The First National Exhibitors' Circuit
was founded 1917 by the merger of 26 of the biggest First Run cinema chains in the United States of America
, controlling more than 600 cinemas, more than 200 of them were First Run cinemas. The foundation, an initiative by Thomas L. Tally, was a reaction to the overwhelming influence of Paramount Pictures
, which dominated the market. First National was set up to combine the financial power of the involved firms, to buy stars, to finance their movies and to gain the right to distribute them later. Between 1917 and 1918, they made contracts with Mary Pickford
and Charlie Chaplin
, the first million dollar deals in the history of film.
First National's financial power and its control over the lucrative First Run cinemas posed a threat to Paramount so it decided to enter the cinema business. With a sum of ten million dollars they built their own chain of First Run houses and, after a secret plan to merge with First National failed (which led to the foundation of United Artists, and to the loss of First National's biggest stars). In the early twenties, Paramount attempted a hostile takeover, buying one of First National's member firms after the other.