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Peter Guber was a film producer and studio chief whose tenure at PolyGram Filmed Entertainment, Sony Pictures Entertainment and Mandalay Pictures yielded such blockbusters as "Flashdance" (1983), "Rain Man" (1988), "Batman" (1989), as well as a vast array of television programs, specials, music and media projects. Both as a solo entity and with his former producing partner Jon Peters, Guber was among the last of the old school Hollywood star producers in the '80s and '90s, but as the age of the internet dawned, he was among the first in the industry to become aware of the possibilities of new media, as evidenced by his role in launching GeekChicDaily and Demand Media. Guber's body of work and its impact on entertainment and communication as a whole was a model of drive, vision and success.
Born Howard Peter Guber in Newton, MA on March 2, 1942, he studied law at the University of Syracuse and the University of Florence before receiving his MA in business administration and Juris Doctorate from New York University. Shortly after graduation in 1968, he was recruited by Columbia Pictures for an executive position, and within three years, became the studio's head of worldwide production. During his tenure there, he oversaw some of the decade's biggest theatrical and critical hits, including "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" (1975), "Taxi Driver" (1976) and "The Way We Were" (1975).
In 1975, Guber departed Columbia to form his own company, Casablanca Record and Filmworks, with Neil Bogart. A major player in both the music and motion picture industry, he oversaw the career launch of such hit performers as KISS, Donna Summer and the Village People. Guber also made his debut as a producer through the company; his first effort, a thriller called "The Deep" (1977), was a critical flop but saw considerable box office returns thanks to his savvy advertising campaign. His next pictures were also major hits: "Thank God It's Friday" (1978) was a minor comedy but featured songs by his label's biggest star, Donna Summer, which in turn propelled the film to popularity, while "Midnight Express" (1978) won three Oscars, including two for Giorgio Moroder's score, which also generated a top-selling LP.
Casablanca was taken over by the British record label PolyGram in the late 1970s, and Guber became the head of its PolyGram Entertainment division in 1979. As its Chairman of the Board and CEO, he oversaw the release of several independent hits, including Oscar winners "An American Werewolf in London" (1981), "Missing" (1982) and 1983's "Flashdance," which became the third highest grossing film of that year. It also served as the launching point for Guber's next venture, Guber-Peters Entertainment, with record and film producer Jon Peters. After a rough start that included such critical and box office disappointments as "D.C. Cab" (1983) and "The Legend of Billie Jean" (1985), they scored a major success with "The Color Purple" (1985), Steven Spielberg's adaptation of the Alice Walker novel, which earned 11 Oscar nominations. For the next six years, the company balanced massive hits like "Innerspace" (1987), "The Witches of Eastwick" (1987), "Rain Man" (1988) and "Batman" (1989) with high-profile disappointments like "Who's That Girl" (1987), "Caddyshack II" (1988) and "Tango and Cash" (1989). The sheer scope of their successes made them an appealing acquisition after the company went public in 1988. After merging with Chuck Barris' Barris Industries in 1989, the company, now called The Guber-Peters Entertainment Company, was purchased by the Sony Corporation for $200 million. Guber was named Chairman of the Board and CEO of Columbia Pictures Entertainment.
Under Guber's leadership, Columbia - later renamed Sony Pictures Entertainment - saw a market share of 17 per cent in the domestic box office, and earned 120 Academy Award nominations during his five-year tenure from 1989 to 1995. Among the films released by Sony during this period were such blockbusters as "Terminator 2: Judgment Day" (1991), "Misery" (1990), "Basic Instinct" (1992), "A River Runs Through It" (1992), "Sleepless in Seattle" (1993), "Cliffhanger" (1993) and "Philadelphia" (1993). Sony also scored in the television market with top-rated series like "Seinfeld" (NBC, 1989-1998) and "Married with Children" (Fox, 1987-1997) and game shows like the revitalized "Wheel of Fortune" (syndicated, 1983- ). Guber also revamped the Loews theater chain, which was part of Sony's holdings, helped introduce the SDDS sound system, established a stronger foothold in the home video market for the company, and launched Sony Pictures Classics, which produced and distributed such art house favorites as "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown" (1988), "Howards End" (1992) and "Waiting for Guffman" (1996).
In 1995, Guber parted ways with Sony to form Mandalay Entertainment Group, a multimedia entertainment entity with interests in a wide variety of media, in addition to motion pictures. His theatrical slate was once again filled with popular favorites, including "I Know What You Did Last Summer" (1997)," "Wild Things" (1997), "Donnie Brasco," (1997) the Tim Burton-directed "Sleepy Hollow" (1999) and "The Score" (2001). Mandalay's television output included the Peabody Award-winning mob series "Brotherhood" (Showtime, 2006-08), the miniseries "Intensity" (Fox, 1997) and "Sole Survivor" (Fox, 2000), and a series of eight TV movies based on the romance novels of Nora Roberts, including "Angels Fall" (2007), "Carolina Moon" (2007) and "Carnal Innocence" (2011) that generated huge numbers for the Lifetime Network between 2007 and 2011.
Mandalay expanded its television interests into award shows and specials with its acquisition of Dick Clark Productions in 2004. Through this company, Mandalay oversaw the production of the Golden Globes, American Music Awards, Clark's long-running "New Year's Rockin' Eve" special and "So You Think You Can Dance" (Fox, 2005- ). Mandalay's ownership of Dick Clark Productions, which also included the vast and historic "American Bandstand" (WFIL/ABC/syndicated/USA Network, 1952-1989) catalog, ended in 2007 with its sale to Red Zone Capital Fund. Meanwhile, Guber had launched Mandalay Sports Entertainment, which oversaw several minor league baseball teams, including the New York Yankees' Triple-A affiliate, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees, as well as stadium management and marketing concerns.
In 2009, Guber made significant forays into new media via GeekChicDaily, a website and newsletter devoted to fan-oriented movies, games, comics and other ephemera. He followed this with an appointment to the board of directors of the social media network Demand Media in 2010. He also became an in-demand interview subject and host on several television programs about the film industry, including "Shootout (AMC, 2003-08), which he co-hosted with former Variety editor Peter Bart, and "In the House" (Encore, 2009-2011), which focused on the wider spectrum of pop culture. Guber also served as a weekly analyst on media and entertainment issues for the Fox Business News network. In 2010, Guber launched Mandalay Vision, an independent development, production and financing company. Its initial slate was an impressive one, with the festival favorites "The Kids Are All Right" (2010) and "The Whistleblower" (2010) among its early releases. Mandalay Vision continued its success with box office favorites like the inspirational true-life tale "Soul Surfer" (2011) as well as critical and cult hits like the Jack Black/Richard Linklater dramedy "Bernie" (2011) and "Horns" (2014), Alexandre Aja's comic horror film starring Daniel Radcliffe based on a novel by Joe Hill. During this period, Guber published the book Tell To Win: Connect, Persuade and Triumph with the Hidden Power of Story (2011) and expanded his interest in sports entertainment, serving as co-executive chairman of the NBA's Golden State Warriors and co-owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers as a partner in Guggenheim Baseball Entertainment. In 2014, Guber became executive chairman of a new Los Angeles Major League Soccer team, Los Angeles Football Club (LAFC), scheduled to begin competing in the 2018 MLS season.
Cast (Feature Film)
Producer (Feature Film)
Misc. Crew (Feature Film)
Recruited as executive assistant by Columbia Pictures while still at NYU
Formed Peter Guber's Filmworks; merged with Casablanca Records to become Casablanca Record and Filmworks' co-owner and chairman of the board
Produced first feature, "The Deep"
Executive produced first feature, "Midnight Express"
Formed Polygram Pictures
Brought in Jon Peters as a partner to form Guber-Peters Entertainment Company (GPEC)
Produced first TV series, "Dreams"
Merged Polygram Pictures with Barris Industries to form Guber-Peters-Barris Entertainment Co.; Became co-chairman and managing director
Took control of Guber-Peters-Barris when Burt Sugarman left and Frank Lowy took his place
Became co-chairman of Columbia/Sony Pictures with Jon Peters; agreement including Sony's acquiring of the Guber-Peters Entertainment Co. For upwards of $200 million
Became sole chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment after co-chairman Jon Peters' resignation (May)
Signed a new five-year contract as chairman at Sony in March
Stepped down as chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment on Sept. 29, announcing that he was forming his own independent production company, to be financed by Sony
Formed Mandalay Entertainment as a joint venture with former employer Sony
Created Mandalay Vision, a distribution arm of Mandalay focused on independent films
Founded Mandala Sports Media