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Sunn Classic Pictures

Entry updated 14 October 2021. Tagged: Community, Film.

US film production and distribution company founded in 1971 by Rayland Jensen and based in Park City, near Salt Lake City, Utah: it was a subsidiary of the Schick razor company (and was sometimes called Schick Sunn Classic Pictures). In 1980 the company was bought by Taft Broadcasting, eventually being renamed Taft International Pictures, until being subsumed into another company in 1987. Sunn Classic made and distributed family films and were early users of audience testing to shape a film's content. They usually targeted rural and small-town communities: most of their films would be heavily advertised locally, then shown using "four wall distribution" – this involved Sunn Classic renting movie theatres for a short period to show their film, enabling them to keep all the box-office revenues.

They produced many documentaries, notable for their uncritical nature, involving conspiracy theories (see Paranoia) or religious mysteries (see Religion). Genre-related examples of the former include The Mysterious Monsters (1975), covering the Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot and the Abominable Snowman (see also the film entries Bigfoot; The Abominable Snowman); The Outer Space Connection (1975) narrated by Rod Serling, which argued that Aliens had previously visited Earth, shaped humanity and will one day return; The Amazing World of Psychic Phenomena (1976), covering ESP, Telekinesis and other Psi Powers; and The Bermuda Triangle (1979) (see Bermuda Triangle). Their most successful documentaries were the religious ones: for example, In Search of Noah's Ark (1976), which announced the ark had been discovered on Mount Ararat, was the sixth biggest grossing film of 1977 in the USA; whilst Beyond and Back (1978), which looked at near-death experiences (see Eschatology), despite critic Roger Ebert remarking it "gives turkeys a bad name", was the 24th for 1978.

Of Sunn's non-documentary films, the most popular was The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams (1974); genre works include Hangar 18 (1980, vt Invasion Force) – whose plot seemed to draw upon The Outer Space Connection – and Cujo (1983), based on Cujo (1981) by Stephen King. The Horror film The Boogens (1981), about reptilian Monsters lurking in the depths of an abandoned mine, was released as a Taft International Pictures production, and though it earned some praise (from Stephen King among others) represents a shift away from the company's usual family-centred releases. Sunn Classics also produced some films for Television, including The Time Machine (1978) – based of course on the H G Wells novel – and The Fall of the House of Usher (1979) (see Edgar Allan Poe). [SP]

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