Empire International Pictures

Empire International Pictures was an American small scale theatrical distribution company that was formed in 1983 by Charles Band, as a response to the dissatisfaction of how his films were distributed by motion picture companies while making films under the banner of Charles Band International Productions.

Empire Pictures/Empire International
IndustryFilmed entertainment
FateAcquired by Epic Entertainment
SuccessorEpic Productions
HeadquartersLos Angeles, California
Key people
Charles Band, Albert Band
SubsidiariesUrban Classics

The company produced and distributed a number of low-budget horror and fantasy feature films including Trancers and The Dungeonmaster. Notable films from the company include Re-Animator, From Beyond, Trancers, Dolls, TerrorVision, Prison, Troll, and Ghoulies.


Early years (1983–1984)

Sensing the emerging theatrical market for independently produced horror and science-fiction films, producer Charles Band opted to create a mini-studio that rivaled the studio system of the major Hollywood companies. The first mention of the name Empire Pictures came in May 1983 at Cannes when Band sought funding for Parasite II, the proposed sequel to his successful Parasite from the previous year.[1]

The initial Empire Pictures productions included Swordkill (aka Ghost Warrior) and The Dungeonmaster, which both received limited theatrical releases in 1984.

Box office success (1985–1986)

Empire's first box office success came in early 1985 with the release of Ghoulies. Released in several major markets, the film had grossed up to $3,455,018 by February 1985; upon release in New York City the film grossed over $1 million in that city alone its first weekend.[2] This theatrical success paved the way for the company to showcase future cult hits Trancers and Re-Animator in theaters.

Flush with cash, Band ended up purchasing Castello di Giove, a 12th-century castle located in Giove, Italy.[3] The intention was to use the castle as a European base of operations and a filming location. During this time period Band also purchased Dino de Laurentiis Cinematografica, the studio founded by Dino De Laurentiis in 1946, for an alleged $20,000,000.

1986 saw the company's biggest output in terms of theatrical releases with Eliminators, From Beyond, TerrorVision, and Troll. The latter proved to be Empire's biggest success that year, grossing $5,450,815 when released in nearly 1,000 theaters.[4]

Bankruptcy (1987–1989)

With a studio secured in Italy, 1987 saw the company significantly increase the amount of production. Empire showed up at the American Film Market in February 1987 touting 36 new releases to offer companies. Titles produced during this time included Dolls, Ghoulies II, Prison, and Robot Jox. Empire also narrowed its focus on theatrical product after entering into a distribution agreement with Vestron Video.

Empire Pictures began to collapse in mid-1988 due to financial problems and long-term debt obligations to Crédit Lyonnais. Once it became clear that Empire could not last, the company was seized by the bank and taken over by Eduard Sarlui's Epic Entertainment (later Epic Productions) in May 1988. This led to in-production titles such as Stuart Gordon's Robot Jox, Peter Manoogian's Arena, and David Schmoeller's Catacombs to be delayed in release by several years. The following fall of the same year, Band formed another company, Full Moon Entertainment, which also specializes in horror/fantasy genre films.

The studio's rise and subsequent fall are covered in the book Empire of the 'B's: The Mad Movie World of Charles Band written by Dave Jay, Torsten Dewi, and Nathan Shumate. The story is also the subject of the upcoming documentary Celluloid Wizards in the Video Wasteland by Daniel Griffith. As of 2017, MGM via Polygram Entertainment is the current owner of a majority of the Empire Pictures library.[5]

Partial filmography


  1. "EMPIRE PICTURES presents PARASITE II". varietyultimate.com: Variety. May 4, 1983. Retrieved November 16, 2015. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  2. "GOTHAM B.O. 'Ghoulies' Garnishes $1.05 Million". varietyultimate.com: Variety. March 5, 1985. Retrieved November 16, 2015. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  3. Craig Modderno (July 20, 1986). "A Man's Home . ." Los Angeles Times. Times Mirror Company. Retrieved November 16, 2015.
  4. "Troll (1986)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2015-11-16.
  5. "Interview with David Schmoeller (Puppet Master, Tourist Trap)". Archived from the original on 18 April 2015. Retrieved 2 April 2015.
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