|Industry||Motion picture / television entertainment|
|Defunct||1988 to 1990|
Taft Broadcasting (1980–1987)
Sunn Classic Pictures, also known as Sunn International Pictures, Schick Sunn Classic Pictures, and Taft International Pictures was an independent U.S.-based film distributor, founded in 1971. The company was notable for family films and documentaries, and was purchased by Taft Broadcasting in 1980.
Sunn Classic was located in Park City, Utah, with offices in nearby Salt Lake City; its company name added an extra "n" to the word "Sun" to differentiate them from a publisher of pornographic books. The founder, Rayland Jensen, previously handled distribution of American National Enterprises' 1968 release, Alaskan Safari, which spent five years at the North American box office. In 1971, Jensen began his new company at the request of employees from the Schick razor company, at the time a subsidiary of Warner-Lambert. The founding executives were Jenson, Patrick Frawley (of Schick), and Charles E. Sellier Jr.
During its tenure, Sunn Classic spent US$85,000 in pre-production research on each of its films, conducting phone surveys and interviews with potential viewers. According to Bruce A. Austin, "Sunn identified as its market working-class families who rarely went to the movies more than twice a year". In the midst of the research, it released films with an MPAA rating of G, and in heavily marketed limited engagements. Through a process called four wall distribution (or "four-walling"), the company would rent theaters to show its films, and retained all of the box office receipts.
Sunn Classic specialized in family entertainment such as 1974's The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams, and its subsequent spin-off television series on the NBC network. The Outer Space Connection was released in 1975. This documentary was produced by Alan Landsburg but was distributed by Sunn Classic. By 1977, domestic sales for Grizzly Adams reached upwards of US$24 million; another Sunn release, In Search of Noah's Ark, made US$26 million.
For 1977's The Lincoln Conspiracy, the company departed from its normal four wall distribution strategy to demand up-front guarantees from theatres. Among its other titles were 1979's In Search of Historic Jesus and 1983's Cujo.
The company also ran a television unit in tandem with its film department. Most of the company's 1970's productions were produced by Charles E. Sellier Jr and several were directed by the young (at the time) director James L. Conway and both would go on to long careers in the entertainment industry.
In July 1980, the company and two Schick divisions were purchased by Cincinnati-based Taft Enterprises for over US$2.5 million. Eventually, the new owner christened Sunn Classic as Taft International Pictures. However, after Carl Lindner Jr. purchased Taft in 1987 and restructured it into Great American Broadcasting, the studio ceased operations. By the 2000s, the media and property assets of the original Sunn Classics were under new management.
Jensen and another fellow employee, Clair Farley, formed Jensen Farley Pictures; one of their early releases was 1981's Private Lessons.
Currently Sunn Classic's library is owned by Paramount Global subsidiary Paramount Pictures through Melange Pictures. However, very few films from that library have seen a DVD or Blu-ray release; those that have are mostly the later larger-budgeted Taft productions such as Cujo, Hangar 18, and The Boogens although some of their TV shows like The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams have been released on DVD, under the CBS DVD banner due to CBS' ownership of the television side of the library. Like with almost all the Melange Pictures owned films, Olive Films owns the home video rights to the catalog.
A partial list of films produced:
From 1977 to 1982 the company produced a series of television films with the Classics Illustrated brand (Schick Sunn Classic Pictures executive Patrick Frawley owned the rights to Classic Illustrated during this period):