Crown International Pictures is an independent film studio and distribution company formed in 1959 by Newton P. Jacobs
Jacobs was a former branch head of RKO Pictures until 1947 when he formed his own company “Favorite Films”; a film releasing organization. Jacobs became one of the first franchises for showing American International Pictures (AIP). Like AIP, Crown International Pictures (CIP) is primarily known for low budget flicks, grindhouse cinema, biker films, exploitation films, and B-movie drive in fare. The company was later headed by Jacobs’s original vice-president Mark Tenser who became President in 1973 with Jacobs moving up to become Chairman of the Board. Jacobs’s daughter Marilyn Jacobs Tenser became vice president.
In July 1988, Jacobs died in a tragic motorcycling accident. This resulted in the leadership being passed down to his son, Louis Jacobs.
Crown International began releasing both low-budget films by American producers such as Bloodlust! and The Seventh Commandment and cheaply acquired overseas films such as First Spaceship on Venus and Varan the Unbelievable released as a double feature in 1962. In 1963, Crown began producing their own films starting with Coleman Francis’s The Skydivers.
CIP began by releasing 6 films a year in 1961 with the number rising to 12 films ten years later. Jacobs felt that CIP survived by having carefully planned growth and not over extending their product. Jacobs said that CIP did not want to be regarded as a mini major studio but as the top of the independents to give the company more freedom in selecting and exploiting their film product.
Well over 50 per cent of CIP’s product market were drive-in theatres with the number decreasing to 30 per cent in 1981.
Notable movies include-
The Beast of Yucca Flats (1961)
Secret File Hollywood (1962)
Madmen of Mandoras/They Saved Hitler’s Brain (1963)
Indian Paint (1965)
Orgy of the Dead (1965)
To the Shores of Hell (1966)
Catalina Caper (1967)
Mondo Balordo (1967) a Mondo film narrated by Boris Karloff
The Hellcats (1967)
Wild Rebels (1967)
Single Room Furnished (1968) starring Jayne Mansfield
Blood of Dracula’s Castle (1969)
The Sidehackers (1969)
Blood Mania (1970)
Cindy and Donna (1970)
Chain Gang Women (1971)
The Stepmother (1972)
Santee (1973), a Glenn Ford Western
The Sister in-Law (1974)
The Teacher (1974)
Best Friends (1975 film) (1975)
Soul Vengeance/Welcome Home Brother Charles (1975)
Trip with the Teacher (1975)
The Pom Pom Girls (1976)
The Crater Lake Monster (1977)
The Van (1977)
Malibu High (1978)
Van Nuys Blvd. (1979)
Budo: The Art of Killing (1982)
The Beach Girls (1982)
My Tutor (1983)
Weekend Pass (1984)
My Chauffeur (1986)
My Mom’s a Werewolf (1989)
Malibu Spring Break (2003)
They also acted as importer for Sonny Chiba’s Street Fighter films to the United States.
The director of Death Machines (1976) gave an account of how Crown picked up and shot new scenes for his film that included shooting a prologue that would make the martial arts film a science fiction one to make it more in line with current box office trends.
Crown often retitled their releases to make them sound more exciting or exploit current trends. Red Jacobs told the Los Angeles Times in November 1963 “A title is the handle…You can’t lift a picture very high if the handle is weak”
In 1964 Crown packaged several of the features that they released in the cinema or had acquired rights to became part of a package of the Westhampton Film Corporation. Renown American television production company Desilu entered film syndication in 1964 by acquiring the rights to show Crown International films as part of the “Westhampton Feature Package”.
A great many of Crown’s releases have been released to DVD on BCI Home Entertainment’s Welcome to the Grindhouse Starlite Drive-In Theater and Drive-In Cult Classics series. Several CIP films have been shown on Mystery Science Theater 3000. Since Navarre Corporation’s closing of its subsidiary BCI Home Entertainment, DVD distribution of Crown’s library has transferred to Mill Creek Entertainment.