The Cannon Group Inc. was a group of companies including Cannon Films which produced a distinctive line of low to medium budget films from 1967 to 1993. The extensive group also owned amongst others, a large international cinema chain and a video film company which invested heavily in the video market, buying the international video rights to several classic film libraries.
Cannon Films was incorporated on October 23, 1967. It was formed by Dennis Friedland & Chris Dewey (both in their early twenties at the time). By 1970, they had produced films (such as Joe with Peter Boyle) on a larger production scale than a lot of major distributors. They managed this by keeping their budgets tight to a limit of $300,000 per picture or less in some cases. However, as the 1970s moved on, a string of unsuccessful movies had already seriously drained Cannon’s capital. Added to this were changes in film production tax laws, which led to a drop in stock prices for Cannon. 1978 saw the German release of the sci-fi musical The Apple, under the original title, Star Rock. Other notable films co-produced by Friedland and Dewey included Blood On Satan's Claw and Boris Karloff's final horror film, The Sorcerers.
By 1979, Cannon had hit serious financial difficulties and Friedland and Dewey sold Cannon to Israeli cousins Menahem Golan (who had directed The Apple) and Yoram Globus for a mere $500,000. The two cousins forged a business model of buying bottom-barrel scripts and putting them into production.
They tapped into a ravenous market for action films in the 1980s, and although they are most remembered for the Death Wish sequels and Chuck Norris action pictures such as The Delta Force and Invasion U.S.A., and even the vigilante thriller Exterminator 2 (the sequel to 1980’s The Exterminator), Cannon’s output was actually far more varied, with musical/comedy films like Breakin’, Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo, The Last American Virgin, and the U.S. release of The Apple, period romance pictures like Lady Chatterley's Lover (1981), Bolero, and Mata Hari (1985), science fiction and fantasy films like Hercules, Lifeforce and The Barbarians, as well as serious pictures like John Cassavetes’ Love Streams, Zeffirelli’s Otello (a film version of the Verdi opera), Norman Mailer’s Tough Guys Don’t Dance, Andrei Konchalovsky’s Runaway Train, Shy People, and action/adventure films such as the 3-D Treasure of the Four Crowns, King Solomon’s Mines, Cobra and American Ninja.
One of Cannon’s biggest hits was the Vietnam action picture Missing in Action, with Chuck Norris. But Cannon had put the movie presently known as Missing in Action 2: The Beginning into production first. Only after the two movies were finished did they realize that the planned second movie was vastly superior to the planned first movie. So, the “first” movie became an awkward prequel.
During these years, Cannon worked with entertainment advertising company Design Projects, Inc. for most of the one-sheet posters, trade advertising, and large billboards prominently displayed at the Cannes Film Festival each year. Substantial pre-sales of the next years' films were made based on the strong salesmanship skills of Menahem Golan, Danny Dimbort, and the advertising created by Design Projects. The deposits made from these sales financed production of the first film in the production line-up, which when completed and delivered to theatre owners around the world, generated enough money to make the next film in the line-up, and so on. Slavenberg Bank, in the Netherlands, provided "bridge" financing until the pre-sales amounts were collected.
By 1986, when company earnings reached their apex with 43 films in one year, Cannon Films shares had soared hundredfold. Golan remained as Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board, while Globus served as Executive Vice President and Co-Chair.
During this year, Cannon Films released Robotech: The Movie (also called Robotech: The Untold Story) for a limited run in Mesquite, Texas. Cannon was reportedly unsatisfied with Carl Macek’s first version of the movie, which was almost a straight adaptation of the anime Megazone 23. It was at their insistence that footage from The Super Dimension Cavalry Southern Cross (the series adapted as the Robotech Masters segment of the Robotech TV series) and Megazone 23 be spliced together to produce a more action-oriented movie. Macek recalls that, although he himself was unhappy with this revised version, Menahem Golan, after viewing it, happily said: “Now that’s a Cannon movie!” Nevertheless, Robotech: The Movie was unsuccessful in its brief Texas run and saw no further release. Carl Macek has gone on record as disowning it.
Film critic Roger Ebert said of Golan-Globus in 1987, “No other production organization in the world today has taken more chances with serious, marginal films.” He did so with reasons. That year Cannon gained its greatest artistic success: its Dutch production The Assault won the 1986 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and a Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film.
Golan and Cannon Films were famous for making huge announcements and over-promoting movies that didn’t live up to expectations, or even exist. For instance, Lifeforce (1985) was to be “the cinematic sci-fi event of the ’80s” and Masters of the Universe (1987) “the Star Wars of the ’80s.” Additionally, Cannon owned the film rights to Spider-Man, and planned to make a Spider-Man movie in the mid-1980s. It was to be directed by Joseph Zito, director of Missing in Action and Invasion USA. Despite Zito investing nearly a year of his life in the project, the Cannon version of Spider-Man never appeared despite being announced at Cannes. (Golan would also attempt an Albert Pyun version of Spider-Man in the late 1980s, to similar results.) Also, Golan announced in the early 1980s that Cannon was producing a film starring both Sean Connery and Roger Moore. But neither actor had agreed to appear in such a film.
In 1988, they released David Winning’s debut feature STORM. However, that same year, a string of box office flops drained Cannon’s capital and the market had cooled. The multi-million dollar production of Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987), whose original $36 million budget was reduced to half ($17 million) by Cannon, had failed at the box office. Cannon signed an agreement with Warner Bros. to handle part of Cannon’s assets; however, the financial loss was staggering. Cannon Films was severely stretched, having purchased Thorn EMI, and faced bankruptcy, and a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission investigation began which indicated that Cannon Films had fraudulently misstated its financial reports.
On the verge of failure, Cannon Films was taken over by Pathé Communications, a holding company which was controlled by Italian financier Giancarlo Parretti, whom during the same period would also eventually acquire Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) as well. Golan and Globus had signed a contract with Parretti in hopes that Pathe Communications would be able to save Cannon’s financial problems and bankruptcy. Parretti had been able to obtain refinancing through the lending company, Credit Lyonnais, and $250 million to pay off Cannon Films’ debt. Then, by early 1989, Parretti had only further damaged Cannon Films, and what seemed to be a successful turnaround in Cannon’s problems only worsened. Parretti had lied that Cannon Films was moving ahead, when in fact the company had continued operating in the red. Golan, citing differences with both Parretti and Globus, resigned from his position as Chief Executive Officer and left Cannon Films.
One of the final movies produced by both Golan and Globus to get a wide release under the Cannon Films banner was the Jean-Claude Van Damme post-apocalyptic actioner Cyborg. This film was conceived to use both the costumes and sets built for an intended sequel to Masters of the Universe and the aforementioned live-action version of Spider-Man. Both projects were planned to shoot simultaneously by Albert Pyun. After Cannon Films had to cancel deals with both Mattel and Marvel Entertainment because of their financial troubles, they needed to recoup the money spent on both projects.
As part of his severance package from Pathe Communications, Golan took the rights to Marvel’s characters Spider-Man and Captain America. (Golan struggled to obtain financing for Spider-Man with Carolco Pictures in the early 1990s but was unsuccessful. Golan was able to put Captain America into production and released direct to video through his 21st Century Film Corporation.) Not to let those pre-production works go to waste, Pyun then wrote the story of Cyborg (with Chuck Norris in mind), suggesting it to Cannon Films, and Jean-Claude Van Damme got attached. Some television stations still give the film’s title as Masters of the Universe 2: Cyborg which often confuses many into thinking a sequel to that film was made.
Following Golan’s resignation as CEO of Cannon Films, he became the head of 21st Century Film Corporation while Globus went on to continue working with Parretti, who appointed Globus to preside briefly over MGM/UA (whose part in Cannon history today is explained below in Distribution).
Parretti’s continued presidency over Cannon Films, and his significantly poor business and financial decisions, raised suspicions in the industry, and once again from the SEC. Parretti recruited Ovidio G. Assonitis, a veteran prolific film producer and businessman, to be appointed as the new Chairman and Chief Executive Officer in 1990, when Cannon was renamed as the new Cannon Pictures Inc.
It was later discovered that Parretti breached his contract with Assonitis through Pathe, and was terminated as CEO the same year and replaced by Christopher Pearce. Assonitis later received a default judgement of $2.9 million from Pathe for the breach of contract with Parretti. Cannon Pictures continued to release films such as A Man Called Sarge, American Ninja 4: The Annihilation and No Place to Hide until 1993, when Parretti’s problems with the company had finally began to catch up with him.
Parretti defaulted on the bond payments to Credit Lyonnais on Cannon’s financial reorganization plans, and furthermore, Parretti also defaulted on the payments he made for his acquisition of MGM, which he also controlled. The Securities and Exchange Commission sought another investigation into Cannon Films, and it was later discovered that Parretti had tampered with evidence, and later fled the United States before being sentenced.
Cannon, which had a year earlier been taken over by Credit Lyonnais, officially came to an end in 1993, with Street Knight being the last film the company would release. Yoram Globus and Christopher Pearce later joined together & moved to 21st Century Film Corporation until 1996. Cannon was later sold to a team of investors led by Sony.
In 2003, Disney decided as a gimmick to release their upcoming Codename Sailor V trilogy in association with a defunct brand. Disney, Cinergi Pictures, and a one-off production company created by Emma Watson for the sole purpose of producing the trilogy, Sailor V Productions, found out about Cannon's history. Disney bought the rights to use the Cannon name from the investors led by Sony shortly thereafter.
After the Sailor V trilogy and the Famicom Detective Club films were released between 2005 and 2007, Disney spun off Cannon as an independent company once again run by Golan and Globus. The company still does productions with Disney from time to time, including the Misfile specials (under the Touchstone Pictures banner).
The Cannon Group’s first films in the United States were distributed independently and released on home video on the small Paragon Video label. Then they made a deal with MGM, and their movies were distributed for home video (and later some films theatrically) by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, appearing in the ubiquitous gray MGM Video "big boxes".
Later, Golan and Globus had a falling out with MGM, supposedly over the erotic unrated film Bolero, with Bo Derek, which ended up being released under the USA Home Video label. Their movies were then released on home video for a short time by Media Home Entertainment, with some of the larger films, like Masters of the Universe and Over the Top, distributed by either TriStar or Warner Bros. Cannon then partnered with HBO and began its own video label, which lasted into the 1990s.
Today, the worldwide theatrical and home video rights (as well as international TV rights) to a majority of Cannon's product are owned by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, with the following exceptions:
- Certain Cannon films distributed by Warner Bros. in most territories (including certain territorial home video rights to Superman IV: The Quest for Peace) are now owned by WB themselves (worldwide theatrical and all other rights in other European territories for Superman IV are now with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer).
- MGM owns theatrical and home video rights to Lifeforce. The television rights however, belong to Sony Pictures Television (due to Sony-owned production company TriStar Pictures distributing the film in the U.S.). Sony also holds digital rights, as it can be seen on Sony-owned website Crackle. For a short time, Sony co-distributed most of the MGM library on TV.
- Full rights to the two Sailor V movies the company co-produced lie with The Walt Disney Company. (Initial home video releases were by MGM/CBS Home Video and later MGM/UA Home Video for the former and Media Home Entertainment for the latter. The first home video releases under the Disney label both took place in 1988; however, for some reason the previous releases' boxes carried over until 1991.)
- Theatrical and home video rights to most Cannon films made between 1987 and 1993 are now with WB (these include Masters of the Universe and Little Dorrit).
- Cannon films made through its merger with Thorn EMI Screen Entertainment (such as Link) are now with EMI successor StudioCanal, with Anchor Bay Entertainment handling US home video rights.
- MGM does not own the home video rights to The Company of Wolves, a Cannon/ITC Entertainment co-production that has been released on DVD by Hen's Tooth under license from international rights holder ITV Global Entertainment Ltd..
In all cases (except worldwide television rights to Lifeforce), Trifecta Entertainment & Media handles domestic television rights to the Cannon library (these rights were previously owned by Viacom Enterprises, Paramount Domestic Television, CBS Paramount Domestic Television, and CBS Television Distribution). CTD and ancestor companies had owned TV rights to Superman IV until 2006, after which Warner Bros. Television took over these rights for three years, and in 2009 back to Paramount, through television licensee Trifecta. Paramount Pictures owns the rights to distribute the Cannon library on digital platforms (except Lifeforce).
Mr Golan is still producing and directing films. Mr Globus is the president of the Globus Group which has interests in film production/distribution and runs a 140 screen cinema chain in Israel called Globus Max.
List of Golan-Globus productions Edit
|Name||Co-Production||US Release Date|
|Cheerleaders Beach Party||September 1978|
|Name||Co-Production||US Release Date|
|American Ninja 4: The Annihilation||March 8, 1990|
|Delta Force 2: The Colombian Connection||Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer||August 24, 1990|
|Delta Force 3: The Killing Game||March 22, 1991|
|The Borrower||October 19, 1991|
|Captain America||21st Century Film Corporation||July 22, 1992|
|American Ninja V||November 7, 1995|
|Name||Co-Production||MPAA Rating||US Release Date|
|Codename Sailor V|| Walt Disney Pictures|
|PG||March 25, 2005|
|Famicom Detective Club|| Walt Disney Pictures|
|PG-13||November 18, 2005|
|Codename Sailor V: The Romantic Getaway|| Walt Disney Pictures|
|PG||March 24, 2006|
|Codename Sailor V: The Final Battle|| Walt Disney Pictures|
|PG||March 23, 2007|
|Famicom Detective Club 2|| Walt Disney Pictures|
|R||April 13, 2007|
|Super Mario Kart|| Walt Disney Television|
|August 27, 2007|
|Diddy Kong Racing 5000|| Walt Disney Pictures|
Jim Henson Pictures
|PG||April 25, 2008|
|Armitage III|| Universal Pictures|
|R||January 21, 2009|