ITC Entertainment

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ITC Entertainment
Industry Media
Fate Folded into Universal Studios. Assets sold to Carlton Communications in 1999.
Founded 10 September 1954
Founders
Defunct 11 October 1998
Headquarters London, United Kingdom
Key people
Lord Grade
Products films
TV shows
Services distribution
Parent
Divisions
  • ITC Home Video
  • ITC Film Distributors
  • AP Films
  • ITC Films

Incorporated Television Company (ITC, or ITC Entertainment as it was referred to in the US) was a British television company involved in production and distribution.

History[edit]

Incorporated Television Programme Company[edit]

Incorporated Television Programme Company (ITP) was founded by television mogul Lew Grade with Prince Littler and Val Parnell in 1954 as the Incorporated Television Programme Company.[1] Originally designed to be a contractor for the UK's new ITV, the company failed to win a contract when the Independent Television Authority felt that doing so would give too much control in the entertainment business to the Grade family's companies (which included large talent agencies and theatre interests)[2] although the ITA said that ITPC were free to make their own programmes which they could sell to the new network companies. ITP put most of the production budget into producing one show, The Adventures of Robin Hood (ITV, 1955-59).[1]

However, the winner of one of the contracts, the Associated Broadcasting Development Company, had insufficient funds to start broadcasting,[2] so the ITP owners were brought into the consortium and Lew Grade came to dominate it.

Incorporated Television Company[edit]

In 1957 now known as Incorporated Television Company (ITC), the company became a subsidiary of the Associated Broadcasting Company (ABC)–which soon changed its name to Associated TeleVision (ATV) after threats of legal action from fellow ITV company Associated British Corporation[3]–and produced its own programmes for ATV and for syndication in the United States. It also distributed ATV material outside of the UK. From 1966 to 1982 it was a subsidiary of Associated Communications Corporation after the acquisition of ATV.[4]

The initials 'ITC' stood for two different things: Independent Television Corporation for sales to the Americas, and Incorporated Television Company for sales to the rest of the world. The American Independent Television Corporation was formed as a joint venture with Jack Wrather[5] in 1958. In September 1958 it purchased Television Programs of America (TPA) for $11,350,000. Wrather sold his shares to Lew Grade at the end of the decade.

The large foreign sales achieved by ITC during the British government's export drives of the 1960s and 1970s led to ACC receiving the Queen's Award for Export on numerous occasions until ITC's association with the broadcaster and success actually led to the demise of both ATV as a broadcaster and ITC as a production company in 1982.

During 1988 The Bell Group, the owners of ITC were taken over by the Bond Corporation.[6][7][8] Subsequently the new owners started an asset-stripping programme. In November 1988 ITC Entertainment was bought by its management.[9]

In 1989, ITC Home Video was formed in the United Kingdom, to make use of the many hours of programmes in the archive, then unseen for years. This short-lived home entertainment division would end in 1991. In the following period, ITC continued to distribute its past library.

In 1995, PolyGram purchased the company for $156 million.[10][11] with Grade once again returning to ITC to act as a consultant until his death in December 1998.[12][13]

On 10 December 1998, Universal Studios' parent, Seagram purchased PolyGram for $10.2 billion.[14] In early January 1999, Carlton Communications bought the ITC television and film library from PolyGram/Seagram for £91 million, which reunited the programme library of Associated Television and Central Television and doubled the stock of its library division Carlton International, by giving it a total of 15,000 hours of programming. Carlton chairman Michael Green said: 'The ITC library is a jewel in the crown. We can now unite it with the other gems from Britain's film and television heritage in our excellent library.'[15] ITV plc continues to release ITC's original output through television repeats, books and DVD releases.

In 2005, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the founding of the company, Network DVD released a DVD box set entitled ITC 50 featuring episodes from eighteen different ITC productions.

Productions[edit]

A still from the 1973 ITC Entertainment logo ident.

Reputation[edit]

ITC is best known for being the company behind many successful British cult TV filmed series during the 1960s and 1970s, such as The Saint, Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased), Danger Man, The Baron, Gideon's Way, The Champions, The Prisoner, Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons, Stingray, Joe 90, Man in a Suitcase, Strange Report, Department S, The Persuaders!, Jason King, The Adventurer, The Protectors, and Return of the Saint. It was also the production company for The Muppet Show and Julie on Sesame Street which were both made at ATV's Elstree Studios and distributed in the UK by ATV and in the US by ITC.

Entry into production[edit]

ITC got its start as a production company when former American producer Hannah Weinstein approached Lew Grade. Weinstein wanted to make a programme called The Adventures of Robin Hood. Weinstein proposed making the series for ITV and simultaneously marketing it in the United States through an American TV distribution company, Official Films. The series was a big success in both countries, running from 1955 until 1959 on CBS and ATV London.

"Ground-breakages"[edit]

Grade realised the potential in overseas sales and colour television (the last 14 episodes of The Adventures of Sir Lancelot were filmed in colour a decade before colour television existed in the UK),[16] and ITC combined high production values with exotic locations and uses of variations on the same successful formula for the majority of its television output.

ITC United States programmes[edit]

Although most of the ITC series were produced in Britain, ITC often worked with Television Programs of America (TPA) and several series were filmed in America. Possibly the earliest ITC series produced in the US was Fury, a Saturday morning live-action series, about a beloved ranch horse, which starred Peter Graves and ran on NBC in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

In 1963 Gerry Anderson's Anderson-Provis (AP) Films became part of ACC and produced Fireball XL-5, the hugely successful children's series Thunderbirds and, under its successor company Century 21 Television/Cinema Productions, Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons. ITC also funded Anderson-created programs aimed at the adult market, including UFO and Space: 1999. It was at ITC's request that Fanderson, "the Gerry Anderson Appreciation Society," was founded. Another ITC children's series was The Adventures of Rupert Bear, the first television outing for the Daily Express cartoon character. ITC (in partnership with the Italian company RAI) was also behind Franco Zeffirelli's Biblical mini-series Jesus of Nazareth, Moses the Lawgiver, and the Gregory Peck television film The Scarlet and the Black.

Films and sundry programmes[edit]

In addition to television programming, ITC also produced several films – including Capricorn One, The Eagle Has Landed, The Boys from Brazil, The Return of the Pink Panther, The Last Unicorn, and a number of Jim Henson Company productions: The Dark Crystal and the first two Muppet films, The Muppet Movie and The Great Muppet Caper. Initially, ITC productions were licensed out to other U.S. studios for release until 1979, when ITC partnered with another UK-based production company, Thorn EMI Screen Entertainment, to create Associated Film Distribution, which would release films produced by each company, as well as pickups from other production companies. In 1979, the subsidiary Black Lion Films was founded in the manner of Thames Euston Films, but its best remembered production, The Long Good Friday, was sold on to HandMade Films.

The 1980s[edit]

In the summer of 1980, two films released by AFD within six weeks of each other helped lead to the distribution company's dissolution. Can't Stop the Music, designed to be a showcase for Village People at the height of disco music, was released 20 June 1980, by which time disco's popularity had diminished and the form was experiencing a backlash from music listeners. The poorly reviewed film ultimately grossed $2 million on a $20 million budget. On 1 August 1980, the release of the poorly received Raise the Titanic! met with pre-release criticism from the novel's author, Clive Cussler, and recouped only a fraction of its costs; Grade himself retired from active film production, commenting that it would have been cheaper to "lower the Atlantic."[17] Cussler himself told People Weekly Magazine, "The film was so poor, it boggles the mind."

After the films's failures, ITC and EMI agreed to sell AFD and the distribution rights to its library to Universal Studios, though the AFD films which were then in post production at the time were still ultimately released by AFD, to handle the release of the remaining pictures still in production at the time of the sale, beginning with The Legend of the Lone Ranger, and including On Golden Pond, Sophie's Choice, The Dark Crystal, and The Great Muppet Caper. As January 2016 was beginning, while the various copyrights had reverted to their respective owners, Universal still maintained theatrical rights to most of the ITC and EMI films initially released by AFD.

In 1983, ITC produced and released the animated series Thunderbirds 2086, which was not an original British series based on the Gerry Anderson Thunderbirds. It was actually an English dubbed version of Scientific Rescue Team Technoboyager, a Japanese anime that has an identical premise to Anderson's Thuderbirds. ITC licensed the series for an English dub and re-imagined the series as set twenty years after the original, thus being an evolution of that same International Rescue Organization. However, the Tracy family and associated characters from the Gerry Anderson Thunderbirds are never mentioned.

The 1990s[edit]

In the early 1990s, ITC briefly attempted to enter the lucrative American game show market, with a syndicated revival of Tic-Tac-Dough, which had previously run from 1978 to 1986 in syndication, alongside Barry & Enright Productions. However, the show was off the air by March 1991, mainly due to a glut of syndicated game show offerings that season, as well as several changes in gameplay which were criticized, as was host Patrick Wayne.

Grade himself died in 1998.

Other[edit]

As a distribution company, ITC was also the world-wide distributor for ATV's one-off The Benny Hill Show special, but not the Thames Television series.[18]

Current ownership[edit]

Today, the underlying rights are owned by ITV Studios Global Entertainment, although Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer now owns theatrical distribution rights. In addition, however, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer also owns North America distribution rights to Without a Clue via their acquisition of that film's original distributor Orion Pictures. Home video distribution rights in North America to a majority of the ITC Entertainment library are handled by Shout! Factory (previously by Lionsgate Home Entertainment) under license from ITV.[19]

However, there are few exceptions to the theatrical library. One ITC production, The Dark Crystal, is now owned by The Jim Henson Company, with theatrical distribution rights handled by Universal Pictures (the film's original distributor) and home video rights handled by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. Two other films, The Muppet Movie and The Great Muppet Caper, have full rights owned by The Muppets Studio, a subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company, with Walt Disney Pictures serving as distributor. All rights to The Return of the Pink Panther as of 2015 are now with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer,[20] who as of 2008, has been owning domestic theatrical, television and online streaming distribution rights; most of these rights are the result of the latter studio's distribution rights to the ITC film output. Previously, certain rights were held by Universal's Focus Features division in partnership with ITV, although original distributor United Artists still owns the copyright. The Evil That Men Do is now fully owned by TriStar Pictures via Sony Pictures Entertainment.

As for ITC's television output, Carlton (and later Granada and now ITV) released some of these shows on DVD both in Europe and North America. There were however a few exceptions: The Adventures of Robin Hood and the other swashbuckling adventure series of the late 1950s and early 1960s were released on DVD by Network Video, as was Strange Report.

Many of the cult drama shows from the 1960s and 1970s have since been released by Network as limited edition box sets, the most recent being Interpol Calling (as of November 2010). The rights to The Muppet Show, however, are held by The Walt Disney Company, with North American, British and Irish home video distribution rights held by The Walt Disney Company's home video distribution arm, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment.

List of ITC Entertainment productions and distributions[edit]

ITC produced and distributed a wide range of content across both film and television, over several decades. ITC productions and distributions crossed many different genres – from historical adventure, to spy-fi and action, and later into both children's and adult science-fiction – as well as films covering many different subjects.

The ITC Distributions page offers a complete list of ITC produced and distributed programmes.

Filmography[edit]

Studios[edit]

ITC had no studios of its own. Programmes were made in several facilities but most notably at ABPC's Elstree film studios (not to be confused with ATV's nearby Clarendon Road Studios, Borehamwood studios which was a live/videotape facility). However, the MGM-British Studios complex at Borehamwood,[21] the Rank Organisation's Pinewood and Shepperton Studios were also used. 'Ghost Squad' was made at the Independent Artists Studio in Beaconsfield, Berkshire.

Associated Communications Corporation companies[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "ITC". BFI. Retrieved 2008-04-15. 
  2. ^ a b "ATV". BFI. Retrieved 2008-04-15. the ITA felt that the enormous amount of talent ITC controlled could easily lead it to monopolise the fledgling network 
  3. ^ "ATV". BFI. Retrieved 2008-04-15. The battle for the initials 'ABC' had to be settled in court, where the cinema owner succeeded on the basis of prior use. 
  4. ^ "ATV". BFI. Retrieved 2008-04-15. 
  5. ^ "A Quick Guide to ITC". 405 Alive. Retrieved 2008-04-15. 
  6. ^ Holmes à Court announces reverse takeover at Bell.Richard Battley. The Times, Tuesday, March 01, 1988; pg. 27;
  7. ^ Bond plan to merge with Bell empire. Richard Battley. The Times, Saturday, July 02, 1988; pg. 25
  8. ^ Bell recommends Bond Corp offer.(Reuter). The Times (London, England), Friday, August 19, 1988; pg. 25
  9. ^ Bond's sale of ITC estimated at £60m. John Bell, City Editor. The Times, Thursday, November 10, 1988
  10. ^ PolyGram filmed entertainment acquires ITC Entertainment Group. Business Wire January 10, 1995. Retrieved on November 21, 2010.
  11. ^ PolyGram buys Itc for $156m. The Times, Wednesday, January 11, 1995; pg. 25
  12. ^ "Media legend Grade dead". BBC News. 1998-12-13. 
  13. ^ http://www.apnewsarchive.com/1998/Entertainment-Tycoon-Lew-Grade-Dies/id-91bdc1130bd4a0418a44430317e2adcd
  14. ^ Seagram swallows PolyGram money.cnn.com December 10, 1998, Retrieved on July 19, 2014
  15. ^ "Thunderbirds are going, going, gone". BBC News. 1999-01-19. Retrieved 2013-06-22. 
  16. ^ Alwyn W. Turner (1 April 2013). Terry Nation: The Man Who Invented the Daleks. Aurum Press. p. 124. ISBN 978-1-84513-687-1. 
  17. ^ Fowler, Rebecca (31 August 1996), "'It would be cheaper to lower the Atlantic'", The Independent, London, retrieved 9 April 2012 
  18. ^ "IMDB". Retrieved 2008-04-13. 
  19. ^ http://www.screendaily.com/news/shout-factory-signs-itv-studios-deal/5058666.article?referrer=RSS
  20. ^ http://forum.blu-ray.com/showpost.php?p=10968958&postcount=155
  21. ^ Wanda Ventham (2007). Introduction to The Mirror’s New, Danger Man: Special Edition (DVD). Network DVD. 

External links[edit]