Columbia is one of the largest film production and distribution companies in the entire world. There are different groups that are part of Columbia Pictures Industries, which includes the Columbia TriStar Motion Picture Group and Sony Pictures Entertainment. During the Golden Age of Hollywood, it was known as one of the little three, as while it was not as large as some of the other major film producers, it did play a large part in the production of films.
It first came to fruition in 1918 by three individuals. Jack and Harry Cohn were brothers and they formed the company with Joe Brandt. While the three started the company in 1918, the first movie was not officially released until August of 1922. By 1924, the Columbia Pictures name became the official nameplate of the company and eventually the company went public in stock traders by 1926.
During the time when Columbia Pictures became a major player in Hollywood, actors and directors would often sign contracts with movie studios in order to produce a set number of movies. Basically, the directors and actors had to make what the studios wanted them to once they signed a contract. Director Frank Capra was one of the leading directors signed to a contract and he helped grow the brand and even brought in several Oscars to the company as well.
Now, Columbia is no longer individually owned. In fact Coca Cola bought the company out in 1982 but then sold the company off to Tri-Star.