, Warner Brothers were looking at getting into television.

In the 1950s, in particular, it was more and more common for everyday families to have TVs in their homes.

They released a few shows in the ’50s like Cheyenne, Maverick, and 77 Sunset Strip.

It was also during the 1950s that Jack Warner became the new president of the studio.

He had been serving as Vice President until then.

When his elder brother retired, he took over the role.

He’d continue as President until 1972 when he retired.

Does Warner Brothers Studios Only Make Movies?

Is Warner Brothers Owned By Disney? (Explained) (7)

Up until the late 1960s, Warner Brothers had focused solely on the film and TV show business.

They had produced a few more great films like My Fair Lady and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

That changed in 1967.

At that point, Elliot and Ken Hyman had acquired Warner Brothers.

They renamed it Warner Brothers–Seven Arts.

They sold it soon after to the Kinney Corporation.

The Kinney Corporation had an interest in other areas of media besides film and TV.

Headed by Steven J. Ross, the new Warner Brothers started.

Ross renamed The Kinney Corporation to Warner Communications.

Warner Brothers became Warner Brothers Inc.

Besides movies and TV, they started to produce video games, music, and even comic books.

When Did Warner Brothers Merge With Time Corporation?

Is Warner Brothers Owned By Disney? (Explained) (8)

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Warner Brothers had been releasing hit films and TV shows despite having a larger reach in media.

Some of the big hits from that time include The Exorcist, Blazing Saddles, Blade Runner, The Color Purple, Dirty Harry, and Lethal Weapon.

However, in 1990, Warner Communications ended up merging with Time Inc.

The result was the formation of Time Warner Inc., the largest media corporation in the world.

As a result of the merger, Warner Brothers Inc. became a division.

Through that division, they released several more hit films throughout the 1990s and early 2000s.

Some of those include The Matrix, The Harry Potter Series, GoodFellas, Inception, and Wonder Woman.

They were also responsible for some hit TV shows like Friends, ER, and The Big Bang Theory.

For a while, they even had their own network called WB.

Eventually, they replaced it with the CW network.

Does Universal Own Warner Brothers?

Is Warner Brothers Owned By Disney? (Explained) (9)

Since you can find Harry Potter rides and merchandise at Universal Studios Theme Parks, you may wonder if Universal owns Warner Brothers.

The answer is a little convoluted, but ultimately, Universal does not own Warner Brothers.

Instead, the two have formed a partnership.

A part of their partnership is the formation of a joint venture called the Home Entertainment Joint Venture.

Within that venture, both studios plan to distribute each other’s physical goods nationally and internationally where the other doesn’t have reach.

In return, they’ll share the profits generated through the venture.

By partnering this way, neither has to spend money to extend its own distribution channels.

They’re able to use the existing channels that the other company has.

For example, if Warner Brothers has a lot of distribution points in India, but Universal doesn’t, then Universal can use Warner’s distribution to sell physical copies of their DVDs and BluRay discs.

The same is true for Warner Brothers.

In the example above, Warner Brothers gets a share of the profit for helping Universal further its distribution.

Regarding the Harry Potter theme park, Universal and Warner Brothers came to an agreement there, too.

Warner Brothers allowed Universal to use their properties in their theme park under a few conditions.

Naturally, money is one of them.

Universal has to pay Warner Brothers and JK Rowling a certain amount of money each year.

They also pay them royalties whenever they sell a licensed product.

That extends from merchandise all the way to Butterbeer.

Warner Brothers and Rowling also have to approve any new licensed thing that appears in the theme park.

That might be a new ride, a piece of artwork, or even the ability to use a certain character’s voice.

Finally, the contract signed between the two corporations states that Universal has to renew the contract every few years.

In this way, Universal is able to use the intellectual properties of Warner Brothers without actually owning Warner Brothers, itself.

How Does Universal Owning Harry Potter Differ From Owning Marvel?

Is Warner Brothers Owned By Disney? (Explained) (10)

Since Universal borrows the rights of Harry Potter, you may wonder how it is that they have Marvel characters in their theme park, too.

That’s because Universal entered an agreement with Marvel back before Disney bought it.

Marvel allowed them to make rides featuring their characters as well as have those characters walking around the park.

After Disney bought Marvel, they had no choice but to honor the existing contract.

That said, Disney did state that Universal could continue to use the characters that it has already as long as they continued to pay their dues for them.

If Universal were to ever fail in paying, then they would give up the rights for those characters.

That also means that Universal likely can’t use any new Marvel characters that have since shown up in the Disney films.

For example, they likely won’t be able to use Moon Knight in any way since he debuted after Disney took hold of Marvel.

Universal also didn’t have anything Moon Knight-related in their theme park in the first place.

Nor did they have anything related to Guardians of the Galaxy in their park, which is why Disney World is investing in them for its Florida park.

Universal also has a clause that states no other theme park can use its Marvel characters east of the Mississippi River.

That includes Disney World but does not include Disneyland.

That’s why Disneyland can feature beloved Marvel characters like Captain America and Iron Man.

The main difference between the contracts with Universal and Disney and Universal and Warner Brothers is that the contract with Disney does not renew.

It’s essentially evergreen.

In this case, Disney has its hands tied when it comes to using Marvel characters at Disney World.

They have much more freedom at Disneyland.

How Much Of Marvel Does Disney Own?

Is Warner Brothers Owned By Disney? (Explained) (11)

Considering that Universal owns Marvel characters in such a way that they’re able to have a theme park devoted to them, you may wonder how much Disney actually owns of Marvel.

Disney essentially owns all of Marvel.

The Walt Disney Company bought Marvel on August 31st, 2009.

The price tag was $4 billion.

With the purchase came the following subsidiaries of Marvel:

  • Marvel Brands, LLC
  • Marvel Custom Solutions Division
  • Cover Concepts, Inc
  • Marvel Games
  • Marvel Property, Inc
  • Marvel Worldwide, Inc
  • Marvel International Character Holdings LLC
  • Iron Works Productions LLC
  • MVL Rights, LLC
  • Incredible Productions LLC
  • Marvel Characters B.V.
  • Marvel Characters, Inc

Since they own all the subsidiaries that came with Marvel, they basically own every avenue of Marvel.

The problem is that a contract between Marvel and Universal already existed before the purchase by Disney.

Even worse, the contract didn’t come with renewal dates.

While Disney owns all of Marvel, they’re unable to do much with the characters of Marvel east of the Mississippi River thanks to Universal.

Does Disney Own Pixar?

Is Warner Brothers Owned By Disney? (Explained) (12)

Yes, Disney owns Pixar.

At one point, Pixar was its own animation studio.

Pixar was originally owned by Steve Jobs.

One of the reasons Disney wanted to own Pixar was that it felt its own animation studio could learn from the company.

It bought Pixar for $7.4 billion.

The company joined Disney in 2006.

At that time, Steve Jobs ended up having the biggest number of shares in the company.

After his death, his shares went to his wife.

Over time, his wife has sold her shares to donate to charity.

Does Disney Own Dreamworks?

Is Warner Brothers Owned By Disney? (Explained) (13)

Another animation giant is Dreamworks.

Since Disney bought Pixar, you may also think that it owns Dreamworks.

At this point in time, Disney does not own Dreamworks.

That’s because Universal actually owns Dreamworks.

Since Universal is a subsidiary of NBCUniversal, which is a subsidiary of Comcast, it’s actually Comcast that owns Dreamworks.


Warner Brothers played an important role in the evolution of movies and TV.

Because of its success and its animation studio, it’s often confused about being a subsidiary of Disney.

However, like Dreamworks and Universal, Warner Brothers is not owned by Disney.

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