Supriya Ghosh (Editor)

Embassy Pictures

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Covid-19
Industry  Film studio
Defunct  1986
Founder  Joseph E. Levine
Successor  Barry Spikings
Parent organization  The Coca-Cola Company
Fate  Sold
Products  Motion pictures
Founded  1942
Ceased operations  1986
Films produced  Escape from New York, The Lion in Winter, Carnal Knowledge, Nevada Smith, The Adventurers

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Embassy Pictures Corporation (also and later known as AVCO Embassy Pictures as well as Embassy Films Associates) was an American independent film production and distribution studio responsible for such films as Godzilla, King of the Monsters!, The Graduate, The Lion in Winter, Carnal Knowledge, The Night Porter, Phantasm, The Fog, Prom Night, Scanners, The Howling, Escape from New York, and This Is Spinal Tap.

Contents

Founding

The company was founded in 1942 by Joseph E. Levine, initially to distribute foreign films in the United States.

Some of Levine's early successes were the Italian-made Hercules films with Steve Reeves, Ishirō Honda's Godzilla, King of the Monsters!, and the 1961 adaptation of The Thief of Bagdad (which had virtually nothing to do with the 1940 version). Embassy also distributed Federico Fellini's film and Rick Carrier's Strangers in the City (1962).

In 1963, Levine was offered a $30 million deal with Paramount Pictures to produce films in the vein of his previous successes. Paramount would finance the films and Embassy would receive part of its profits. Under the deal, Levine produced The Carpetbaggers and its prequel Nevada Smith, which were successes, along with flops such as Harlow, starring Carroll Baker, and The Oscar.

By the 1960s, Levine had transformed Embassy into a production company. Later in the decade, Embassy functioned on its own with many Rankin/Bass animated features (including Mad Monster Party? and The Daydreamer), and successful live-action productions including The Graduate, The Lion in Winter and The Producers.

New ownership and dissolution

In 1967, Embassy enjoyed its greatest success with The Graduate. This enabled Levine to sell his company to Avco for a deal worth $40 million. Levine stayed on as chief executive.

In 1968, Avco Embassy launched Avco Embassy Television, which was sold to Multimedia, Inc. in 1976, becoming Multimedia Entertainment; that first television division has since been folded into what is now known as NBCUniversal Television Distribution, even though another company now owns television rights to the Embassy library.

In 1969 the company bought out Mike Nichols production company and signed him to make two movies.

The company became less successful in the 1970s and in 1973 recorded a loss of $8.1 million.

In 1972 the company had begun cutting back on production and by 1975 had stopped making movies altogether. Levine resigned in mid 1974 to re-enter independent production.

Robert Rehme years

In late 1977, Avco Embassy announced its intention to resume production. In 1978, Robert Rehme was appointed President and Chief Operating Officer and he convinced the company to give him $5 million for a production fund.

Under his stewardship, Avco Embassy concentrated on lower budgeted genre films, six of which were successful and became classics: The Manitou (1978), Phantasm (1979), The Fog (1980), Scanners (1981), Time Bandits (1981) and The Howling (1981).

They benefited in part from the fact that American International Pictures recently left the exploitation field, lessening competition in this area.

Rehme left the company in 1981, having seen it increase its revenue from $20 million to $90 million.

In 1981 Tom Laughlin offered to buy the company for $24 million but withdrew his offer.

Norman Lear and Jerry Perenchio

In January 1982, television producer Norman Lear and his partner Jerry Perenchio bought the studio for $25 million, dropping off the name "Avco" and changed the name of their own TV company T.A.T. Communications to Embassy Television and T.A.T. Communications Company to Embassy Communications, Inc. The company was already producing such network hits as The Jeffersons, One Day at a Time, and The Facts of Life, and by Tandem, Diff'rent Strokes and Archie Bunker's Place. During this period, they launched Silver Spoons, Square Pegs, Who's the Boss?, and Gloria.

In late 1982, they bought out Andre Blay Corporation and renamed the company to Embassy Home Entertainment; prior releases from its film catalog had been handled through Magnetic Video, as well as reissues of the Blay Video catalog. In 1984, Embassy Pictures was renamed to Embassy Films Associates.

Coca-Cola and others

Lear and Perenchio sold Embassy Communications (including Tandem Productions) to The Coca-Cola Company for $485 million on June 18, 1985,

Coca-Cola kept Embassy's television division alive; under their ownership the hit series 227 and Married... with Children began. Embassy Television was renamed Embassy Communications in 1986, then ELP (Embassy Limited Partnership) Communications in February 1988.

Coca-Cola, which also owned Columbia Pictures at the time, sold the theatrical division to Dino De Laurentiis, who folded the company into De Laurentiis Entertainment Group, and the home video division became Nelson Entertainment on August 15, 1987, run by Barry Spikings, along with some executives who had previously worked at DEG before it went bankrupt. Nelson Entertainment was the American subsidiary of Nelson Holdings International (NHI), a company based in Vancouver, Canada. Although De Laurentiis was now owner of Embassy, he was not given rights to then upcoming films such as Richard Attenborough's A Chorus Line, Crimewave, Saving Grace, and an adaptation of Stephen King's The Body (which became Stand by Me), which became properties of Lear and Perenchio. Nelson Entertainment, in addition to primarily handling the Embassy library for home video, also financed theatrical films in conjunction with Columbia Pictures. They were one of the primary partners, along with Columbia, in the formation of Castle Rock Entertainment, due to the home video success of co-founder Rob Reiner's Embassy-produced films which they still handled. In 1988, Nelson gave the physical manufacturing and distribution duties of their home video company to Orion Pictures, and some of their film productions were acquired by Orion as well. In 1991, Nelson was sold to New Line Cinema, who renamed the video division New Line Home Video and also briefly took over Nelson's stake in Castle Rock Entertainment.

1990s

By the early 1990s, key rights to the Embassy library transferred from company to company due to the bankruptcies of the companies that separately owned them (De Laurentiis for theatrical, Nelson for home video). Dino De Laurentiis's assets went to Parafrance International, in conjunction with Village Roadshow, while Nelson's assets were acquired by Credit Lyonnais Bank and later sold to PolyGram. Nelson's parent company, NHI continued to exist well into the mid-1990s.

Library ownership and property rights

Today, the Embassy corporation, its divisions and film and television holdings, are split. The underlying rights to a majority of the Embassy library are currently held by French production company StudioCanal, with individual media rights leased to other companies. The theatrical rights to the Embassy film library are managed by either Stuart Lisell Films or Rialto Pictures, depending on the individual re-issue rights. Home entertainment rights (DVD, Blu-ray) are at the hands of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer with 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment handling distribution for MGM. Other home video reissues (depending on certain titles) are owned by Image Entertainment (through The Criterion Collection), Lionsgate Home Entertainment, and Anchor Bay Entertainment, all via separate output deals. Sony Pictures Entertainment retained the television rights to most of the Embassy theatrical library and the Embassy logo, names, and trademarks through its subsidiary ELP Communications.

References

Embassy Pictures Wikipedia


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