- The Cannon Group
The Cannon Group, Inc. Industry Movie studio Fate Bankruptcy (Original) Successor MGM and New Cannon Productions Founded October 23, 1967 Defunct 1993 Headquarters United States (Also owned studios and cinema chains throughout the UK, Israel and Europe) Key people Dennis Friedland (1967-1979)
Christopher C. Dewey (1967-1979)
Menahem Golan (1979-1989)
Yoram Globus (1979-1993)
Giancarlo Parretti (1989-1990)
Ovidio G. Assonitis (1989-1993)
Christopher Pearce (1990-1993)
Products Motion pictures, Video releasing, Cinema Chains (UK & Europe) Subsidiaries Cannon Video, Cannon 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 from 1967 to 1993. 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.
Cannon Films was incorporated on October 23, 1967. It was formed by Dennis Friedland and Chris Dewey while they were in their early 20s. 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. 1978 saw the German release of the science-fiction musical The Apple under the title Star Rock. Other notable films co-produced by Friedland and Dewey included Blood on Satan's Claw and Michael Reeves' The Sorcerers.
1979–1985: Golan Globus era
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. The two cousins forged a business model of buying bottom-barrel scripts and putting them into production.
They tapped into a ravenous market for action films in the 1980s. 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 like Breakin’, Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo, The Last American Virgin, and the U.S. release of The Apple; period romance pictures like Lady Chatterley's Lover (1981), Bolero, and Mata Hari (1985); science fiction and fantasy films like Hercules, Lifeforce and The Barbarians; as well as serious pictures like John Cassavetes’ Love 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 picture Missing in Action, with Chuck Norris. But Cannon had first put into production the movie later known as Missing in Action 2: The Beginning. Only after the two movies were finished did the company realize that the planned second movie was vastly superior to the first movie. So, the first movie filmed became an awkward prequel.
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. Slavenberg Bank in the Netherlands provided bridge financing until the pre-sales amounts were collected.
1986–1989: Later years
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!" 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.
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." 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.
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) "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. Golan and Globus agreed to pay Marvel Comics $225,000 over the five-year option period, plus a percentage of the film’s revenues. The rights would revert to Marvel if a film was not made by April 1990.
Purchase by Pathé
By 1988, a cooling of the film market and a string of box office flops had drained Cannon’s capital. The multi-million dollar production of Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987), whose original $36-million budget was halved ($17 million) by Cannon, failed at the box office. Cannon signed an agreement with Warner Bros. to handle part of Cannon’s assets; however, the financial loss was staggering. Having purchased Thorn EMI, 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.) 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.
1990–1993: Relaunch & demise
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-Pathe merger, the Cannon Films library became part of the MGM library. During Parretti's tenure at MGM, 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. 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 Lyonnaise to validate their removal of Parretti, to the effect that a document he claimed allowed him to retain control of MGM was authentic; 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. 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. After Federal prosecuters 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. Parretti was released by the cort 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.
The 1993 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 1993, Cannon Pictures released its last film Street Knight before it closed down. Yoram Globus and Christopher Pearce later joined 21st Century Film Corporation until 1996.
Golan is still producing and directing films. Globus is the president of Globus Max, which has interests in film production and distribution and runs a 140-screen cinema chain in Israel.
In late 2011 it was revealed that Australian director Mark Hartley is working on a documentary about Cannon Films called "Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story Of Cannon Films".
The Cannon Group's first films in the United States were distributed independently and released on home video on the small Paragon Video label. Cannon then made a deal with MGM, and their movies were distributed for home video (and later some films theatrically) by MGM, appearing in the gray MGM Video "big boxes".
Later, Golan and Globus had a falling out with MGM, supposedly over the erotic unrated film Bolero with Bo Derek, which ended up being released under the U.S.A. Home Video label. Their movies were then released on home video for a short time by Media Home Entertainment, with some of the larger films, like Masters of the Universe and Over the Top, distributed by either or Warner Bros. or TriStar Pictures. When Cannon merged with Thorn EMI Screen Entertainment, they inherited EMI's home video label, which was then a partnership with HBO; however, they soon withdrew from the partnership to start their own video label with underwriting from WB, which lasted into the 1990s.
Today, the worldwide theatrical and home-video rights (as well as international TV rights) to the majority of Cannon's library are owned by MGM, with the following exceptions:
- Certain Cannon films distributed by Warner Bros. in most territories (including certain territorial home-video rights to Superman IV: The Quest for Peace) are now owned by WB themselves. Worldwide theatrical and all other rights in other European territories for Superman IV are now with Warner Bros..
- MGM owns the theatrical and home-video rights to Lifeforce. The television rights, however, belong to Sony Pictures Television, due to Sony-owned production/distribution company TriStar Pictures distributing the film in the United States. Sony also holds some digital rights, as it was formerly seen on Sony-owned website Crackle. (Since then, MGM posted it on Hulu.) For a short time, Sony co-distributed most of the MGM library on TV.
- Theatrical and home video rights to most Cannon films made after 1987 are now with Warner Bros., including Masters of the Universe and Little Dorrit.
- Selected Cannon films inherited through its merger with Thorn EMI Screen Entertainment, such as Link, are now with EMI successor StudioCanal; Anchor Bay Entertainment handled the US home-video rights until 2010, when StudioCanal made a new deal with Lionsgate.
- MGM does not own the home-video rights to The Company of Wolves, a Palace Pictures/ITC Entertainment co-production that was released on DVD by Hen's Tooth, under license from international rights holder ITV Global Entertainment Ltd.
In all cases except worldwide television rights to Lifeforce, Trifecta Entertainment & Media handles the United States television rights to the Cannon pictures produced by Golan and Globus from 1979 onward; these rights were previously owned by Viacom Enterprises, Paramount Domestic Television, CBS Paramount Domestic Television, and CBS Television Distribution. CTD and its ancestor companies owned the TV rights to Superman IV until 2006, after which Warner Bros. Television took over the rights for three years, which went in 2009 to Paramount through television licensee Trifecta. Paramount Pictures owns the rights to distribute the Cannon library (except Lifeforce) on digital platforms. MGM retains television and digital platform rights to earlier Cannon films released before the company's purchase by Golan and Globus in 1979, such as Joe.
List of Golan-Globus productions
- Walker, Texas Ranger (1993-2001; pilot only)
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- ^ Template:Http://twitchfilm.com/news/2011/11/afm-2011-mark-hartley-to-do-the-electric-boogaloo.php
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