- Embassy Pictures
Embassy Pictures Industry Film studio Fate Sold Successor De Laurentiis Entertainment Group (theatrical)
Nelson Entertainment (home)
Founded 1942 Defunct 1986 Products The Graduate
The Lion in Winter
Escape from New York
Embassy Pictures Corporation (previously known as Avco Embassy Pictures and later Embassy Film Associates) was an independent studio and distributor responsible for such films as The Graduate, The Lion in Winter, This Is Spinal Tap and Escape from New York.
The company was founded in 1942 by producer Joseph E. Levine, initially to distribute foreign films to the United States. Some of Levine's early successes were the Italian-made Hercules films with Steve Reeves and the 1961 adaptation of The Thief of Baghdad. Embassy also distributed Federico Fellini's film 8½ in the UK.
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, Levine sold the Embassy corporation to Avco. 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 1982, television producer Norman Lear and his partner Jerry Perenchio bought the studio, dropping off the name "Avco" and changed the name of their own TV company T.A.T. Communications to Embassy Television. The company was already producing such network hits as The Jeffersons, One Day at a Time, Diff'rent Strokes and The Facts of Life; during this period they launched Silver Spoons, Square Pegs, and Who's the Boss?.
In 1983 it set up its own home video division, prior releases from its film catalog had been handled through Magnetic Video. In 1984, Embassy Pictures was renamed to Embassy Films Associates.
In 1985, Norman Lear and Jerry Perenchio sold Embassy to The Coca-Cola Company, which also owned Columbia Pictures at the time. Coca-Cola kept Embassy's television division alive; under Coke's 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 1988. Coca-Cola sold the theatrical division to Dino De Laurentiis, who folded the company into De Laurentiis Entertainment Group, and the home video division to another entity known as Nelson Entertainment, run by Barry Spikings. Nelson Entertainment was the American subsidiary owned by Nelson Holdings International (NHI), a company based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
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 handled 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.
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.
All the while ELP Communications (now part of Sony Pictures Entertainment) retained the television rights to most of the Embassy theatrical library.
Today, the Embassy corporation, its divisions and film & television holdings, are split.
The theatrical rights to the Embassy film library (with the few exceptions noted in the next paragraph) are at the hands of French production company StudioCanal (represented by Stuart Lisell Films and Rialto Pictures, depending on the individual re-issue rights), with 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment (distributing for MGM), Image Entertainment (through The Criterion Collection), Lionsgate Home Entertainment, and Anchor Bay Entertainment handling video distribution (via separate output deals).
MGM owns A Chorus Line outright due to co-producer PolyGram Filmed Entertainment's holdings being incorporated into MGM's library. Sony owns Crimewave and Saving Grace (both co-produced by Embassy Pictures) and the television rights to Embassy's entire film output, and also owns the television output outright by virtue of Sony Pictures Television acquiring the Embassy television division.
As to the theatrical library, Columbia originally owned television rights to The Carpetbaggers and Nevada Smith, while Paramount owned all other rights (Trifecta Entertainment & Media now handles TV rights to the two films on behalf of Paramount). Columbia also originally handled television distribution of Blade Runner before WB took back full rights; ironically WB now also owns Watership Down and Rudolph & Frosty's Christmas In July, while the aforementioned Embassy-distributed ITC films are now the responsibility of ITV Global Entertainment Ltd.
- Godzilla, King of the Monsters (1956)
- Hercules (1958)
- Hercules Unchained (1959)
- The Thief of Baghdad (1961)
- Long Day's Journey Into Night (1962)
- The Empty Canvas (1964)
- Zulu (1964)
- The Carpetbaggers (1964) (co-production with Paramount)
- Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964)
- Nevada Smith (1965) (co-production with Paramount)
- Darling (1965)
- The Second Best Secret Agent in the Whole Wide World (1965)
- The Oscar (1966)
- John F. Kennedy: Years of Lightning, Day of Drums (1966)
- Where the Bullets Fly (1966)
- Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter (1966)
- Billy the Kid vs. Dracula (1966)
- Robbery (1967)
- Mad Monster Party? (1967)
- The Graduate (1967)
- Woman Times Seven (1967)
- The Producers (1968)
- The Lion in Winter (1968)
- The Thirteen Chairs (1969)
- Carnal Knowledge (1971)
- The Ruling Class (1972, US distribution only)
- Night Watch (1973)
- A Touch of Class (1973) (a Brut production)
- The Day of the Dolphin (1973)
- The Tamarind Seed (1974, produced by ITC Entertainment and Lorimar Productions)
- Farewell, My Lovely (1975, produced by ITC Entertainment)
- Deadly Hero (1976)
- Voyage of the Damned (1976) (an ITC production)
- The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea (1976)
- The Chicken Chronicles (1977, debut of Steve Guttenberg)
- Cross of Iron (1977, co-production with EMI Films and ITC Entertainment)
- Watership Down (1978)
- The Manitou (1978)
- Phantasm (1979)
- The Onion Field (1979)
- Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July (1979) (non-U.S. distribution only)
- The Fog (1980)
- Prom Night (1980) (a negative pickup from SimCom)
- The Exterminator (1980)
- Final Exam (1981) (home video release only)
- Scanners (1981)
- The Howling (1981)
- Escape From New York (1981)
- Time Bandits (1981, distribution only, produced by Handmade Films)
- Carbon Copy (1981)
- An Eye for an Eye (1981)
- Paradise (1982)
- Savannah Smiles (1982)
- The Soldier (1982)
- Swamp Thing (1982)
- Zapped! (1982)
- Fanny and Alexander (1983, US distribution only)
- Losin' It (1983)
- Eddie and the Cruisers (1983)
- This Is Spinal Tap (1984)
- The Bear (1984)
- The Sure Thing (1985)
- Crimewave (1985, first major motion picture studio attempt by Sam Raimi noted for its slapstick segments.. released after success of independently-released The Evil Dead)
- A Chorus Line (1985, co-produced with PolyGram Filmed Entertainment and distributed by Columbia Pictures)
- The Emerald Forest (1985)
- Saving Grace (1985)
- Rad (1986) (home video release only)
- Dick, Bernard F. "Engulfed: the death of Paramount Pictures and the birth of corporate Hollywood." The University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY (2001). ISBN 0-8131-2202-3.
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