Buena Vista era
Before 1953, Walt Disney's productions were distributed by Winkler Pictures, Powers Pictures, Universal Pictures (Oswald the Lucky Rabbit shorts), Columbia Pictures (1930–1932), United Artists (1932–1937) and RKO Radio Pictures (1937–1953). However, a dispute over the distribution of Disney's first full-length movie, The Living Desert, in the True-Life Adventures series of live-action documentary featurettes in 1953 led to Walt and his older brother Roy O. Disney to form its wholly owned subsidiary, the Buena Vista Film Distribution Company, Inc. (BVDC), to handle North American distribution of their own products. RKO refused to distribute the film. The name "Buena Vista" came from the street in Burbank, California, where the Disney Studios was located (and remains to this day). Buena Vista's first release was the Academy Award–winning live-action feature The Living Desert on November 10, 1953, along with Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom, Buena Vista's first animated release. Notable subsequent releases include the foreign film, Princess Yang Kwei-Fei (Most Noble Lady), released in US theaters in September 1956, The Missouri Traveler in March 1958, and The Big Fisherman in July 1959 (the first third-party production financed by Disney).
By July 5, 1957, RKO Japan, Ltd. was sold to Disney Productions and British Commonwealth Film Corporation. In allocating the foreign film licenses to the company, Disney would use 5 and Commonwealth 8.
In April 1960, the company dropped "Film" from its name. In 1961, Disney incorporated Buena Vista International (BVI), distributing its first PG rated film, Take Down, in January 1979. The low-budget movie was not produced by the Disney studios and was acquired from an independent studio, making The Black Hole the first PG-rated Disney film. In July 1987, Buena Vista changed its name to Buena Vista Pictures Distribution, Inc. (BVPD).
Late in the 1980s, Disney purchased a controlling stake in one of Pacific Theatres' chain leading to Disney's Buena Vista Theaters and Pacific to renovate the El Capitan Theatre and the Crest by 1989. The Crest was finished first while El Capitan opened with the premiere of The Rocketeer film on June 19, 1991.
In 1992, Buena Vista made production loans totaling $5.6 million to Cinergi Pictures for its film Medicine Man and its 1994 films Renaissance Man and Color of Night and were distributing Cinergi's films. The corporation purchased a 12.8% share in Cinergi with its initial public offering in 1994. Soon, BVPD signed a 25 picture distribution deal with Cinergi.
The Gaumont Film Company and Disney formed Gaumont Buena Vista International, a joint venture in French distribution, in 1993. In August 1996, Disney and Tokuma Shoten Publishing agreed that Disney would distribute internationally Studio Ghibli animated films. In September 1996, following Disney's acquisition of Capital Cities/ABC, Buena Vista Pictures Distribution, Inc. was merged into ABC, Inc., the parent company of that group.
For the November 1995 premiere of Toy Story, Disney rented the Hollywood Masonic Temple — adjacent to the El Capitan Theatre — for Totally Toy Story, a multimedia funhouse and a promotional event for the movie. In July 1998, Buena Vista Pictures Distribution purchased the Hollywood Masonic Temple building to continue using it as a promotional venue.
By 1997, BVPD's share in Cinergi dropped to 5%. After nine films were delivered under the agreement, Cinergi sold Disney on November 22, 1997 all of its 12 film library except for Die Hard with a Vengeance plus $20 million in exchange for Disney's Cinergi share holdings, production advances of $35.4 million and other loans. In 2002, Disney signed a four animated film deal with Vanguard Animation, however, only one film was released under that negotiation.
In 2004, BVI and Gaumont dissolved their French distribution joint venture, Gaumont Buena Vista International. Buena Vista International agreed to a distribution deal with MegaStar Joint Venture Company Limited in April 2006 for the Vietnam market.
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
In April 2007, Disney discontinued the usage of the Buena Vista brand in its distribution branding. In 2012, The Walt Disney Company acquired UTV Motion Pictures through UTV Software Communications. Since then, UTV Motion Pictures became the exclusive distributor for all Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures releases for the South Asian market from 2013 onward.
In 2009, Disney entered a distribution agreement with a reorganized DreamWorks; the deal called for an estimated 30 films over a five-year period from DreamWorks and they would be released through the Touchstone Pictures label. The distribution deal ended in 2016, after DreamWorks and Disney decided to not renew their agreement in December 2015, with Universal Pictures replacing Disney as DreamWorks' distributor. By the end of the deal, Disney had distributed 14 of DreamWorks's original 30-picture agreement. Disney took complete ownership rights of those 14 DreamWorks films from Amblin Partners in exchange for loans made to that company. The Light Between Oceans, the final film in that distribution deal, was also the last film released under the Touchstone banner before it was retired by Disney from theatrical distribution.
In December 2017, The Walt Disney Company announced plans to purchase 21st Century Fox, which includes 20th Century Fox, for $52.4 billion.