Embassy Pictures

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Embassy Pictures
Industry Film studio
Fate Sold
Successor(s) De Laurentiis Entertainment Group (theatrical)
Nelson Entertainment (home)
ELP Communications (television)
Founded 1942
Defunct 1986
Products Motion pictures
Parent Independent (1942-1967)
Avco Corporation (1967-1982)
Embassy Communications, Inc. (1982-1985)
The Coca-Cola Company (1985-1986)
Dino De Laurentiis Productions (1986)

Embassy Pictures Corporation (later known as Avco Embassy Pictures and later Embassy Films Associates) was an independent studio and distributor responsible for such films as The Graduate, The Lion in Winter, Carnal Knowledge, This Is Spinal Tap and Escape from New York.

Founding[edit]

The company was founded in 1942 [1] by Joseph E. Levine, initially to distribute foreign films in the United States. Some of Levine's early successes were the Italian-made Hercules films with Steve Reeves and the 1961 adaptation of The Thief of Bagdad (which had virtually nothing to do with the 1940 version). Embassy also distributed Federico Fellini's film and Rick Carrier's Strangers in the City (1962).

In 1963, Levine was offered a $30 million deal with Paramount Pictures to produce films in the vein of his previous successes. Paramount would finance the films and Embassy would receive part of its profits.[2] Under the deal, Levine produced The Carpetbaggers and its prequel Nevada Smith, which were successes, along with flops such as Harlow, starring Carroll Baker, and The Oscar.

By the 1960s, Levine had transformed Embassy into a production company. Later in the decade, Embassy functioned on its own with many Rankin/Bass animated features (including Mad Monster Party? and The Daydreamer), and successful live-action productions including The Graduate, The Lion in Winter and The Producers.

New ownership and dissolution[edit]

In 1967, Embassy enjoyed its greatest success with The Graduate. This enabled Levine to sell his company to Avco for a deal worth $40 million.[3][4] Levine stayed on as chief executive.

In 1968, Avco Embassy launched Avco Embassy Television, which was sold to Multimedia, Inc. in 1976, becoming Multimedia Entertainment; that first television division has since been folded into what is now known as NBCUniversal Television Distribution, even though another company now owns television rights to the Embassy library.

In 1969 the company bought out Mike Nichols production company and signed him to make two movies.[5]

The company became less successful in the 1970s and in 1973 recorded a loss of $8.1 million. In 1972 the company had begun winding back on production and by 1975 had stopped making movies.[6] Levine resigned in mid 1974 to re-enter independent production.[7]

Robert Rehme years[edit]

In late 1977 Avco Embassy announced its intention to resume production. In 1978, Robert Rehme was appointed President and Chief Operating Officer and he convinced the company to give him $5 million for a production fund. Under his stewardship, Avco Embassy concentrated on lower budgeted genre films, six of which were successful and became classics: The Manitou (1978), Phantasm (1979), The Fog (1980), Scanners (1981), Time Bandits (1981) and The Howling (1981). They benefited in part from the fact that American International Pictures recently left the exploitation field, lessening competition in this area. Rehme left the company in 1981, having seen it increase its revenue from $20 million to $90 million.[8][9]

In 1981 Tom Laughlin offered to buy the company for $24 million but withdrew his offer.[3]

Norman Lear and Jerry Perenchio[edit]

In January 1982, television producer Norman Lear and his partner Jerry Perenchio bought the studio for $25 million,[8] dropping off the name "Avco" and changed the name of their own TV company T.A.T. Communications to Embassy Television and T.A.T. Communications Company to Embassy Communications, Inc. The company was already producing such network hits as The Jeffersons, One Day at a Time, and The Facts of Life, and by Tandem, Diff'rent Strokes and Archie Bunker's Place. During this period, they launched Silver Spoons, Square Pegs, Who's the Boss?, and Gloria.

In late 1982, it set up its own home video division; Embassy Home Entertainment; prior releases from its film catalog had been handled through Magnetic Video. In 1984, Embassy Pictures was renamed to Embassy Films Associates.

Embassy Television logo, used from 1982-1984

Coca-Cola and others[edit]

Lear and Perenchio sold Embassy Communications (including Tandem Productions) to The Coca-Cola Company for $485 million on June 18, 1985,[10][11][12]Coca-Cola kept Embassy's television division alive; under their ownership the hit series 227 and Married... with Children began. Embassy Television was renamed Embassy Communications in 1986, then ELP (Embassy Limited Partnership) Communications in February 1988. Coca-Cola, which also owned Columbia Pictures at the time, sold the theatrical division to Dino De Laurentiis, who folded the company into De Laurentiis Entertainment Group, and the home video division became Nelson Entertainment on August 15, 1987, run by Barry Spikings. Nelson Entertainment was the American subsidiary owned by Nelson Holdings International (NHI), a company based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Although De Laurentiis was now owner of Embassy, he was not given rights to then upcoming films such as Richard Attenborough's A Chorus Line, Crimewave, Saving Grace, and an adaptation of Stephen King's The Body (which became Stand by Me), which became properties of Lear and Perenchio.[13][14]

Nelson Entertainment, in addition to primarily handling the Embassy library for home video, also financed theatrical films in conjunction with Columbia Pictures. They were one of the primary partners, along with Columbia, in the formation of Castle Rock Entertainment, due to the home video success of co-founder Rob Reiner's Embassy-produced films which they still handled.

In 1988, Nelson handled the physical manufacturing and distribution duties of their home video company to Orion Pictures, and some of their film productions were acquired by Orion as well. In 1991, Nelson was sold to New Line Cinema, who renamed the video division New Line Home Video and also briefly took over Nelson's stake in Castle Rock Entertainment.

1990s[edit]

By the early 1990s, key rights to the Embassy library transferred from company to company due to the bankruptcies of the companies that separately owned them (De Laurentiis for theatrical, Nelson for home video). Dino De Laurentiis's assets went to Parafrance International, in conjunction with Village Roadshow, while Nelson's assets were acquired by Credit Lyonnais Bank and later sold to PolyGram. Nelson's parent company, NHI continued to exist well into the mid-1990s.

Library ownership and property rights[edit]

Today, the Embassy corporation, its divisions and film & television holdings, are split.

The underlying rights to a majority of the Embassy library are currently held by French production company StudioCanal, with individual media rights leased to other companies.

The theatrical rights to the Embassy film library are managed by either Stuart Lisell Films or Rialto Pictures, depending on the individual re-issue rights. Home entertainment rights (DVD, Blu-ray) are at the hands of MGM with 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment handling distribution for MGM. Other home video reissues (depending on certain titles) are owned by Image Entertainment (through The Criterion Collection), Lionsgate Home Entertainment, and Anchor Bay Entertainment, all via separate output deals.

Sony Pictures Entertainment retained the television rights to most of the Embassy theatrical library and the Embassy logo, names, and trademarks through its subsidiary ELP Communications.[15]

Notable films[edit]

Unmade Films[edit]

  • Isabel and Burton (1964) - based on life of explorer Richard Burton[16]
  • The Life of Gandhi[17]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Dick, p.79
  2. ^ Dick, p. 80-81
  3. ^ a b Perenchio Lear to Purchase Avco Embassy Pictures: EMBASSY: Sale May Be $25 Million Harris, Kathryn. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 25 Nov 1981: e1.
  4. ^ Avco to Buy Embassy Pictures From Levine For $40 Million of Common, Preferred Stock By STANLEY PENN Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL. Wall Street Journal (1923 - Current file) [New York, N.Y] 06 May 1968: 8.
  5. ^ Mergers Set in Show Business: Avco Buys Nichols Unit MERGERS SHAPED IN SHOW BUSINESS By LEONARD SLOANE. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 19 Mar 1969: 61.
  6. ^ Avco Apparently Will Produce Movies After 5-Year Hiatus: Concern Would Likely Work With Others Instead of Making Films on Its Own Wall Street Journal (1923 - Current file) [New York, N.Y] 06 Dec 1977: 10.
  7. ^ Levine, Producer, Quits as President Of Avco Embassy: Amicable Resignation By A. H. WEILER. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 30 May 1974: 33.
  8. ^ a b 'Avco's Way to Lick the Movie Giants of Hollywood', New Straits Times, 6 Dec1981 p 8
  9. ^ ROBERT REHME, KING OF THE LOW-BUDGET SHOCKERAljean Harmetz, 'Robert Rehme, King of the Low Budget Shocker', New York Times, 30 Nov 1981 Section C p13
  10. ^ "Norman Lear" Coke Buys Embassy & Tandem normanlear.com Michael Schrage The Washington Post, Retrieved on January 25, 2013.
  11. ^ "Norman Lear" Lear, Perenchio Sell Embassy Properties normanlear.com AL DELUGACH and KATHRYN HARRIS, The Los Angeles Times, Retrieved on January 25, 2013
  12. ^ "Norman Lear" Coke buys Embassy: 485 million. normanlear.com CHRISTOPHER VAUGHN and BILL DESOWITZ The Hollywood Reporter, Retrieved on January 25, 2013
  13. ^ De Laurentiis to Market Own Films By ALJEAN HARMETZ Special to The New York Times. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 04 Oct 1985: C3.
  14. ^ DE LAURENTIIS' EPIC PLAN FOR EMBASSY: FILM CLIPS FILM CLIPS Mathews, Jack. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 09 Oct 1985: h1.
  15. ^ "Justia Trademarks"EMBASSY PICTURES - Trademark Details trademarks.justia.com, Retrieved on October 14, 2012
  16. ^ Embassy Pictures to Film Life of British Explorer New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 07 Mar 1964: 13.
  17. ^ LEVINE SETS PLANS FOR 15 NEW MOVIES Special to The New York Times. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 30 July 1964: 16.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]