The Cannon Group, Inc.

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The Cannon Group, Inc.
Industry Film studio
Fate Integrated into parent company MGM
Founded October 23, 1967 (1967-10-23)
Founder Dennis Friedland
Christopher C. Dewey
Defunct 1994 (1994)
Headquarters United States
(Also owned studios and cinema chains throughout the UK, Israel and Europe)
Key people
Dennis Friedland
Christopher C. Dewey
Menahem Golan
Yoram Globus
Giancarlo Parretti
Ovidio G. Assonitis
Christopher Pearce
Products Motion pictures
Video releasing
Cinema Chains (UK & Europe)
Subsidiaries Cannon Video
Cannon Cinemas
Thorn EMI Screen Entertainment
Thorn EMI Video
ABC Cinemas

The Cannon Group Inc. was an American group of companies, including Cannon Films, which produced a distinctive line of low- to medium-budget films[2] from 1967 to 1994.[3] The extensive group also owned, amongst others, a large international cinema chain and a video film company that invested heavily in the video market, buying the international video rights to several classic film libraries.

The company was much more popular in the United Kingdom than in its native United States, which is indicative as to why the group owned several cinema chains in the UK.


1967–1979: Beginnings[edit]

Cannon Films was incorporated on October 23, 1967. It was formed by Dennis Friedland and Chris Dewey while they were in their early 20s. They had immediate success producing English language versions of Swedish soft porn films directed by Joseph W. Sarno: Inga (1968) aka "Jag - en oskuld" and To Ingrid, My Love, Lisa (1968) aka "Kvinnolek". By 1970, they had produced films on a larger production scale than a lot of major distributors, such as Joe, starring Peter Boyle. They managed this by tightly limiting their budgets to $300,000 per picture—or less, in some cases. However, as the 1970s moved on, a string of unsuccessful movies seriously drained Cannon’s capital. This, along with changes to film-production tax laws, led to a drop in Cannon's stock price.

1979–1985: Golan Globus era[edit]

By 1979, Cannon had hit serious financial difficulties, and Friedland and Dewey sold Cannon to Israeli cousins Menahem Golan (who had directed The Apple) and Yoram Globus for $500,000.[4] The two cousins forged a business model of buying barrel-bottom scripts and putting them into production.

They tapped into a ravenous market for action B-pictures in the 1980s.[5] Although they are most remembered for the Death Wish sequels and Chuck Norris action pictures such as The Delta Force and Invasion U.S.A., and even the vigilante thriller Exterminator 2 (the sequel to 1980’s The Exterminator), Cannon’s output was actually far more varied, with musical and comedy films such as Breakin’, Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo, The Last American Virgin, and the U.S. release of The Apple; period drama pictures such as Lady Chatterley's Lover (1981), Bolero, and Mata Hari (1985); science fiction and fantasy films such as Hercules, Lifeforce and The Barbarians; as well as serious pictures such as John CassavetesLove Streams, Zeffirelli’s Otello (a film version of the Verdi opera), Norman Mailer’s Tough Guys Don’t Dance, Andrei Konchalovsky’s Runaway Train, and Shy People; and action/adventure films such as the 3-D Treasure of the Four Crowns, King Solomon’s Mines, Cobra and American Ninja.

One of Cannon’s biggest hits was the Vietnam action B-movie Missing in Action, with Chuck Norris.[6] The film, however, was criticized heavily as being a preemptive cash-in on the Rambo film series.[7][8] James Cameron's story treatment for Rambo: First Blood Part II was floating around Hollywood in 1983, which Golan and Globus reviewed and were "inspired" by.[7][8] The writers of MIA even gave Cameron credit saying their film was inspired by his script treatment.[9] But Cannon had initially put the prequel Missing in Action 2: The Beginning into production. Only after the two movies were completed had the company realized that the planned second movie was superior to the first one. So, the first movie produced became an awkward prequel.[10]

During these years, Cannon worked with entertainment-advertising company Design Projects, Inc. for most of the one-sheet posters, trade advertising, and large billboards prominently displayed at the Cannes Film Festival each year. Substantial pre-sales of the next years' films were made based on the strong salesmanship skills of Golan, Danny Dimbort, and the advertising created by Design Projects. The deposits made from these sales financed production of the first film in the production line-up, which—when completed and delivered to theatre owners around the world—generated enough money to make the next film in the line-up. Slavenburg's Bank in the Netherlands provided bridge financing until the pre-sales amounts were collected.

1986–1989: Later years[edit]

By 1986, when company earnings reached their apex with 43 films in one year, Cannon Films shares had soared a hundredfold. Golan remained Chairman of the Board, while Globus served as President.

During this year, Cannon Films released Robotech: The Movie (also called Robotech: The Untold Story) for a limited run in Mesquite, Texas, a suburb of Dallas. Cannon was reportedly unsatisfied with Carl Macek’s first version of the movie, which was almost a straight adaptation of the anime Megazone 23. It was at their insistence that footage from The Super Dimension Cavalry Southern Cross (the series adapted as the Robotech Masters segment of the Robotech TV series) and Megazone 23 be spliced together to produce a more action-oriented movie. Macek recalls that although he was unhappy with this revised version, Menahem Golan, after viewing it, happily said: "Now that’s a Cannon movie!"[citation needed] Nevertheless, Robotech: The Movie was unsuccessful in its brief Texas run and saw no further release. Carl Macek has gone on record as disowning it.[citation needed]

Film critic Roger Ebert said of Golan-Globus in 1987, "no other production organization in the world today—certainly not any of the seven Hollywood "majors"—has taken more chances with serious, marginal films than Cannon."[11] That year, Cannon gained its greatest artistic success: its Dutch production The Assault won the 1986 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and a Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Meanwhile Otello, based on the opera of the same name also received a Golden Globe nomination that year.

Golan and Cannon Films were famous for making huge announcements and over-promoting movies that did not live up to expectations—or even exist. For instance, Lifeforce (1985) was to be "the cinematic sci-fi event of the '80s" and Masters of the Universe (1987) was dubbed "the Star Wars of the '80s."


Additionally, Cannon owned the film rights to Spider-Man, and planned to make a Spider-Man movie in the mid-1980s.[12] Golan and Globus agreed to pay Marvel Comics $225,000 over the five-year option period, plus a percentage of the film’s revenues.[12] The rights would revert to Marvel if a film was not made by April 1990.[13] Marvel and Columbia would eventually complete a film several years later for director Sam Raimi, after the rights had been resecured.

Pathé ownership and popularity in the UK[edit]

By 1988, a cooling of the film market and a series of box office flops—including the multi-million dollar production of Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987), whose original $36-million budget was slashed to $17 million—had once again put Cannon in financial woes. The company signed an agreement with Warner Bros. to handle part of their assets; however, the financial loss was staggering. Having purchased Thorn EMI's Thorn EMI Screen Entertainment division in 1986,[14] Cannon Films was severely stretched, and faced bankruptcy. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission began an investigation into Cannon's financial reports, suspecting that Cannon had fraudulently misstated them.

On the verge of failure, Cannon Films was taken over by Pathé Communications, a holding company controlled by Italian financier Giancarlo Parretti. Financed by the French bank Credit Lyonnais, Pathé Communications' takeover of Cannon immediately began a corporate restructuring and refinancing of $250 million to pay off Cannon debt. By 1989, Golan, citing differences with both Parretti and Globus, resigned from his position and left Cannon to start 21st Century Film Corporation, while Globus remained with Pathé.

One of the final movies produced by the team of Golan and Globus that received a wide release under the Cannon Films banner was the Jean-Claude Van Damme post-apocalyptic action film Cyborg. This film was conceived to use both the costumes and sets built for an intended sequel to Masters of the Universe and the ill-fated live-action version of Spider-Man. Both projects were planned to shoot simultaneously under the direction of Albert Pyun. After Cannon Films had to cancel deals with both Mattel and Marvel Entertainment because of their financial troubles, they needed to recoup the money spent on both projects.

As part of his severance package from Pathé, Golan took the rights to Marvel’s characters Spider-Man and Captain America. (Golan was able to put Captain America into production, and released it directly to video through his 21st Century Film Corporation, while, as aforementioned, Columbia would eventually take Spider-Man to production for 2002 release.) Not to let that pre-production work go to waste, Pyun wrote Cyborg, with Chuck Norris in mind, suggesting it to Cannon Films. Jean-Claude Van Damme was cast in the lead role. Some television stations still give the film’s title as Masters of the Universe 2: Cyborg.

The Cannon Group sold in May 1987 its 2,000-title British film library,[15] the Thorn-EMI Screen Entertainment Library, for $85-million to Weintraub Entertainment Group.[16]

Cannon's films proved to be much more popular in the United Kingdom than in its native United States, which is why Cannon acquired several British cinema chains during the 1980s, and founded the mail-order video distribution service Videolog as a joint venture with Columbia House Europe, Ltd. in the mid-1980s.

1990–1994: Relaunch and demise[edit]

Following Golan's departure from Cannon Films, he became the head of 21st Century Film Corporation. Globus continued working with Parretti at Pathé.

When Pathé took over control of MGM/UA in 1990 as part of the MGM-Pathé merger, a majority of the Cannon Films library became part of the MGM library (certain rights for other media and select films during the Thorn EMI merger now lie with other entities). During Parretti's tenure at MGM and Warner Bros., he appointed Globus as president of the studio for a brief period of time.

In 1990, Parretti reorganized Cannon Pictures, Inc. as the low-budget distribution arm of Pathé. Veteran Italian film producer Ovidio G. Assonitis served as Chairman and CEO of the new Cannon Pictures from 1990 to 1991. After the MGM-Pathe merger, Cannon Pictures spun off from Pathé, and was later run by former Cannon Group production head Christopher Pearce, who served as Chairman and CEO from 1991 to 1994. Cannon Pictures continued to release films, including A Man Called Sarge, American Ninja 4: The Annihilation and No Place to Hide.

Parretti was pushed out of management control of MGM in 1991 by Credit Lyonnais, after he defaulted on loan payments.[17] Parretti was later convicted of perjury and evidence tampering in a Delaware court for statements he made in a 1991 civil case, brought by Credit Lyonnais to validate their removal of Parretti, to the effect that a document he claimed allowed him to retain control of MGM was authentic;[18][19] he fled the country for Italy before he could be sentenced or extradited to France, where he was wanted on criminal charges related to his use of MGM's French assets.[19][20]

In 1997, the California Superior Court in Los Angeles entered a final judgement in a separate civil suit against Parretti, ordering him to pay $1.48 billion to Credit Lyonnais.[19] After Federal prosecutors unsealed an indictment against Parretti and Florio Fiorini accusing them of fraud in 1999, Italian authorities arrested both men and held them for extradition to the United States.[21] Parretti was released by the court of appeal in Perugia shortly thereafter, ordered to remain in his home town of Orvieto and report to the police three times a week, even though authorities in Rome had requested he be held pending a decision on the extradition.[22]

The 1988 Golan-Globus film Alien from L.A., starring model Kathy Ireland, was used as the basis of episode #516 of the movie-mocking television show Mystery Science Theater 3000. In 1994, Cannon Pictures released its last film Hellbound before it closed down. Yoram Globus and Christopher Pearce later joined 21st Century Film Corporation until 1996.

Post-Cannon aftermath[edit]

Golan continued to produce and direct films until his death on August 8, 2014. Globus is the president of Globus Max, which has interests in film production and distribution and runs a 140-screen cinema chain in Israel.[citation needed][23]

In 2014 there were two documentary films released about Cannon Films. Ratpac Entertainment released Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films, a documentary about Cannon Films, written and directed by Mark Hartley, and produced by Brett Ratner.[24] That same year, the Israeli documentary The Go-Go Boys: The Inside Story of Cannon Films was launched at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival.[25]

Ownership of the Cannon Group library[edit]

The Cannon Group library is, for the most part, currently owned by MGM, with certain exceptions. Paramount/Viacom, with distribution licensed to Trifecta Entertainment and Media, holds the TV and digital rights (US/Canada) to the Cannon library, with certain Warner Bros./Cannon co-productions included. However, Warner Bros. still holds other rights to those Cannon films which WB served as minority partner. Films produced during the Thorn EMI era are owned by StudioCanal. MGM holds all other rights including most worldwide home video rights, international television and some material airing on ThisTV.

List of Golan-Globus productions[edit]

Title Release Date Director Notes
The Happy Hooker Goes Hollywood June 4, 1980 Roberts, AlanAlan Roberts
Schizoid September 3, 1980 Paulsen, DavidDavid Paulsen
Enter the Ninja October 2, 1981 Golan, MenahemMenahem Golan
Dr. Heckyl and Mr. Hype October 9, 1980 Griffith, Charles B.Charles B. Griffith
The Apple November 21, 1980 Golan, MenahemMenahem Golan
New Year's Evil December 3, 1980 Alston, EmmettEmmett Alston
Hospital Massacre October 16, 1981 Davidson, BoazBoaz Davidson
Body and Soul October 23, 1981 Bowers, GeorgeGeorge Bowers
Death Wish II February 20, 1982 Winner, MichaelMichael Winner Co-production with Filmways Pictures
Lady Chatterley's Lover May 7, 1982 Jaeckin, JustJust Jaeckin
The Last American Virgin July 30, 1982 Davidson, BoazBoaz Davidson
That Championship Season December 9, 1982 Miller, JasonJason Miller
10 to Midnight March 11, 1983 Thompson, J. LeeJ. Lee Thompson
Nana, the True Key of Pleasure June 13, 1983 Wolman, DanDan Wolman
House of the Long Shadows June 17, 1983 Walker, PetePete Walker
Hercules August 26, 1983 Cozzi, LuigiLuigi Cozzi Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Revenge of the Ninja September 16, 1983 Firstenberg, SamSam Firstenberg
Sahara March 2, 1984 McLaglen, AndrewAndrew McLaglen
Breakin' May 4, 1984 Silberg, JoelJoel Silberg
Making the Grade May 18, 1984 Walker, DorianDorian Walker
Sword of the Valiant August 17, 1984 Weeks, StephenStephen Weeks
Love Streams August 24, 1984 Cassavetes, JohnJohn Cassavetes
Bolero August 31, 1984 Derek, JohnJohn Derek
Exterminator 2 September 14, 1984 Buntzman, MarkMark Buntzman
Ninja III: The Domination September 14, 1984 Firstenberg, SamSam Firstenberg
Missing in Action November 16, 1984 Zito, JosephJoseph Zito
Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo December 21, 1984 Firstenberg, SamSam Firstenberg
The Ambassador January 11, 1985 Thompson, J. LeeJ. Lee Thompson
Missing in Action 2: The Beginning March 2, 1985 Hool, LanceLance Hool
The Company of Wolves April 19, 1985 Jordan, NeilNeil Jordan
The Assisi Underground May 3, 1985 Ramati, AlexanderAlexander Ramati
Rappin' May 11, 1985 Silberg, JoelJoel Silberg
Grace Quigley May 17, 1985 Harvey, AnthonyAnthony Harvey
Lifeforce June 21, 1985 Hooper, TobeTobe Hooper
Runaway Train December 6, 1985 Konchalovsky, AndreiAndrei Konchalovsky
American Ninja August 30, 1985
Mata Hari September 1985
Invasion U.S.A. September 27, 1985
Death Wish III November 1, 1985
King Solomon's Mines November 22, 1985
The Delta Force February 14, 1986
The Naked Cage March 7, 1986
America 3000 April 1986
Behind Enemy Lines April 1986
Dangerously Close May 9, 1986
Cobra May 23, 1986
Invaders from Mars June 6, 1986
Robotech: The Movie July 25, 1986 Not released in the US
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 August 22, 1986 Co-production with Europa Films
Lightning, the White Stallion August 1986
Otello September 12, 1986
Avenging Force September 12, 1986
52 Pick-Up November 7, 1986
Firewalker November 21, 1986
Duet for One December 25, 1986
Assassination January 9, 1987
Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold January 30, 1987
The Assault February 6, 1987
Over the Top February 13, 1987 Co-production with Warner Bros.
Number One with a Bullet February 25, 1987
Street Smart March 20, 1987
Down Twisted March 1987
The Barbarians March 1987 Co-production with Warner Bros.
American Ninja 2: The Confrontation May 1, 1987
Superman IV: The Quest for Peace July 24, 1987 Co-production with Warner Bros.
Masters of the Universe August 7, 1987
King Lear September 15, 1987
Tough Guys Don't Dance September 18, 1987
Surrender October 9, 1987
Barfly October 16, 1987
Death Wish 4: The Crackdown November 6, 1987
Shy People December 1987
Under Cover December 4, 1987
Braddock: Missing in Action III January 22, 1988 Co-production with Warner Bros.
Going Bananas February 12, 1988 Co-production with Warner Bros.
Alien from L.A. February 26, 1988
Bloodsport February 26, 1988 Co-production with Universal Studios
Mercenary Fighters February 1988
Storm April 1, 1988
Appointment with Death April 15, 1988
Powaqqatsi April 29, 1988
Salsa May 7, 1988
Hero and the Terror August 26, 1988
Doin' Time on Planet Earth September 16, 1988
Little Dorrit October 21, 1988
Platoon Leader October 1988
Evil Angels (A Cry in the Dark)[26] November 11, 1988
Hanna's War November 23, 1988
Manifesto January 27, 1989
Kinjite: Forbidden Subjects February 3, 1989
American Ninja 3: Blood Hunt February 24, 1989
Cyborg April 7, 1989
The Fruit Machine April 28, 1989
Business as Usual May 19, 1989
Kickboxer September 8, 1989
Crack House November 10, 1989
American Ninja 4: The Annihilation March 8, 1990
Delta Force 2: The Colombian Connection August 24, 1990
Delta Force 3: The Killing Game March 22, 1991
The Borrower October 19, 1991
The Hitman October 25, 1991
Captain America July 22, 1992 Co-production with Marvel Entertainment
American Samurai 1992
Street Knight March 12, 1993
American Ninja V 1993
American Cyborg: Steel Warrior 1994
Hellbound April 8, 1994

TV series[edit]


  1. ^ Fabrikant, Geraldine (1989-03-01). "THE MEDIA BUSINESS; Golan Quits Cannon Group To Form His Own Company". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-08-08. 
  2. ^ Clarke, Gerald (2005-06-21). "Show Business: Bring Back the Moguls!". Time. Retrieved 2010-08-14. 
  3. ^ Lambie, Ryan (20 September 2013). "The rise and fall of Cannon Films". Den of Geek. Retrieved 11 March 2014. 
  4. ^ "Golan-globus Finally At Home In Hollywood". Retrieved 2010-08-27. 
  5. ^ Delugach, Al (August 24, 1986). "Cannon Bid as Major Studio Is Cliffhanger Firm's Future at Risk in High-Stakes Gamble". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-12-04. 
  6. ^ "Missing in Action, Box Office Information". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved January 29, 2012. 
  7. ^ a b "War Movie Mondays, Missing in Action Movie Review". The Flick Cast. Retrieved January 29, 2012. 
  8. ^ a b "Box Office Flashback, December 10, 1984". Pop Dose: Pop Culture News, Reviews and Discussion. Retrieved January 29, 2012. 
  9. ^ "Movie Review: Missing in Action Trilogy". WordPress. Retrieved January 29, 2012. 
  10. ^ "Trivia for Missing in Action". IMDb. Retrieved January 29, 2012. 
  11. ^ Ebert, Roger (1987). Two Weeks in the Midday Sun: a Cannes notebook. Kansas City, Mo.: Andrews and McMeel. p. 109. ISBN 978-0-8362-7942-9. OCLC 16679215. 
  12. ^ a b Grover, Ronald (2002-04-15). "Unraveling Spider-Man's Tangled Web". Business Week. Retrieved 2010-08-08. 
  13. ^
  14. ^ Knoedelseder, Jr., William K. (August 7, 1987). "Cannon Group Loses $9.9 Million in Quarter". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2 July 2012. 
  15. ^ Cieply, Michael (January 11, 1989). "Weintraub's Worries : Box-Office Flops Add to Woes of Flashy 'Mini-Major'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2 July 2012. 
  16. ^ Citron, Alan; Cieply, Michael (1991-04-24). "Financing Details Add Bizarre Twist to MGM Saga". Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles). Retrieved 2010-09-25. 
  17. ^ "Former MGM Owner Convicted of Perjury". The New York Times (New York: The New York Times Company). 1996-10-03. Business Day. Retrieved 2010-11-12. 
  18. ^ a b c Fabrikant, Geraldine (1997-06-11). "Parretti Ordered to Pay Credit Lyonnais". The New York Times (New York: The New York Times Company). Retrieved 2010-11-12. 
  19. ^ "Former MGM Executive Flees Before Court Date". The New York Times (New York: The New York Times Company). 1997-01-04. Business Day. Retrieved 2010-11-12. 
  20. ^ Pollack, Andrew (1999-10-13). "Bank Has Paid $4 Million To Settle Case Over MGM". The New York Times (New York: The New York Times Company). Retrieved 2010-11-12. 
  21. ^ Blitz, James (1999-10-20). "Italian financier is freed". Financial Times (London). p. 11. ISSN 0307-1766. 
  22. ^
  23. ^ Brown, Todd. "AFM 2011: Mark Hartley To Do The ELECTRIC BOOGALOO". Twitch. 
  24. ^ "'The Go-Go Boys': Cannes Review". Retrieved October 20, 2014. 
  25. ^ "A Cry in the Dark (1988) - Release dates". Retrieved 2012-06-15. 

External links[edit]