Carolco Pictures

Carolco Pictures
Carolco Pictures, Inc.
Former type Motion picture
Industry Entertainment
Fate Bankruptcy, acquired by 20th Century Fox
Successor 20th Century Fox
C2 Pictures
Founded 1976
Defunct 1996
Headquarters United States
Key people Mario Kassar and Andrew Vajna
Products Motion pictures
Revenue Unknown
Net income Unknown

Carolco Pictures, Inc., Carolco International N.V., or Anabasis Investments was an American independent film production company that, within a decade, went from producing such blockbuster successes as Terminator 2: Judgment Day and the first three movies of the Rambo series (First Blood, Rambo: First Blood Part II, and Rambo III) to being bankrupted by box office bombs such as Cutthroat Island and Showgirls.


Early years

The company was founded by two film investors, Mario Kassar and Andrew Vajna, as Anabasis Investments. Their goal was to make their new studio a major independent production company producing A-movies. Their earliest films were co-produced with Canadian theater magnate Garth Drabinsky.

One of the first Anabasis/Carolco films was First Blood (1982), followed by the sequel Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985) (released the year it was renamed Carolco) with Sylvester Stallone (who later signed a ten-picture deal with the studio). The release of Rambo: First Blood Part II was so instrumental to Carolco's financial success that from then on, the music of the company's logo utilizes the first stanza of its famous score, written by Jerry Goldsmith.

Also in 1985, Carolco started a distribution deal with then-fledging production company TriStar Pictures. TriStar released a majority of Carolco's films from that point on in the U.S. and some international countries until 1994.

Carolco entered home video distribution as well. Independent video distributor International Video Entertainment (IVE) was going through financial difficulties and was near bankruptcy. In 1986, Carolco purchased IVE in the hopes of "turning the company around". The deal was finalized a year later.[1] IVE became LIVE Entertainment, later Artisan Entertainment, which was bought by Lions Gate Home Entertainment.

On August 28, 1987, Carolco acquired television syndicator Orbis Communications for $15.4 million and initiated television production and distribution. They also purchased the former De Laurentiis Entertainment Group production facility in Wilmington, North Carolina (where the television series Matlock and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze was partially filmed), and established Carolco Home Video, with LIVE Entertainment as output partner.

Jose Menendez was a member of the Board of Directors of Carolco until August 1989, when he and his wife were murdered by their sons Lyle and Erik Menendez.

After his partnership with Kassar, Vajna created a sister studio to Carolco, Cinergi Pictures, in November 1989. Cinergi started to release films with The Walt Disney Company through Hollywood Pictures and Touchstone Pictures.


In 1990, Carolco went on to acquire the rights to the Terminator franchise from Hemdale Film Corporation. The company re-hired Terminator director James Cameron (who had worked as a screenwriter on Rambo) and Arnold Schwarzenegger to star in a multi-million-dollar budgeted sequel, Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991). It was the highest-grossing film of the year, and as it turned out, the most successful film in Carolco's history. Also in 1990, Carolco entered into a joint venture with New Line Cinema to start Seven Arts Pictures, a distribution company which primarily released much of Carolco's low-budget output.

Carolco struggled for some years to secure the rights to Spider-Man, a property that James Cameron was keen to produce as a film. Plans fell through, although it would eventually be made as a Sam Raimi film for Columbia Pictures. Toward the end of shooting True Lies, Variety carried the announcement that Carolco had received a completed screenplay from Cameron.[2] This script bore the names of James Cameron, John Brancato, Ted Newsom, Barry [sic] Cohen and "Joseph Goldmari", a typographical scrambling of Golan's pen name ("Joseph Goldman") with Marvel executive Joseph Calimari.[3] The script's text was identical to what Golan had submitted to Columbia the previous year, with the addition of a new 1993 date. Cameron stalwart Arnold Schwarzenegger was frequently linked to the project as the director's choice for Dr. Octopus.[4][5] As late as 1995, Internet industry sources such as Baseline Hollywood still listed both Neil Ruttenberg (author of one of the 1990 "Doc Ock" variations submitted to Columbia), and James Cameron as co-writers.[6]


Though budgets for their feature films grew, box office revenue fell. Following the disastrous releases of Cutthroat Island and Showgirls by new distribution partner MGM in 1995, Carolco filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and the company closed soon after. Most of Carolco's assets were purchased by 20th Century Fox for $50 million.[7]

Out of the ashes rose a new partnership between Carolco's owner (Mario Kassar) and Cinergi's owner (Andrew G. Vajna) in 2002: C2 Pictures.

Carolco's library today

In 2000, after 20th Century Fox's acquisition, the assets of Carolco were later sold off to other companies, most already sold during Carolco's existence. Today, the ancillary rights to a majority of Carolco's library are held by French production company StudioCanal, since its parent company, Canal+ Group, owned a stake in Carolco (eventually buying out its partners). In the United States, television and internet rights to the theatrical library are held by Paramount Pictures, with Trifecta Entertainment & Media (inherited from CBS Television Distribution and predecessor company Worldvision Enterprises, once a Spelling Entertainment company) handling TV syndication on Paramount's behalf. However, there are certain exceptions, such as Cliffhanger, which Sony Pictures Television distributes. CBS also continues to distribute Orbis/Carolco's television library, with the exception of the Orbis-distributed Live Aid concert, whose rights are currently held by Warner Music Group.

Lionsgate continues to hold the U.S./Canadian home video rights (via a new output deal with StudioCanal), while the international home video rights are held by a different company for each country. For example, the UK rights are with Momentum Pictures, a subsidiary of Alliance Atlantis, although StudioCanal's acquisition of Optimum has seen some of Momentum's versions re-issued under Optimum, and the Australian rights rest with Universal Studios. Also, Lionsgate spun off its Canadian distribution arm as Maple Pictures in 2005, hence the Canadian video rights rest with Maple.

The only Carolco films not included in the deal are the following (the US distribution rights to these have been retained by their original theatrical distributors, noted in parentheses):

In the cases of Cliffhanger, Hamlet, Last of the Dogmen, and the Universal films, the various international rights holders did change from the originals.

Additionally, the television and digital rights to Cutthroat Island and Stargate remain with MGM, who also owns the rights to the Stargate franchise, having produced four TV series (three live-action and one animated) and two direct-to-DVD films (Stargate: The Ark of Truth and Stargate: Continuum).

Also, Lionsgate owns some ancillary rights to the 1994 Stargate film, and full rights to Wagons East!.





  • The Changeling (distributed by Associated Film Distribution)



  • Rambo: First Blood Part II




Releases distributed by New Line/Seven Arts
  • Food of the Gods II



Releases distributed by New Line/Seven Arts
Made-for-TV films


Releases distributed by New Line/Seven Arts
Made-for-TV films


Releases distributed by New Line/Seven Arts
TV films





External links

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