GENERAL PICTURES CORP. was formed in 1957 by George Oliva Jr. to produce films for business and industry. The studio began in the Cleveland Dramaturgy Building at 2307 Chester Ave. The studio later moved to 4501 Pleasant Valley Rd. in Cleveland.
A native of Englewood, NJ, Oliva majored in politics at Princeton University. After serving in WORLD WAR II, he earned a law degree from Fordham University. Oliva began his movie career in advertising — first in television and radio as a writer, producer and copy director for McCann-Erickson. That job took him to Cleveland, Ohio, where he met Gertrude Perkins in 1950. They married, and together had six children and a 33-year marriage until her death in 1987.
Before he founded General Pictures, Oliva was TV and radio copy director and director of films in the Cleveland office of FULLER & SMITH & ROSS advertising agency.
Significant General Pictures clients included AMERICAN GREETINGS CORP.; American Standard; the Cleveland Board of Education; C&O/B&O RAILROAD; Firestone, B. F. Goodrich, and Goodyear tire and rubber companies; the CARLING and Rolling Rock brewing companies; GENERAL ELECTRIC; General Motors; PICK ‘N PAY grocery stores; SHERWIN WILLIAMS; STANDARD OIL (OHIO); the America Medical Association; United Appeal; WESTINGHOUSE ELECTRIC, and WJW TV.
Two General Pictures films with local interest have been preserved. The first of these is Cleveland City on Schedule (1962), a documentary on the Cleveland urban-renewal program produced for the Cleveland Development Foundation. Chet Huntley, co-anchor with David Brinkley of NBC's evening news for 14 years, narrated the film. The second is Not with Empty Hands (1966), a documentary emphasizing the achievements of African Americans in Ohio over the 100 years since the signing of the Emancipation proclamation. The client for the film was the American Negro Emancipation Centennial Authority (ANECA), Ohio Division. The ANECA was a national organization established to sponsor the nation-wide observance of President Abraham Lincoln's centennial signing the Emancipation Proclamation declaring that "all persons held as slaves" within the rebellious states "are, and henceforward shall be free." Most of the actors were from the KARAMU HOUSE.
Oliva began acquiring radio stations in 1964 that he operated until his retirement in 1986. He served on the boards of the HUNTINGTON NATIONAL BANK, CLEVELAND MUSEUM OF ART, CLEVELAND PLAY HOUSE, Connecticut College, HAWKEN SCHOOL, and Foxcroft School. His passions were traveling, theater, and his quail plantation in Thomasville, GA.
In 1971 General Pictures merged with another Cleveland film studio, CINECRAFT PRODUCTIONS. The films of General Pictures Corp. are being digitized and posted online by the Hagley Library (digital.hagley.org/cinecraft) as part of a project to preserve the works of Cinecraft, "the country's longest-standing corporate film and video production house."
In 2007, Oliva married Pam Jacobson. He died on April 24, 2011, in Kirtland Hills, Ohio. He is buried in Cleveland, Ohio.