Posts Tagged ‘Republic Pictures


There are movies which Kit Parker Films owns rights but cannot find suitable elements.  Maybe you can help!


“God’s Country” (Lippert/1946)

Original Cinecolor nitrate negative decomposed in the 1960s. 35mm and 16mm black and white duplicate negative and sound track survive.


“Highway 13” (Lippert/1948)

Not really missing, but we had to use the 16mm negative which was less than optimal.  I was told not to bother because the whole movie took less than 3 days to produce but, hey, it’s a mini-masterpiece!


“Rawhide Trail” (Terry and Lyon-Allied Artists/1958)

Nothing at all. The Allied Artists library was split between Warner Bros. and Paramount years ago, but this independent production was not among them.


“Mr. District Attorney in the Carter Case” (Republic/1941)

Nitrate negative decomposed. Not released to television so no duplicate negatives produced.


“The Incredible Face of Dr. B”

and “House of Frights”

Mexican films from 1963 that were also released in English language versions. Although the Spanish negatives survive, the English versions apparently do not.


“Let’s Live Again” (Seltzer-Fox/1948)

Only a mediocre 16mm negative and print survive.


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I saw my first DVD and knew it was all over…

   The former Kit Parker Films building in Sand City,CA


Kit Parker Films continued humming along throughout the 1990s.  Videotape shut down most of the non-theatrical distributors, but we held steady because the majority of our customers demanded the clarity that film provided…and from day one we were Ninja about print quality.  The acquisition of the “The Classic Collection” (a joint venture between Films Incorporated and Janus Films) helped, because this added many international classics to our library.  But by that time, our theatrical division was our mainstay…However, starting in 1997, we started losing our studio contracts…not because they weren’t happy with our work, it was…corporate politics.


 We had just completed a successful revival of classic 1970s blaxploitation movies called “Blaxploitation, Baby,” that helped Orion sell tens of thousands of VHS tapes of the individual movies.  Then we got the word that MGM/UA bought Orion Pictures, and they wanted their own “classics” division, which meant taking all of the prints back from us.  In addition, they placed someone in charge who knew nothing about classics distribution. 


The writing was on the wall…


In the mid-1980s some very savvy executives took over and turned the floundering Republic Pictures into a very successful Home Video company.  However, in 1994,   Aaron Spelling purchased the company, and Republic’s former brain trust left, and a new regime was put in charge who wasn’t in the league of the former management.  (An exception was a lawyer by the name of Margie Pacacha, who was both smart and decent…someone destined for much bigger things.) We grew concerned because KPF had the entire Republic library on an exclusive basis for both theatrical and non-theatrical use.  I knew from experience that when a successful company changes hands it often meant trouble for me, and we certainly didn’t want to lose evergreen titles like “High Noon,” “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and “Johnny Guitar.”  Fortunately life moved along on a fairly even keel (we had released a very successful compilation of Max Fleischer cartoons, called “Betty Boop Confidential”).  Then in 1999 Viacom (Paramount) bought Spelling Entertainment, and it was all over for us.  As with MGM/UA, the studio decided they’d distribute the films themselves, so we sent all of the films to Paramount, and once again the library was under the control of a studio’s so-called classic division.


Right on the heels of that loss, we took our final blow.  I went to Warner Bros. to meet with distribution executive Jeff Goldstein to hopefully make a deal to acquire theatrical rights to “The Wizard of Oz,” which had been recently restored and had a brief theatrical run after which there were hundreds of unused prints I could certainly put to good use.  Warner Bros. was by far my most important client, and Jeff told me that everyone at Warner Bros. Distribution, knew I was doing a great job, but they had to take their pictures back.  I was never told straight-up, but it was whispered by others in the company that the decision was political; by then WB had acquired Ted Turner’s library of classics, which included all of the pre-1986 MGM, and pre-1948 Warner Bros. titles, as well, and no one wanted to take the chance of getting on Ted Turner’s bad side for fear he would go to Warner’s CEO and say, “Why is someone else distributing my films, when we have our own distribution company?” 


Of course, the logical answer would have been that not only would they have made much more money with me doing it with no effort whatsoever on their part.  Jeff made it clear that even if I distributed their films for free, they still would have taken them back.  Once again, a studio hired someone with no experience to handle their classics.  Jeff was a good guy, as were Barry Reardon and Dan Fellman above him.…they even bought the bookings I had already taken…something they were under no obligation to do.  The Warner Bros. people were always good to me.


However, I was reeling after that disappointment, and although we were still profitable, I was wondering what I would be doing for the years to come.  It was not a good feeling.


Then I got a call from Peter Becker of Janus Films/The Criterion Collection, who asked me to reissue the restored version of “Gimme Shelter,” originally released in 1970.  Their goal was to generate publicity for Criterion’s subsequent DVD release of the classic rock movie…a job all of us at KPF were well equipped to do.  (We had worked with them earlier on “Picnic at Hanging Rock” and “The Last Wave,” to good success.)


I declined, as by then I was tired of all of the work that went into distributing a multi-city  reissue.  But, Peter, and my long-time friend at Janus, Jonathan Turell, persisted…so it was one more reissue for Kit Parker Films!  Janus Films, I might add, was and is the epitome of class. Becker and Turell were happy with the job we did on distribution/marketing because it generated ink in major city, and national press.  After my work was done, a package arrived with a note in it, “Thank you. Peter.”  It was a DVD player…the first I’d ever seen.  I tried it out that night…took one look at the beautiful image, and had mixed emotions because I knew film would be dead in a few years, and that was sad for a life-long “film guy,” but the quality of the DVD suggested that maybe there was something in it for me to pursue. 


The next day, 29 years after forming my company, I announced the closing of our film distribution business…it took a year to wrap things up because we had to honor all of the future bookings.  It was heartbreaking to see the KPF team go, but it was time to reinvent myself…

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We had a problem – lack of exclusives

Just about everything in my library was also distributed by others, so we kept our overhead and prices low to compete with them.  Our 1980-81 catalog was over 350 pages.

Then along came NTA (National Telefilm Associates) who during the 1950s-60s was one of he major syndicators of feature films and television programs.  They owned the Republic Pictures and NBC libraries, and lots of really good independent productions such as those produced by Stanley Kramer.  But NTA didn’t keep up with the times and became just a shadow of its former glory.  In the late 1970s they agreed to license me some of their best feature films:  High Noon, The Quiet Man, Johnny Guitar, It’s a Wonderful Life, and others but, again, non-exclusively.

By the early 1980s VHS began to rapidly put 16mm libraries out of business because it was far cheaper than 16mm film.  KPF grew because of our high print quality standards; and fortunately, there were still customers who were interested in the big screen experience, which VHS could never match.

By the mid-1980s the NTA contract expired, some savvy executives had taken over the company, re-named it Republic Pictures, and turned it into a major home video label.  One of the execs was Phil Kromnick, and I made a deal with him for the exclusive theatrical and non-theatrical rights to the entire Republic library.  Fortunately Kromnick, and Republic’s president, Steve Beeks, believed in me, and it allowed Kit Parker Films to move on to its second phase…theatrical distribution.

Republic had a lot of junk, but they also had some real gems which I never distributed before such as “La Dolce Vita,” “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” (1956), “Operation Petticoat,” “Letter From an Unknown Woman,” and Max Fleischer cartoons, including Betty Boop.  By this time television used video tape exclusively, so Republic gave me all of their 35mm and 16mm prints.  I saved a lot of money because new prints were very expensive to manufacture, and obtaining good condition used copies saved me a lot of money, and freed up capital for further acquisitions and expansion.

The 1980s was the slippery slope for film libraries, particularly for the ones who serviced traditional government and institutional accounts like public libraries, camps, and YMCA’s; they all witched to video tape.  By the mid to late 1980s I had purchased what was left of the once-stalwart Twyman Films, Clem Williams Films, and Wholesome Film Center, with the goal of obtaining whatever classic they might still have.  The libraries had deals with Warner Bros., whom we never dealt with, so I went to Bill Grant, who was in charge of non-theatrical for that studio and asked him if he would let me retain the prints of Warner titles acquired from the libraries I had purchased.  Bill said no because he didn’t want me in competition with WB’s flagship non-theatrical distributor, Swank Motion Pictures, but did ask if I would be interested in distributing some of their classics theatrically.

At that time Warner only owned the movies it made after 1948, so there was no “Casablanca,” but some good ones nevertheless, like “Rebel Without a Cause,” “A Streetcar Named Desire,” and those great Warner Bros. cartoons.  Bill gave me 30 titles to start with and see what I could do, and within six months we had doubled the number of bookings.  WB was making more money and extending absolutely no work to do so.  The exhibitors were thrilled because they now were guaranteed excellent service and prints.  Bill was happy, and I was glad to have him and his boss, Warner Bros. head of distribution, Barry Reardon, champion my work.  Reardon, incidentally, was the Dean of Motion Picture Distribution.


But money was really not what motivated Warner Bros., as classics and their backlog library in general was but a fly speck for a company that was releasing blockbusters.  In those days studios had a couple of dozen branches all around the country servicing their customers.  When a particular branch was asked to book a classic, or cartoon, the same people who were scheduling the big hits had to stop what they were doing and find a branch that had a print (it could have been in over 30 different warehouses around the country), pray it was in good condition, and get it shipped to the proper branch for further shipping to the exhibitor.  Each booking cost WB $125 in overhead, and sometimes that amount again in shipping charges…all for a $250 rental.  I was a hero with the Warner Bros. distribution team because their former burden was reduced to telling their customers three words, “Call Kit Parker.”

Truckloads of WB prints started arriving, and we built up a theatrical business that was more substantial and profitable than our 16mm business ever war.  The people at Warner Bros. really made me feel like part of their family.

P.S.  I also built a 35mm theatre in my home…a thrill of thrills for a movie buff.

To be continued.   


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