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Troma Entertainment is an American independent film production and distribution company founded by Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz in 1974. The company produces low-budget independent movies that play on 1950s horror with elements of farce. Many Troma films contain social commentary. In 2012, the company officially released many of its films on YouTube. Troma has produced, acquired and distributed over 1,000 independent films since its creation.
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Troma films are Z-movies known for their surrealistic or automatistic nature, along with their use of shocking imagery; some would categorize them as "shock exploitation films". They typically contain overt sexuality, nudity, and intentionally sadistic, gory, and blatant graphic violence, so much that the term "Troma film" has become synonymous with these characteristics. Troma's slogan is "Movies of the Future." Troma reuses the same props, actors, and scenes repeatedly, sometimes to save money. At a certain point, however, this became another hallmark of Troma. Examples include a severed leg, a penis monster, and the flipping and exploding car filmed for the movie Sgt. Kabukiman, NYPD, which is used in place of any other car that needs to crash and explode.
Troma produced or acquired early films featuring several rising talents, such as Carmen Electra (The Chosen One), Billy Bob Thornton (Chopper Chicks in Zombietown), Vanna White (Graduation Day), Kevin Costner (Sizzle Beach, U.S.A.), J. J. Abrams (Nightbeast), Samuel L. Jackson (Def by Temptation), Marisa Tomei (The Toxic Avenger), Michael Jai White (The Toxic Avenger Part II), Vincent D'Onofrio (The First Turn-On!), David Boreanaz (Macabre Pair of Shorts), Paul Sorvino (Cry Uncle!), James Gunn (Tromeo and Juliet), Trey Parker and Matt Stone (Cannibal! The Musical), before they were discovered. Another Academy Award winning director, Oliver Stone, made his debut as an actor in The Battle of Love's Return.
Their latest production, Return to Nuke 'Em High Vol.1, was released in late 2013.
History of Troma Studios
In the mid-1970s, Kaufman and Herz began producing, directing, and distributing raunchy sex comedies such as The First Turn-On! and Squeeze Play!. Troma provided production support for Louis Malle's My Dinner With Andre, for which Kaufman served as a production manager.
In 1985, Troma had a hit with the violent dark comedy superhero film The Toxic Avenger. The film went on to become Troma's most popular, spawning sequels and an animated television program. However, following the financial demise of the company Troma itself, the sequels to the film were box office bombs, and the cartoon adaptation quickly ended. The Toxic Avenger character is now Troma's official mascot.
Kaufman's follow-up film to The Toxic Avenger was Class of Nuke 'Em High, co-directed with Richard W. Haines. The film was a hit nearly as successful, though it inspired two unsuccessful sequels, both following the financial demise of Troma. At one time, it was the highest-selling VHS release for Troma.
The Toxic Avenger was turned into a musical which debuted at the George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick, New Jersey and opened in New York in the fall of 2008. The Toxic Avenger Musical book by Joe DiPietro, the author of the long-running I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change and All Shook Up, was released the same year. The music is by David Bryan, keyboardist of the rock band Bon Jovi.
Soon after Class of Nuke 'em High was completed and distributed, Kaufman directed Troma's War. Intended as a criticism of what it saw as Ronald Reagan's attempt to glamorize war, the story concerns a group of everyday people who crash land on a remote island, only to find it populated by an isolationist militia that intends to overthrow the US government. Troma's War was a box office bomb. In the aftermath of the film's poor financial performance, Troma experienced financial hardship, jettisoning the company from the Hollywood mainstream. In the years that followed the financial failure of their films, Troma tried to reestablish itself as a smaller, independent film company, mostly out of financial necessity. Despite unsuccessful attempts to assert itself in the mainstream Hollywood community, notably with two direct sequels to The Toxic Avenger, and another stab at the superhero genre Sgt. Kabukiman, NYPD, Troma was unable to reenter the mainstream film market.
Work since 1995
From 1995 to 2000, Troma had a period of great creativity and produced some of their greatest work. Kaufman directed three independent films, all distributed in limited theatrical releases: Tromeo and Juliet, a loose parody of Shakespeare's play; Terror Firmer, a slasher film loosely based on Kaufman's book All I Need to Know about Filmmaking I Learned from the Toxic Avenger, and an independent film sequel to The Toxic Avenger trilogy titled Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger IV.
Troma's financial hardship worsened after the botched funding of a low-budget video feature titled Tales from the Crapper, which cost $250,000 despite most of the footage being completely unusable. India Allen, one of the producers, backed out of the film halfway through, and sued Troma, citing breach of contract, slander, sexual harassment, trade slander, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Kaufman supervised a reshoot in an attempt to salvage the film, dividing the footage into two parts and recasting the film as a double feature. Tales from the Crapper was released on DVD in September 2004.
Currently, Troma produces and acquires independent films, despite financial hardships and limitations. Troma Films has distributed many films from third parties including Trey Parker's Cannibal! The Musical. Lloyd encourages independent filmmaking, making cameo appearances in many low-budget horror films, occasionally without fee. Among his more recent appearances is in former collaborator James Gunn's directing debut, Slither, and his Guardians of the Galaxy.
Kaufman's long-time editor Gabriel Friedman co-directed and wrote the screenplay to his follow-up film, Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead, a musical zom-com which made its official New York premiere on May 9, 2008 (although the film had previewed numerous times on single screens for over a year). The film opened to positive reviews from Entertainment Weekly, and The New York Times. Financially, Poultrygeist was a box office disappointment, with a low-box office draw of only $22,623 against a budget of more than $450,000 (estimated)Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead was released in 2006 in theaters and 2008 on DVD.
During the winter of 2010/2011, Troma produced a feature-length film Father's Day, which Kaufman calls "a response film to Mother's Day". The film was written and directed by the Canadian filmmaking team Astron-6, debuting October 21, 2011, at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival where it took home the top prize of BEST FILM, as well as five other awards. In 2012 Father's Day was featured on the cover of Rue Morgue magazine and won Best Feature Film, Best Director, Best Male Performance, and Best Special Effects at The Fantastic Planet/A Night of Horror International film festival. This is a rare and impressive feat for a film that cost only ten thousand dollars to make. On October 31, 2012, Father's Day was refused classification in Australia, which makes it effectively illegal to sell or exhibit the film.
Troma's return to Hollywood
On April 7, 2010, Kaufman confirmed that a PG-13 remake of The Toxic Avenger was happening and will be produced by Akiva Goldsman. It actually is not the first attempt at a general audience-friendly version of the franchise, as Make Your Own Damn Movie noted a prior deal with New Line in the early 90s for a live-action take on the Toxic Crusaders. Another 1980s Troma classic, Mother's Day will also receive a remake and will be directed by Darren Lynn Bousman and produced by Brett Ratner. At the time Kaufman also said that he is negotiating a deal for a remake of Class of Nuke 'Em High.
Troma holds the annual Tromadance Festival in Park City, Utah at the same time as the Sundance Festival to accentuate their true independence from the mainstream. The festival screens submitted movies from independent filmmakers from around the world, the best of which are usually released on DVD by Troma or compiled in the Best of Tromadance series. In parallel, Troma acts as adviser to aspiring filmmakers with Kaufman teaching classes, contributing cameos and often releasing the finished films on DVD. 2009 marked the last time Tromadance was held in Utah; the festival was subsequently relocated to Asbury Park, New Jersey. Additionally, Tromadance adjusted its annual schedule to take place in April rather than in January as in previous years. In 2014, the festival moved to New York City and took place in June.
Kaufman has also had some success with several non-fiction books and a novelization of The Toxic Avenger. Released in 1998, All I Need to Know about Filmmaking I Learned from the Toxic Avenger is an autobiography of sorts co-written with James Gunn. This book was significant to those interested in Troma and Kaufman because it signified the first time a book had chronicled the history of the company, its films and its iconic figurehead. Kaufman continued to draw on his experiences as Troma chief in the "how-to" filmmaking books Make Your Own Damn Movie!, Direct Your Own Damn Movie!, Produce Your Own Damn Movie! and Sell Your Own Damn Movie!. A DVD box set has been released to coincide with release of each of the three books. In the video series, Kaufman interviews famous and infamous filmmakers about various filmmaking subjects.
In 2006 a novelization of The Toxic Avenger was released. It was co-written by Kaufman and long time Troma employee Adam Jahnke.
Films distributed by Troma
Also see List of Troma Team Video Titles for a complete list of films distributed by Troma Entertainment. Below is a list of some Troma distributed films.
- Beware! Children at Play
- Blood Junkie
- Blood Sucking Freaks
- Cannibal! The Musical
- The Class of Nuke 'Em High trilogy
- The Children
- Combat Shock
- Daddy's Deadly Darling
- Def by Temptation
- Escape from Hell
- Father's Day
- Ferocious Female Freedom Fighters
- The First Turn-On!
- Hanging Woman
- Heavy Mental: A Rock-N-Roll Bloodbath
- Killer Condom
- The Last Horror Film
- Mad Dog Morgan
- Maniac Nurses Find Extacy
- Monster in the Closet
- Mother's Day
- Mr. Bricks: A Heavy Metal Murder Musical
- Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead
- Rabid Grannies
- Redneck Zombies
- Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D.
- Sizzle Beach, U.S.A.
- Space Daze
- Surf Nazis Must Die
- Tale of Two Sisters
- Terror Firmer
- There's Nothing Out There
- The Toxic Avenger series
- Tony Trombo's Hick Trek 2
- Troma's War
- Tromeo and Juliet
- Vegas in Space
- When Nature Calls
- Yeti: A Love Story
Films formerly distributed by Troma
Some titles which have at one time, or another, been distributed by Troma Inc. have left the catalog. For instance, My Neighbor Totoro was originally released by Troma's subsidiary 50th Street Films, but only for a short time, and only for U.S. theatrical release. Others were briefly licensed for distribution on VHS such as Femme Fontaine Killer Babe for the C.I.A. which was one of Troma Team Video's original launch titles along with Sgt. Kabukiman NYPD and Class of Nuke 'em High Part III: The Good, The Bad and The Subhumanoid. Some titles, such as Maniac Nurses Find Ecstasy, are included on this list because they were previously listed but no longer appear in Troma's catalog.
- Angels' Wild Women 
- The Astro-Zombies (as Astro Zombies)
- Baby Doll Murders
- Blood of Ghastly Horror
- Breakin' in the USA (breakdancing instructional video)
- Canadian Ballet
- Chopper Chicks in Zombie Town
- Christmas Evil
- Club Life
- The Dark Side of Midnight
- Dracula vs. Frankenstein
- Dragon Gate
- Femme Fontaine Killer Babe For the CIA
- Fist of Fear, Touch of Death
- Ghost Ship (children's feature, not the horror film)
- Girl's School Screamer
- Hi Mom!
- Hungry Young Woman
- I Spit on Your Corpse
- Invasion for Flesh and Blood
- Mommy 2: Mommy's Day
- My Neighbor Totoro
- The Nick of Time
- Psycho A-Go-Go
- Pterodactyl Woman From Beverly Hills
- The Puppetoon Movie
- Recorded Live
- Rockin' Road Trip
- Romeo: Love Master of the Wild Women's Dorm
- Satan's Sadists
- Schlock (as Banana Monster)
- Space Freaks from Planet Mutoid
- Splatter University
- The Stendahl Syndrome
- Student Confidential
- That's My Baby!
- Together and Alone
- White Elephant: The Battle of the African Ghosts
Troma has also created/acquired specialty distributors for its films.
- 50th Street Films: Distributes independent films aimed at a mainstream audience. This division is notable for distributing My Neighbor Totoro in theaters.
- TromaDance: Distributes films from Troma's film festival.
- Roan Group: Distributes digitally remastered releases of classic films.
- EG Sports: Distributes golf instructional films by Michael Jacobs.
- "Horror Showman". New York Magazine. November 27, 2000. Retrieved 2009-07-24.
- "TROMA CELEBRATES UPCOMING 40TH ANNIVERSARY BY GIVING FANS FREE MOVIES ON TROMA YOUTUBE CHANNEL". Troma Entertainment, inc. December 6, 2012. Retrieved 2014-01-01.
- Kaufman, Lloyd; Jahnke, Adam; Haaga, Trent (2003). Make Your Own Damn Movie!: Secrets of a Renegade Director. L.A. Weekly Books. p. 196. ISBN 978-0312288648. Retrieved 2012-09-03.
- Rausch, Andrew J.; Dequina, Michael (2008). Fifty Filmmakers: Conversations With Directors from Roger Avary to Steven ... McFarland. p. 118. ISBN 978-0786431496. Retrieved 2012-09-03.
- SPIN - Google Books. Books.google.com. September 1987. p. 70. Retrieved 2012-09-03.
- Ouzounian, Richard (2009-12-06). "Toxic Avenger found his bard in Bon Jovi". Toronto Star. Retrieved 2010-10-28.
- Sharwood, Simon (August 31, 2012). "Schlockmeister Troma's back catalog hits YouTube". The Register. Retrieved 2012-09-02.
- Lee, Nathan (2008-05-09). "Going for the Finger-Licking Gusto". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-05-11.
- "Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead". Entertainment Weekly. May 22, 2008. Retrieved 2009-07-24.
- "Lloyd Kaufman on Father's Day movie! (part one)". YouTube. 2010-08-06. Retrieved 2012-09-03.
- "Award Winners 2011 - Toronto After Dark Film Festival 2011". Torontoafterdark.com. 2011-11-04. Retrieved 2012-09-03.
- Rue Morgue March 2012 cover (JPG). Listal.com.
- "Fantastic Planet/A Night Of Horror - Award Winners 2012". Fantasticplanetfilmfestival.com. Retrieved 2012-09-03.
- "Father's Day". Astron-6.com. 2011-10-21. Retrieved 2012-09-03.
- Shortly after, Troma and Starz entertainment entered into agreement for the production of Return to Nuke Em High, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2. As of present Return to Nuke Em High Vol. 1 has had a theatrical and home video release, while the 2nd volume is still in post-production and will likely premiere at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival."The Toxic Avenger' Remake Confirmed" www.fearnet.com April 7, 2010.
- Troma Fan site from 2003 with 2003 Filmography http://www.angelfire.com/film/troma/other/filmography.html
- All I Need to Know About Filmmaking I Learned From The Toxic Avenger Lloyd Kaufman and James Gunn, 2008 1st printing