CBS Theatrical Films

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CBS Theatrical Films
Type Division
Industry movie
Predecessor Cinema Center Films
DefunctNovember 1985
Successor CBS Films
Paramount Pictures
Area served
Products films
Parent CBS Inc.

CBS Theatrical Films, also as CBS Theatrical Films Group, was the film production branch of the U.S. television network, CBS, which was active from 1979 to 1985.


CBS was also a partner in TriStar Pictures, which started as a joint venture with Columbia Pictures (owned then by The Coca-Cola Company), and Time, Inc.'s HBO. CBS was an owner in TriStar from the start in 1982 to 1985. [1] [2]


CBS began its theatrical films operation in 1979, headed by Donald March, and turned the operation into the separate CBS Theatrical Films division in 1980. [3] In March 1980, the unit was promoted to group level, same as the broadcast and records groups, as CBS Theatrical Films Group with Michael Levy as group president reporting directly to CBS president Thomas H. Wyman. [4] Before 1985, Self was president of production. [5] None of its releases were commercial successes. [6]

In December 1984, it was merged with the CBS Worldwide Enterprises branch to form CBS Productions (unrelated to the later production company of the same name). [7]


Several factors contributed to the closure of CBS Theatrical Films. As a so-called boutique, it was disadvantaged because it was usually only offered left over films after the major studios had selected the more likely commercial successes. Television movies did better in the ratings than theater films already released via cable and video. With additional startup boutiques, the market was overcrowded causing box office strain at the same time movie production costs doubled to $10 million with marketing matching that level. Another factor was that as a boutique, CBS Theatrical Films did not have a distribution system, so had to release its films through major studios, which sometimes resulted in disadvantageous release dates. [6] CBS announced CBS Theatrical Films's closure in November 1985. [6] The Challenge and their final production The Lightship were released through Embassy Pictures and Castle Hill Productions respectively. Today, Paramount Pictures owns the rights to the library, with certain films licensed to Kino Lorber.


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  1. Lumenick, Lou (May 16, 2009). "CBS And Theatrical Films: If At First You Don't Succeed..." NY Retrieved 27 July 2012.
  2. "CBS Sells Stake In Tri-Star Inc". The New York Times . Associated Press. 16 November 1985.
  3. "CBS turns theatrical films operations into division". The Wall Street Journal . 1980-12-02.
  4. Curran, Trisha (June 28, 1981). "CBS Wants to Star In the Movies--As One of the Major Film Producers". The New York Times. Retrieved October 5, 2017.
  5. Barnes, Mike (November 18, 2010). "Former Producer, Fox TV Exec William Self Dies". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved September 9, 2016.
  6. 1 2 3 Harmetz, Aljean (November 23, 1985). "Abc, Cbs Drop Movie Interests". Orlando Sentinel.
  7. "CBS structures new marketing unit" (PDF). Broadcasting . 1984-12-17. Retrieved 2021-07-30.