Embassy Pictures

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[1] 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 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.[2] 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.

Embassy Television logo, used from 1982-1986

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.

Library ownership

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.

Notable films


  1. ^ Dick, p.79
  2. ^ Dick, p. 80-81

Further reading

  • 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.

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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