de Passe Entertainment is an American film and television production company run by entertainment executive Suzanne de Passe. The company was founded by Berry Gordy Jr., in 1968, as Motown Productions, the film and television arm of Gordy's Motown Records label. In 2008, de Passe and Madison Jones started a successor company, de Passe Jones Entertainment.
Motown Productions' original focus was on the production of television specials for its star recording artists. These included TCB (1968) and G.I.T. on Broadway (1969), starring Diana Ross & the Supremes with The Temptations, The Temptations Show (also 1969), The Smokey Robinson Show (1970), Diana! (1971) starring Diana Ross, and Goin' Back to Indiana (also 1971) starring The Jackson 5. When Suzanne de Passe joined Motown in 1968, much of her work involved the production of these television specials. Motown's first television series was The Jackson 5ive (1971 - 1973), a Saturday morning cartoon by Rankin/Bass starring characters based upon Motown's popular teen act.
The company's first feature film was Lady Sings the Blues (1972), a Billie Holiday biographical film starring Diana Ross as Holliday and Billy Dee Williams as her husband Louis McKay. After Lady Sings the Blues became a success, garnering box office success and five Academy Award nominations, Ross and Williams were paired for a second feature, Mahogany (1975). Both films were coupled with successful music releases: Lady Sings the Blues was accompanied with a platinum-selling soundtrack album by Ross, while Mahogany featured Ross' number-one pop hit "Theme from Mahogany (Do You Know Where You're Going To)" Other Motown films included Scott Joplin (1977), another musician biopic starring Billy Dee Williams, and Thank God It's Friday (1978), which starred Donna Summer and featured her hit song "Last Dance".
Following the commercial and critical failure of Motown's eighth film, a 1978 adaptation of the Broadway musical The Wiz starring Diana Ross and the Jackson 5's Michael Jackson, the company focused more closely on television. Its productions during the late 1970s and early 1980s included TV movies such as Amateur Night at the Dixie Bar and Grill, (1979) and Callie & Son (1981) and TV specials such as the popular and successful Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, and Forever (1983). Motown 25, an anniversary special for the Motown Records label, was most noted for featuring Michael Jackson's famous performance of his non-Motown hit song "Billie Jean". By this time, Suzanne de Passe had become the executive producer in charge of Motown's film and TV products. Motown briefly returned to feature films with Berry Gordy's The Last Dragon, which became Motown's final theatrical feature.
In 1988, Gordy sold Motown Records to MCA Inc. (owner of Universal Studios, which co-produced four films with Motown) and Boston Ventures. The following year, he sold Motown Productions to de Passe, and the company continued its success in television with the popular miniseries Lonesome Dove (1989). A sequel, Streets of Laredo, would follow in 1995. Changing its name to de Passe Entertainment in 1992, the company has produced a number of successful TV programs, among them Sister, Sister (1994 - 1999), Smart Guy (1997 - 1999), and It's Showtime at the Apollo (produced by de Passe from 2002 to the present). Successful TV specials from the company include Motown biopics such as The Jacksons: An American Dream (1992) and The Temptations (1998), The Loretta Claiborne Story (2000), and the Essence Awards and NAACP Image Awards telecasts. de Passe Entertainment also produced the feature films Class Act (1992), starring rappers Kid 'n Play, and Who's the Man? (1993), starring hip-hop radio personalities Doctor Dré and Ed Lover.