Robert L. Lippert

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Robert L. Lippert (March 31, 1909 – November 10, 1976) was a prolific film producer and cinema owner who eventually owned a chain of 118 theatres.[1]

Biography[edit]

Born in Alameda, California, and adopted by the owner of a hardware store, Robert Lippert became fascinated by the cinema at an early age. As a youngster he worked a variety of jobs in local theaters, including projectionist and assistant manager. As a manager of a cinema during the Depression Lippert encouraged regular attendance with promotions such as "Dish Night" and "Book Night".

Lippert went from cinema manager to owning a chain of cinemas in California in 1942, during the peak years of theatre attendance.[2] Lippert's theatres in Los Angeles often screened older films for a continuous 24 hours with an admission price of 25 cents. Not only did his theatres attract shift workers and late-night revellers, but servicemen on leave who could not find cheap accommodation would sleep in the cinema. [3]

Lippert died on November 16, 1976, and his cremated remains were interred at the Woodlawn Memorial Park in Colma, California.[4]

Screen Guild Productions and Lippert Pictures[edit]

Dissatisfied with what he believed to be exorbitant rental fees charged by major studios, Lippert formed Screen Guild Productions in 1945, its first release being a Bob Steele western called Wildfire, made in Cinecolor.[5] Screen Guild also re-released many older B picture westerns and made 22 pictures under its own name.[5]

Screen Guild became Lippert Pictures, Inc. in 1948, utilizing rental stages and the movie ranch known as Corriganville for its films; 130 features were released between 1948 and 1955.

  • Lippert read a 1949 Life magazine article about a proposed trip to and landing on the Moon. He rushed into production his film version called Rocketship X-M, released a year later in 1950; he changed the destination to Mars to avoid copying exactly the same idea being utilized by producer George Pal in his large budget, high-profile Destination Moon. Rocketship X-M succeeded in becoming the first post-war science fiction outer space drama to appear in movie theaters, but just barely. More importantly, it became the first film drama to warn of the dangers and folly of full-scale Atomic War.
  • Ron Ormond produced and directed several films for Lippert, including many westerns with Lash LaRue.
  • Lippert had a reciprocal agreement with the British company Hammer Films to distribute each other's films in their own countries.
  • Screenwriter Samuel Fuller wanted to become a director, so he agreed to direct the three films he had been contracted to write for Lippert--I Shot Jesse James, The Baron of Arizona and The Steel Helmet, all for no extra money and just the directing credit.[6]
  • Sid Melton was a contract actor for Lippert Pictures. He starred in the science fiction film The Lost Continent (1951); both the final reels of that film were tinted green to provide an unusual mood and ambiance for the film's prehistoric jungle setting. The year before, Lippert had used a sepia-red tint for the Mars sequences in Rocketship X-M.

20th Century Fox, Regal Pictures and API[edit]

When Darryl F. Zanuck announced his CinemaScope process, he faced hostility from many theatre owners who had gone to great expense to convert their theatres to show 3-D films that Hollywood had stopped making. Zanuck assured the owners that they could have a large supply of CinemaScope product because Fox would make CinemaScope lenses available to other film companies and start a production unit, led by Lippert, called Regal Pictures in 1956 to produce B pictures in that process. Lippert's company was contracted to make 20 pictures a year for seven years; each picture was shot in seven days for no more than $100,000. Due to Lippert's problems with the film unions over not paying residuals to actors and writers of his films when they were sold to television, Ed Baumgarten was officially appointed the head of Regal, but Lippert had overall control.[7] Regal Pictures filmed its movies with CinemaScope lenses, but due to 20th Century-Fox insisting that only its "A" films would be labelled CinemaScope, Regal's product used the term "Regalscope" in its films' credits.[8]

Beginning with Stagecoach to Fury (1956), Regal produced 180 pictures.[5] Impressed by the unit's profits, Fox extended Regal's contract by a further 16 films with an "exploitation angle" that would be approved by Fox.[9] In 1959 Lippert renamed Regal as Associated Producers Incorporated (API) to make more low-budget films for double bills[10] (API having similar initials to exploitation specialist American International Pictures may have been coincidental).

Faced with increasing production costs in Hollywood, Lippert announced in 1962 that he would be making films in England, Italy (The Last Man on Earth) and the Philippines. Fox ended Regal/API when its own production schedule had declined and it didn't have enough "A" features to support the "B" pictures.[11]

Lippert maintained and expanded his chain of 118 theatres until his death. His son, Robert L. Lippert, Jr., followed his father into producing.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Variety Obituaries November 24, 1976
  2. ^ http://mst3k.booyaka.com/episodes/directors/robert_lippert.txt
  3. ^ p. 110 Maury Dexter Interview by Tom Weaver I Talked with a Zombie: Interviews with 23 Veterans of Horror and Sci-Fi McFarland
  4. ^ Robert Lenard Lippert, Sr at Find a Grave
  5. ^ a b c Fernett, Gene Hollywood's Poverty Row 1930-19501973 Coral Reef Publications
  6. ^ Fuller, Samuel A Third Face Alfred A Knopf (2002)
  7. ^ p.94 Maury Dexter Interview by Tom Weaver I Talked with a Zombie: Interviews with 23 Veterans of Horror and Sci-Fi McFarland
  8. ^ http://www.widescreenmuseum.com/widescreen/cslist.htm
  9. ^ p.103 Dombrowski, Lisa The Films of Samuel Fuller: If You Die, I'll Kill You! Wesleyan University Press
  10. ^ p.105 Heffernan, Kevin Ghouls, Gimmicks and Gold: Horror Films and the American Movie Business 2004 Duke University Press
  11. ^ p.117 Dexter

External links[edit]