From The Theatrical To The Video Market

If AIP 'disappeared' in 1980 after playing the majors' game, the other smaller exploitation companies met different destinies. Dimension Pictures also made an effort to upgrade its product. In the 1977-8 season, the company allocated production funds in the region of $15 million and enjoyed the noteworthy success of Ruby (Harrington, 1977), which grossed $16 million. Following this, Dimension tried to shift from quantity to quality, producing and releasing only a few films with budgets around $3 million each. The company's slim capitalisation, however, did not allow for this to happen, especially when in the first months of 1979 Dimension faced a series of lawsuits brought against it by a number of producers releasing through it. Soon the company found itself on the verge of bankruptcy, for which it officially filed in February 1981.44

New World Pictures also moved towards 'respectability' in the late 1970s. From large quantities of exploitation pictures earlier in the decade (budgeted at around $125,000-$200,000) the company shifted to the production of a smaller number of releases by the decade's end which included a few expensive films ($2 million for Avalanche [C. Allen, 1978] and $3 million for Battle Beyond the Stars [Murakami, 1980]).45 Corman quickly realised that a face-to-face competition with the majors was destined to fail so he kept distributing low-budget films, while trying to test the market with a few expensive productions. As a result he managed to survive the pressure of the majors, especially when he started utilising the new exhibition technologies that video and cable television represented. In 1983 Corman sold New World Pictures for $16.5 million and started a new venture, this time focusing primarily on the lucrative home video market.46

Crown International Pictures continued its selective distribution policies and the small programme of production it had initiated since 1972. Although Crown also increased its budgets substantially (by 1978 it was allocating $20 million alone in production costs),47 it nevertheless avoided an AIP/Dimension-type expansion. Like Corman, Crown executives recognised very early on the significance of video and cable, especially as these technologies were developing outside the United States. More than any other exploitation company, Crown focused on the international home video and television market, becoming a reliable supplier of exploitation product and surviving also the squeeze of the late 1970s.

Although extremely low-budget exploitation filmmaking by a large number of tiny independent companies continued to exist during these developments, this type of cinema became gradually associated with the home video market. With both the majors and the larger independents resorting to saturation releases which occupied the majority of the screens, ultra low-budget independents found video to be the only exhibition outlet available to them. With the penetration of the VCR increasing exponentially in the 1980s (see Chapter 7), exploitation cinema found what seemed to be a permanent home in the home video market.

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Film Making

Film Making

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