Cannon Films Print Advertisements in ‘Variety’, 1979 – 1986

Exhibit / August 8, 2017

Object NameVariety print ads for Cannon Films
Maker and Year: Cannon Group, Inc. 1979 – 1986
Object Type: Print advertisements
Image Source: Entertainment Industry Magazine Archive
Description: (Michael Grasso)

In 1979, Israeli film industry giants (and cousins) Menachem Golan and Yoram Globus purchased tiny independent American film production house Cannon Group, Inc. Cannon had spent the ’70s producing B-movies with occasional surprise hits (like the 1970 “hardhat revenge” tale Joe starring Peter Boyle). Golan and Globus saw in Cannon a way to gain a foothold in an American market that they’d long eyed entering. They did so with a bang, bringing their no-nonsense style of film production to America, producing action and horror films, sex comedies, musicals, and other genre classics throughout the 1980s. Playing fast and loose with the usual rules of an American movie studio, they earned the derision of their major-name competitors and the nickname “The Go-Go Boys.” But in a film market being swept by the twin revolutions of home video and cable television, Cannon was in just the right position to provide a massive amount of content to venues and consumers hungry for movies loaded up with action (and exploitation). The entire history of Cannon Films is probably told best by the recent documentary Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films (2014).

Cannon’s arrival on the scene was announced with a manifesto of sorts published in the pages of the May 16, 1979 Variety. Golan and Globus promise to bring in their projects on-budget and provide “American quality” entertainment for a global audience they had “special knowledge” of. This led to their first big international hit, Enter the Ninja (1981), with Italian actor Franco Nero playing an American trained in ninjutsu, facing off against Japanese martial arts master Sho Kosugi. As Cannon confidently expanded throughout the ’80s, they were a constant presence in the pages of Variety. Two-page ads offered early promotion for films before they were finalized. “Electric Boogie,” which would become Breakin’ 2, Electric Boogaloo, the quickie sequel to Breakin’, was turned around mere months after the original’s runaway success. Often Cannon would boast with wild-eyed hype like “Cannon: The Making of the 7th Major [Studio],” and as the Breakin’ ad above shows, they were never above outright brags about their raw box office numbers. Many of their legendary 1985 crop of films (which included Tobe Hooper’s Lifeforce, Chuck Norris’s Invasion U.S.A., and Charles Bronson in Death Wish 3) were promoted in Variety in October 1984 without full cast listings and with placeholder art. For example, American Ninja (1985) was at this point still being promoted as a Chuck Norris vehicle; the final version of the film would feature new Cannon feature player Michael Dudikoff.

But during their residencies at prestigious international film festivals such as Cannes (where Golan and Globus would annually do most of their international business), Cannon would promote their surprisingly large slate of mature, serious films. In a May 1986 multi-page Variety promotion for Cannes, the company’s big 1987 movies promising broad global appeal (Sylvester Stallone’s Over The Top and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace) take precedence, but deeper in the section are several films up for award consideration at the festival, including Jean-Luc Godard’s famously fraught production of King Lear (which wouldn’t appear at Cannes until 1987), and Andrei Konchalovsky’s cult classic Runaway Train (nominated for a Palme d’Or at the ’86 festival).

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