William Fox, born Wilhelm Fried on January 1, 1879, in Tulchva, Hungary, moved with his family to America as a young boy. Growing up poor, Fox worked as a newsboy and in the fur and garment industry before investing in a Brooklyn nickelodeon. Fox’s power in the film industry grew and by 1913 he became one of the most influential independent exhibitors and distributors, even leading a fight against an attempted monopoly of the industry by the Motion Picture Patents Company.
The Fox Film Corporation was formed in 1915. William Fox was a constant innovator: introducing organ accompaniment to the silent films shown in his theaters, comfort focused theatres, and the creation of Movietone News in 1927, the first commercially successful sound film. This constant innovation would lead to Fox’s downfall as the price of renovating his 1,100 theatres for sound film and the economic crisis of the 1930’s led Fox to declare bankruptcy in 1936 and serving a prison term in 1942 for obstructing justice. William Fox lived the remainder of his life in Long Island, New York, before dying in New York City on May 8, 1952.