Larry Vaughn with Mentora Vaughn Gratrix

Archive for the ‘Film buying’ Category

Jaws 40 Years Later …

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You’re gonna need a bigger boat.
– Roy Scheider

Forty years ago this past June, I saw Jaws for the first time. Moviegoers, like me, left the theatre with a new fear of the ocean and the creatures within. The news has been full of shark attack stories lately. Every time I hear of shark attacks, I still think of Jaws and this crazy film buying story. I worked in an era where multiplexes didn’t exist. Film buyers had to fight hard to get movies for their theatre company. Picking the right film oftentimes was a gamble…


Excerpts from Hollywood’s Chosen:

Doneata and I arrived at the Park Terrace Theatre forty-five minutes before the feature began. . .All the advance publicity from Universal Pictures was true: Jaws was two hours of edge-of-the-seat entertainment. About forty-five minutes into the film, the great white shark came roaring up out of the ocean for the first time, and when it did, it scared me half to death!. . . .I knew I had just seen the biggest picture of the year, and quite possibly the biggest picture ever made.

Driving home from the theatre . . . my mind drifted back to a few weeks earlier. Several  of us film buyers who represented all the theatre circuits in Charlotte were having a very important “split” meeting in the office of John Huff, VP and head film buyer at ABC. We met together to discuss “splitting” the upcoming summer’s movies among ourselves rather than bidding against each other for the right to play a particular movie. Negotiating among ourselves to decide who would play a given film was always much less expensive than bidding against each other for the right to play a film.

Well, this was a very interesting split meeting because every film buyer in the room desperately wanted Jaws to play in his company’s theatre. We spent the better part of an hour trying to decide which circuit would play Jaws and what it would take to satisfy the other circuits that didn’t get to play it.

In desperation, I offered an unconventional solution:

I cleared my throat and began speaking. . . .“Gentlemen, shall we cut high card, and winner take all?”

That unexpected suggestion seemed to have every bit the effect of a slap in the face, or you might say a wake-up call, to those weary, tired men in the room.

Huff broke the silence. “Well, why not? Does anyone have a better suggestion?”

One of the men, who was not noted for his card-playing abilities, was picked to shuffle the cards. After shuffling the deck, he placed it on the corner of Huff’s desk. One by one, each man walked to the edge of the desk to make a draw. One man would walk over and draw quickly. Another would act very cautiously, as if there were a snake under the top card. Each of us knew this was a million-dollar draw.

Huff and I were the last to take a card. Huff motioned for me to step forward. He said, “Mr. Vaughn . . .” I thought to myself, “What happened to ‘Larry’?”

Huff continued, “Since this was your bright idea, I think it’s only right for you to have the honor of drawing for ABC.”

I smiled on the outside but was quite tense on the inside. As I reached for the deck, I said, “My pleasure.” I picked a card and cupped it in the palm of my hand.

Acting somewhat irritated at me, he said, “Well, get on with it! Let’s have a look at it!”

In a Frisbee-like manner, I tossed the card toward the center of the desk. I then watched each man’s expression as he saw the ace glide to its resting place atop the large mahogany desk. Immediately, Huff released a huge sigh of frustration as the other men frowned, shook their heads in disbelief, and mumbled to themselves as they walked slowly back to their seats.

Huff was the first to speak. “Well, if and when there’s a Jaws II, Larry will draw for ABC.”


Movie Trivia: Robert Shaw could not stand Richard Dreyfuss, and they argued all the time, which resulted in some good tension between Hooper and Quint. You would think a shark the size of Jaws would have been enough to keep them in line!

Hollywood, YES. Chosen, NO, NEVER…

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Miracles are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see.
—C.S. Lewis

Writing a book is no small feat but finding the right title can be even more challenging. I’m dedicating today’s post to our title, Hollywood’s Chosen.

There are so many good people that Mentora and I had the opportunity to write about in Hollywood’s Chosen. One man who was very near and dear to me is my former boss, Eddie Stern. There truly was only one Eddie Stern. Here is an excerpt from Hollywood’s Chosen during our first meeting when he was showing me Wometco Enterprises in Miami, Florida.

“Now, let’s look at the film buying department.” Eddie stood up straight. He had an air of pride, as if he were a proud father introducing me to his newborn child. He said, “Larry, humility is not one of my strong suits. For me, being a Jew means something. While I’m by no means a practicing Jew, I do like the idea of being one of God’s chosen.” Eddie laughed and said, “I feel the same way about being a film buyer. It’s a special profession. We are part of a small select group that makes Hollywood happen. Larry, don’t take this calling lightly.”

I smiled, “You mean I’m one of Hollywood’s chosen.”

Eddie looked pleased. “Yes, Larry, you’ve got it. You’ve got the vision.” Eddie smiled, “I knew I was going to like you; we think alike.”

After that meeting with Eddie, I came to experience firsthand the thrill of being a film buyer in a very competitive movie market. At the pinnacle of my career, I was very content with my life and my accomplishments. I had no interest in God or Christianity. For me, Hollywood was all I wanted, a confident yes; and Christianity, well it was a definite no, actually NEVER was more like it. Thankfully, God had other plans for me and many years later in the book, I reflect back on my life…

Shortly before Christmas, my family and I joined Surfside PCA church. We were glad to officially be a part of a church family again. We made many friends at Surfside and learned a lot under the direction of Pastor Mike Ross. One Sunday morning he preached a sermon on being chosen by God. The word chosen jumped out at me, and I thought back to my conversation years before with Eddie Stern. Eddie had emphasized the importance of being “chosen” for the film buying position. I sat there in awe as I realized God’s hand of providence in my life; God had chosen me, Larry Vaughn, to be His child.

And so now, as my family and I prepare for this advent season, I still rejoice in my own Christmas miracle that “I am His and He is mine.”

This Crazy Untold Story Made Sylvester Stallone Famous…

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I believe any success in life is made by going into an area with a blind, furious optimism.
—Sylvester Stallone

Rocky! How did Sylvester Stallone come to play Rocky? Here’s the crazy untold story that made Sylvester Stallone famous. Here’s a conversation I had with my former boss, Eddie Stern, the head of the film department at Wometco Theatres in Miami, Florida. Here’s an excerpt from Hollywood’s Chosen, available today on Amazon.

Well, the rest is history. Rocky, the little picture I was forced to play on its release date, turned out to be the biggest-grossing film of 1976. It grossed over two hundred and twenty-five million dollars domestically and was honored with three Academy Awards, including the coveted Best Picture of the Year.
Now as the late Paul Harvey might have said, “Here is the rest of the story.”
Eddie returned from a trip to New York several months after the successful opening of Rocky. Later, during lunch with me, Eddie started laughing as he said, “Larry, have I got a funny story to tell you. I got this scoop from an attorney friend of mine, Jonas, at United Artists. Jonas said that when Rocky went into production, no one at the office had actually seen the actor, Sylvester Stallone. But Stallone really wanted to play the lead, since he wrote the story. Management asked to see some of his work. Stallone in 1974 had a supporting role in The Lords of Flatbush, with Perry King and Henry Winkler. When the guys at UA watched a reel of Flatbush, they got the actors mixed up. They took King for Stallone and, of course, Stallone for King. After watching the film footage, they agreed to move forward with the production of Rocky with Stallone in the lead role. Now again, they thought they were signing off on King in the lead role.” Eddie had to pause to wipe the tears of laughter from his eyes.
“Larry, this is unbelievable! Are you with me?”
“Yes, I got it. It sounds too funny to be true.”
“Okay, so later the brass wanted to see some rushes during the filming of Rocky. While watching the rushes, they asked, ‘Where is Stallone?’ They were watching Stallone on the screen, but they were looking for Perry King. They ended up having to call someone into the screening to identify Stallone.” Eddie couldn’t stop laughing. He tried to continue, “Some mix-up, huh! The studio thought Perry was Stallone, and they green lighted the film with the wrong man in the lead.”
“That is one crazy story!” I replied.
“But, Larry, it is real! Jonas was a witness to it all.” Eddie jokingly added, “Now, nine months later, one might ask the question, who is Perry King? And, as for Stallone, why every moviegoer living on planet Earth knows who Stallone is and what he looks like! I’m not sure who it was who first coined the phrase, ‘There are no geniuses in the film business!’ But whoever it was sure knew what they were talking about!”

The Harvest Show Interview

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Here is the link to our television interview with The Harvest Show from this past Monday. We really enjoyed meeting the hosts and the staff at The Harvest Show. Our interview starts at 16:32.

While it is definitely nerve-racking being on live television, the casual atmosphere made us feel like we were sitting in someone’s living room chatting with friends. It only took a few minutes for my jitters to calm down and for me to forget about the cameras. While being behind the camera was not new for my dad, it was certainly a new experience for me. It’s really strange to watch yourself on the camera afterwards too. While I could easily think of things I should of said or done differently, I’m going to focus on the joy of the experience of being with my dad and enjoying this incredible journey together! Thanks to all our friends for your incredible support through this entire writing, publishing, and launch process. We are so grateful to each of you!

Tune in to The Harvest Show Tonight at 9 pm

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We had a great morning at The Harvest Show, and our interview will be on tonight at 9:00 pm on WHME, channel 46 if you’re in the South Bend area (our segment comes on at 9:15 pm). The Harvest Show is the number two highest rated international program in the Christian genre. Everyone we met was so kind and gracious, and we really enjoyed seeing the television station. It’s actually the largest in the state.

Here we are in front of the television station. It was a cold, foggy morning but thankfully our interview was inside.
Harvest Show out front

When we first arrived, we were ushered into the beautiful green room.
Harvest Show green room

We were entertained as we watched my dad get his makeup done.
Harvest Show makeup

Then we were ushered onto the cool-looking set at The Harvest Show.
Harvest Show cool set

Harvest Show set at a distance

Jeffrey was very excited to get his picture taken with Chuck Freeby. He listens to him every morning on the way to work.
Harvest Show Chuck and Jeff

We enjoyed talking with Stefan Radelich too. They are such great hosts!
Harvest Show Stefan