RKO Pictures

From the Audiovisual Identity Database, the motion graphics museum


In 1981, RKO General, corporate heir to RKO Radio Pictures under the General Tire and Rubber Company, began to reenter film production by co-producing several films with various studios (such as Avco Embassy Pictures Corporation, Universal Studios, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation and Paramount Pictures). Around 1985, General Tire's media holdings were reorganized to form GenCorp, with RKO General remaining as a subsidiary. A hostile takeover was attempted in 1987 on GenCorp and RKO Pictures was spun off and sold to Wesray Capital Corporation, who then spun off RKO Pictures in 1989. The studio was then purchased by actress Dina Merrill and her husband and film producer Ted Hartley to form RKO Pictures, LLC; Hartley remains as the current owner of the studio.

1st Logo (September 25, 1981-1987)

Visuals: On a plain black background, a segmented, white-lined rectangle with a cut on the left side and the text "RKO PICTURES" below emerges from the top of the screen, and moves down and curves up as if on a roller coaster, zooming up to the center of the screen. There is also a red variant of the thunderbolt from the closing 1929 RKO Radio Pictures logo flipping up and growing in size as it lands below the cut on the rectangle in between "RKO" and "PICTURES." The text "DISTRIBUTED BY" appears above the logo.

Technique: Analog 2D animation.

Audio: A three-note synthesized tune with rising air and a thunderclap as the logo parts come together, followed by a gradual synthesized fade out.

Availability: This logo was only used as a distribution logo on television and did not appear on any of the studio's film output. Appeared on 1980s syndie prints of Riff Raff, I Remember Mama (Notably a November 1989 AMC broadcast), What Price Hollywood, Mr. and Mrs. Smith (1941), None But the Lonely Heart, Westward Passage and Nocturne, among others; some of these prints air on TCM occasionally. Home media releases from RKO Home Video and The Nostalgia Merchant may include this logo at the end of such films as Citizen Kane, The Magnificent Ambersons and Isle of the Dead. Also appears on the 1986 VidAmerica VHS release of Suspicion and the 1990 Turner Home Entertainment VHS release of Bringing Up Baby (Turner actually reprinted some older RKO Home Video releases). It is unknown which Turner reprints (or any Warner Home Video reprints) of RKO films have this logo.

2nd Logo (April 10, 1987-March 21, 1992)


  • Opening: The logo begins the same as in the second RKO Radio Pictures logo. After a few seconds, a segmented white-lined rectangle with a cut on the left side and the text "RKO PICTURES" appearing on opposite sides of the red thunderbolt triangle design emerges from the transmitter tip, and moves downward, zooming towards the lower third of the screen, then the background fades to black.
  • Closing: The closing logo of these movies is a still picture of the opening logo, with "An RKO Picture" in the 1929 "thunderbolt" font.

Technique: Live-action for the Earth globe, 2D animation for the thunderbolts, and analog animation for the RKO logomark.

Audio: A series of Morse code beeps. The closing variant is silent.

Availability: It appeared on some films that Paramount Pictures released from this time frame, including Campus Man, Hamburger Hill and Hot Pursuit.

3rd Logo (June 24, 1992)

Visuals: On a black background is a box with a white border with the thunderbolt triangle at the bottom. Inside the box is the famous radio tower on earth. On top the antenna "R", "K" and "O" appear one by one, in red and in its company font. Then "P I C T U R E S" flies in and rests at the bottom of "RKO". Then "DISTRIBUTION" appears at the bottom at the top of the thunderbolt triangle.

Technique: 2D animation for the text, with the globe in live-action and thunderbolts using 2D animation.

Audio: Along with the Morse code beeps, a drumbeat is heard when each letter of "RKO" appears.

Availability: Only known to appear on the American release of The Elegant Criminal.

4th Logo (October 23, 1992)

Visuals: On a black background, the words "RELEASED THROUGH" appear on the top. Below is "RKO PICTURES DISTRIBUTION".

Technique: A still graphic.

Audio: None.

Availability: The only known movie to use this logo is Frozen Assets.

5th Logo (October 19, 1996-April 30, 2015)

Visuals: In a cloudy space environment, the camera pans back from a series of spinning clouds to reveal the famed RKO tower, now yellow and rendered in CGI, and still on top of a rotating Earth. A bright light is seen on the transmitter tip of the tower, and when the camera fully zooms back in a comfortable position, the tower then emits signals. The text "RKO PICTURES" fades in on top of the transmitter. "RKO" appears in the same "thunderbolt" font as the third logo, while "PICTURES" sports a more '30s-ish typeface below that.


  • A short version begins with the finished result. This can be seen at the end of some TV movies like Holiday Affair.
  • When viewed in 4:3 aspect ratio, there are varying versions where more of the rotating Earth globe is seen. There are medium and far views. A version of this can be seen on a demo reel from Flip Your Lid Animation.
  • On 4:3 prints of Mighty Joe Young (1998) and Are We Done Yet? (2007), the logo zooms out to a much farther distance than usual, revealing more of the rotating Earth globe at the bottom.

Technique: CGI by Studio Productions (now known as "Flip Your Lid Animation").

Audio: A triumphant fanfare (composed by RKO owner Ted Hartley) with the iconic Morse code beeps at the end.

Audio Variants:

  • Sometimes, the opening theme is heard with the beeping played over it.
  • The short version has a short rendition of the fanfare.
  • A high-toned version of the fanfare can be heard on Barely Lethal.

Availability: First seen on the 1996 television film Holiday Affair (it may have appeared on the 1996 film Milk & Money, but this is unconfirmed as the film is too obscure to figure out). It can be seen on films such as Mighty Joe Young (1998), The Magnificent Ambersons (2002), Gin Game, Are We Done Yet?, Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (2009 version), A Late Quartet and Barely Lethal. Since the release of the latter film in 2015, the company has not produced a new film due to a focus on licensing their library for stage shows and remakes by other film companies. It has reappeared in full on the trailer for Ocean of Lies.

6th Logo (February 2, 2011-June 26, 2018)

Visuals: Fading in to the previous logo animating in reverse in black and white. As it zooms to the bright light, a thunderbolt appears out of the light and the letters "RKO" in silver Gotham lettering appear with a shine effect, with a thunderbolt sticking out of the "K". The clouds later fade into a black background.

Technique: CGI, with 2D Flash animation for the RKO print logo.

Audio: The Ted Hartley-composed fanfare from the 1996 logo, but the Morse code sounds play earlier.

Availability: This logo was used in the 2011 version of RKO's official website until the site was changed in mid 2018.

Cookies help us deliver our services. By using our services, you agree to our use of cookies.