RKO Radio Pictures Inc. was an American film production and distribution company. After United Artists, it was the fourth and last independent distributor of Walt Disney Productions' films until the founding of Disney-owned Buena Vista Film Distribution.



RKO was formed after the Keith-Albee-Orpheum (KAO) theater chains and Joseph P. Kennedy's Film Booking Offices of America studio were brought together under the control of the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) in October 1928. RCA chief David Sarnoff engineered the merger to create a market for the company's sound-on-film technology, RCA Photophone. By the mid-1940's, the studio was under the control of investor Floyd Odlum.

Disney-related events

Soon after the appointment of a new production chief, Samuel Briskin, in late 1935, RKO entered into an important distribution deal with animator Walt Disney (Van Beuren consequently folded its cartoon operations) following Walt Disney Productions' issues with United Artists. From 1937 to 1956, the studio released Disney features and shorts; Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) was the highest grossing movie in the period between The Birth of a Nation (1915) and Gone with the Wind (1939). While the Disney association was beneficial, RKO's own films were viewed as declining in quality and Briskin was gone by the end of the year. A dispute with RKO over the value of Disney's True-Life Adventures series of live-action documentary featurettes in 1953 led to Walt and his older brother Roy to set up their own distribution firm, Buena Vista Film Distribution.


Maverick industrialist Howard Hughes took over RKO in 1948. After years of decline under his control, the studio was acquired by the General Tire and Rubber Company in 1955. The original RKO Pictures ceased production in 1957 and was effectively dissolved two years later, though the studio retained the copyrights to all their films and assets.


In 1981, broadcaster RKO General, the corporate heir, revived it as a production subsidiary, RKO Pictures Inc. In 1989, this business with its few remaining assets, the trademarks and remake rights to many classic RKO films, was sold to new owners, who now operate the small independent company RKO Pictures LLC.

RKO Pictures Japan

RKO Pictures Japan, Ltd. (日本RKO映画株式会社 Nihon RKO Eiga Kabushiki-gaisha) was the Japanese division of RKO Radio Pictures. Walt Disney Productions and the British Commonwealth Film Corporation acquired the division on July 5, 1959.[1] RKO Pictures Japan closed in 1974.

Disney films distributed by RKO Radio Pictures

Short films
Feature films (as RKO Radio Pictures)
Feature films (as RKO Pictures)
RKO Japan
Title Title (Japan) Date of release (Japan)
Cinderella シンデレラ March 7, 1952
Pinocchio ピノキオ May 17, 1952
Alice In Wonderland ふしぎの国のアリス August 19, 1953
Peter Pan ピーター・パン March 22, 1955
Sleeping Beauty 眠れる森の美女 July 23, 1960
One Hundred and One Dalmatians 101匹わんちゃん July 27, 1962
The Sword in the Stone 王様の剣 July 18, 1964



  1. "Disney, British Firm Co-Owns RKO Japan, Ltd."
Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.