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, 20th 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, who remains as the current owner of the studio.
1st Logo (1983-1987)
Nicknames: "80s Thunderbolt", "Cheesy Thunderbolt", "Thunderbolt Triangle II", "Animated Thunderbolt Triangle"
Logo: 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. We also see 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.
FX/SFX: The logo zooming and flipping effects.
Music/Sounds: 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: Rare. 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 What Price Hollywood, None But the Lonely Heart, Westward Passage and Nocturne, among others; some of these prints also aired on TCM. Home media releases from RKO Home Video and The Nostalgia Merchant may include this logo at the end of such films like 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)
Nickname: "1980s Transmitter"
- Opening: The logo begins the same as in the first one. 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.
FX/SFX: The rotating Earth globe, the lightning bolts, the sound waves and the zooming thunderbolt triangle.
Music/Sounds: A series of Morse code beeps. The closing variant is silent.
Availability: Uncommon. It appeared on some films that Paramount Pictures released from this time frame, including Campus Man, Hamburger Hill and Hot Pursuit.
3rd Logo (October 23, 1992)
Logo: On a black background, the words "RELEASED THROUGH" appear on the top. Below is "RKO PICTURES DISTRIBUTION".
Availability: Extremely rare. The only known movie to use this logo is Frozen Assets.
4th Logo (June 24, 1992)
Logo: 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.
FX/SFX: The Earth and the company name appearing.
Music/Sounds: Along with the Morse code beeps, a drumbeat is heard when each letter of "RKO" appears.
Availability: Extremely rare. Only known to appear on the American release of The Elegant Criminal.
5th Logo (October 19, 1996-)
Nicknames: "1990s Transmitter", "CGI Transmitter"
Logo: In a cloudy space environment, we pan back from a series of spinning clouds to reveal the famed RKO tower, now yellow and lovingly 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 a red "thunderbolt" font 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.
- On Shade, the logo begins in black-and-white and then turns into color as the transmitter emits the signals.
- On Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (2009), the background is in a darker shade of red.
FX/SFX: The bright light and the sound waves, all in great CGI. This was done by Studio Productions (now known as "Flip Your Lid Animation").
Music/Sounds: A triumphant fanfare (composed by RKO owner Ted Hartley) with Morse code beeps at the end.
- Sometimes, the opening theme is heard with the beeping played over it.
- The short version has a short rendition of the fanfare.
Availability: Uncommon. 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, The Magnificent Ambersons (2002), Gin Game, Are We Done Yet?, Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (2009 version), A Late Quartet and Barely Lethal.
Editor's Note: A wonderful CGI ode to the famed RKO tower, complete with a gorgeous fanfare.
6th Logo (2009-February? 2018)
Nickname: "CGI Transmitter II"
Logo: We see the previous logo animating in reverse in black and white. As it zooms to the bright light, there is a thunderbolt that appears out of the light and it displays the letters "RKO" in silver lettering with a shine effect. The clouds later fade into a black background.
FX/SFX: The logo zooming into the light, "RKO" appearing.
Music/Sounds: Same as the last logo, but the Morse code sounds play earlier.
Availability: Extinct. This logo was used in the 2009 version of RKO's official website until the site was changed in early 2018. You can still see the logo using the Wayback Machine.