Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Paramount and John Wayne's Batjac Productions Sign Worldwide Distribution Agreement

- Rare Wayne Classics to Make Way to DVD and TV Beginning May 2005 -

Paramount Home Entertainment and Paramount's television distribution entities have entered into an agreement with Batjac Productions, the production company founded by John Wayne, for worldwide DVD and television distribution. The agreement was announced today by Thomas Lesinski, President, Paramount Pictures, Worldwide Home Entertainment, Joel Berman, President, Paramount Worldwide Television Distribution and Gretchen Wayne, president of Batjac and wife of the actor's late son, Michael, who owned the company for over 30 years.

Beginning in Spring 2005, Paramount will distribute a number of beloved but rarely seen John Wayne vehicles from the 1950s and 1960s, including a newly restored "The High and the Mighty" (1954) and "Island in the Sky" (1953), neither of which has previously been released on VHS or DVD. The restoration of "The High and the Mighty," by Gretchen Wayne, will see the film returned to its glorious original 35mm film and presented in Stereo 5.1. Other Wayne classics making their DVD debut under the distribution pact include "Hondo" (1953) and "McLintock!" (1962), neither of which have been released on DVD domestically or home video internationally by Batjac. These classic films will include bonus features from Batjac's extensive library of never-before-seen film memorabilia once they debut on DVD, including commentaries with the filmmakers and cast and featurettes on the making of the films, their subjects and their eras, incorporating new interviews and archival materials.

Paramount will also release five films for basic cable, international markets and DVD that were produced by Batjac in which John Wayne did not appear: "Man in the Vault" (1956), "Plunder of the Sun" (1953), "Ring of Fear" (1954), "Seven Men from Now" (1956) and "Track of the Cat" (1954).

The deal consolidates much of the home entertainment distribution of John Wayne films under one roof. Paramount's now owns 63 Wayne titles, such as "True Grit," "El Dorado," "Big Jake," "The Shootist," "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance," "Donovan's Reef," "Hatari!" and "The Sons of Katie Elder," among others. Broad integrated marketing initiatives are planned across both home entertainment and television divisions in support of the Batjac titles throughout 2005 and 2006.

"Paramount has enjoyed a wonderful relationship with John Wayne and his family for more than half a century," said Lesinski. "With the addition of these timeless treasures to our existing John Wayne library, Paramount has truly become the home of John Wayne's films."

Gretchen Wayne added: "In recent years there has been growing demand by fans of my late father-in-law to see these films released on DVD and on television. We are excited to have found the perfect partner to accomplish this in Paramount."

"We are delighted to welcome these John Wayne classics into our television library," said Joel Berman, President, Paramount Worldwide Television Distribution. "As an American icon with a timeless appeal, John Wayne speaks to a whole new generation of movie lovers."

Among the films to be released under the agreement are:

"The High and the Mighty" (1954) -- Wayne stars as a washed-up pilot who must guide a damaged airliner to safety in this forerunner to modern disaster movies. Co-starring Claire Trevor and Robert Stack, it was nominated for six Oscars® including Best Director (William A. Wellman).

"Island in the Sky" (1953) -- Wayne is the pilot of a transport plane that crashes in the remote reaches of sub-Arctic Canada. As he struggles to keep his stranded crew alive in the deadly conditions, a rescue team desperately searches for them in the vast snow-covered wilderness.

"Hondo" (1953) -- Geraldine Page (nominated for an Oscar for her role) and Ward Bond join Wayne in this adaptation of a Louis L'Amour story about a half-breed Cavalry dispatch rider who protects a woman and her son living amidst warning Apaches.

"'McLintock!'" (1963) -- Wayne stars as cattle rancher George Washington McLintock who spars with his wife (Maureen O'Hara), their daughter (Stefanie Powers) and greedy land-grabbers in this hilarious western comedy.

"Man in the Vault" (1956) -- In this taut thriller, William Campbell stars as a locksmith forced to crack a bank safe deposit box in order to save his girlfriend (Karen Sharpe) from a ruthless mobster played by Berry Kroeger. Anita Ekberg also stars.

"Plunder of the Sun" (1953) -- Glenn Ford is an American claims adjuster caught up in a deadly hunt for Zapotecan treasure in this mystery set in Mexico.

"Ring of Fear" (1954) -- Circus impresario and famed animal trainer Clyde Beatty plays himself in this whodunit about a series of suspicious accidents under the Big Top. Detective novelist Mickey Spillane, also as himself, arrives on the scene to solve the crime.

"Seven Men from Now" (1956) -- Randolph Scott is a former sheriff who tracks seven men through the desert in an effort to avenge his wife's murder.

"Track of the Cat" (1954). -- Tough guy Robert Mitchum stalks a panther that killed his younger brother (William Hopper) while his snowbound family begins to disintegrate. Directed by four-time Oscar nominee William A. Wellman (The Ox-Bow Incident, The High and The Mighty).

Visit to learn more about Paramount Home Entertainment's new releases, as well as other classic Hollywood films, television programs, animated titles and family and special interest programming. Paramount Home Entertainment is part of the operations of Paramount Pictures, a unit of Viacom Inc.

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