Peter Bogdanovich Hosts Special About The Shoe-String Budget Studio That “Saved Hollywood” By Inventing “The Teen Movie”
Roger Corman, Bruce Dern, Roger Ebert, Joe Dante,
Beverly Garland and Others Featured
JERICHO, N.Y., February 8, 2001 – How did low-budget teen fare like THE SHE CREATURE and REFORM SCHOOL GIRL help save Hollywood? Who created and perfected the “genre movie” – everything from hot rod, rock-n-roll, gladiator, biker and beach blanket movies to Poe, hippie-protest, kung fu and blaxspoitation pics? Where did dozens of cinema auteurs like Scorsese, Coppola, Cormanand Woody Allen and acting legends like DeNiro, Hopper and Nicholson get their start in the era before film schools ruled? How did the same folks who thrived on drive-in b-films grow to create pricey blockbusters like THE AMITYVILLE HORROR and the market for high-brow foreign entries like Fellini’s LA DOLCE VITA? The answers are all found in the history of Sam Arkoff and Jim Nicholson’s AMERICAN INTERNATIONAL PICTURES.
On May 1 at 10:00 PM (ET), AMERICAN MOVIE CLASSICS will tell the whole wild and wooly story of the studio that’s called the “original independent” with IT CONQUERED HOLLYWOOD! THE STORY OF AMERICAN INTERNATIONAL PICTURES. The one-hour special is narrated by director Peter Bogdanovich, one of the many film luminaries who got their start in AIP’s low-budget/high kitch features. The rollicking recounting of this freewheeling studio’s wild days features anecdote-filled interviews with AIP’s cigar-chomping founder Sam Arkoff and a list of his cinema co-conspirators including: Roger Corman (director of over two dozen AIP features), actor Bruce Dern (THE CYCLE SAVAGES) and critics Roger Ebert and Thomas McGee, author of Fast and Furious: The Story of American International Pictures.
“AIP’s campy classics and bold promotional bravado continue to inspire filmmakers and delight viewers,” adds Marc Juris, AMC Senior Vice President, Programming, Packaging and Production. “They’re a great example of what can be accomplished when you have limited means and the unlimited imagination of great talent.”
IT CONQUERED HOLLYWOOD! THE STORY OF AMERICAN INTERNATIONAL PICTURES begins in 1955, when Sam Arkoff, a lawyer from Iowa, and Jim Nicholson, a theater chain manager from Nebraska, came together to make movies. They had $3,000 in capital, no scripts and no stars, and had never made a film before. It was also a time when the movie industry was seriously threatened by two developments: the Supreme Court’s dictate that studios sell their movie chains and a new phenomenon called television.
Arkoff and Nicholson looked at the industry and decided that if they could acquire a film to distribute, they could create a movie company. The team cut the deals, kept the books, and made sure projects came in on or under their incredibly stingy budgets. They also had an incredible knack for conjuring up salacious titles and promotional campaigns, and the talent to create the concepts. The men lucked out when they met the young filmmaker Roger Corman who had just completed his second film, THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS. Nicholson and Arkoff managed to get Corman to agree to lend them his film for 90 days and American International Pictures was formed.
“My first impression of Jim and Sam was that they were two very bright and ambitious men,” said Corman. “They were just a little bit older than I was, and I thought it would be worthwhile to gamble with them.” Corman was promised a three-picture deal with a budget of $40,000 each. He agreed despite that, at that time, the average budget for a studio film was $4,000,000.
Nicholson and Arkoff then set off to meet movie exhibitors and convince them to invest in AIP’s proposal to create low-cost films. Theater owners could rent these films at considerably lower costs than the major studios were charging. The average AIP film took less than ten days to complete as compared to major studios’ usual year-plus process. In the first year alone, Nicholson and Arkoff completed twodozen movies with their credo: “make ’em fast and make ’em cheap.”
Arkoff and Nicholson found success in niche filmmaking, looking for audiences who weren’t being served by the major studio systems. First, it made films targeted at teenagers. With early creations like HOT ROD GIRL, RUNAWAY DAUGHTERS and
SHAKE, RATTLE AND ROLL, AIP created rebellious, sexy films that put off critics, upset parents