Sunn Classic Pictures
|Industry||Motion picture / television entertainment|
Taft Broadcasting (1980-1987)
Sunn Classic Pictures, also known as Schick Sunn Classic Pictures is an independent U.S.-based film distributor, founded in 1971. The company was notable for family films and documentaries, and was bought by Taft Broadcasting in 1980.
Sunn Classic was located in Park City, Utah, with offices in nearby Salt Lake City; its company name added an extra "n" to the word "Sun" for legal reasons. The founder, Rayland Jensen, previously handled distribution of American National Enterprises' 1968 release, Alaskan Safari, which spent five years at the North American box office. In 1971, Jensen began his new company at the request of employees from the Schick razor company, at the time a subsidiary of Warner-Lambert.
During its tenure, Sunn Classic spent US$85,000 in pre-production research on each of its films, conducting phone surveys and interviews with potential viewers. According to Bruce A. Austin, "Sunn identified as its market working-class families who rarely went to the movies more than twice a year". In the midst of the research, it released films with an MPAA rating of G, and in heavily marketed limited engagements. Through a process called four wall distribution (or "four-walling"), the company would rent theaters to show its films, and retained all of the box office receipts.
Sunn Classic specialized in family entertainment such as 1974's The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams, and its subsequent spin-off television series on the NBC network. The Outer Space Connection was released in 1975. This documentary was produced by Alan Landsburg but was distributed by Sunn Classic. By 1977, domestic sales for Grizzly Adams reached upwards of US$24 million; another Sunn release, In Search of Noah's Ark, made US$26 million. Among its other titles were 1977's The Lincoln Conspiracy and 1979's In Search of Historic Jesus. The company also ran a television unit in tandem with its film department. Jensen and another fellow employee, Clair Farley, formed Jensen Farley Pictures; one of their early releases was 1981's Private Lessons.
In July 1980, the company and two Schick divisions were purchased by Cincinnati-based Taft Enterprises for over US$2.5 million. Eventually, the new owner christened Sunn Classic as Taft International Pictures. However, after Carl Lindner, Jr. purchased Taft and restructured it into Great American Broadcasting, the studio ceased operations. By the 2000s, the media and property assets of the original Sunn Classics were under new management.
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