Interview with Frank Price, March 14, 2022

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History


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00:00:30 - Introduction

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Partial Transcript: This interview is for the Louie B. Nunn oral history program at the University of Kentucky libraries.

Segment Synopsis: Frank Price is introduced as the subject of the interview.

Subjects: Oral histories

00:01:23 - Introduction / Moving from television to motion pictures.

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Partial Transcript: In 1978, you moved from television to motion pictures.

Segment Synopsis: Frank Price is briefly introduced as the subject of the interview. Price goes on to discuss his motivation for leaving television work with Universal Pictures to joining an ailing Columbia Pictures to work on movies.

Keywords: Commercials; HBO

Subjects: Home Box Office (Firm); Motion pictures.; Radio.; Television; Universal Pictures Company; Columbia Pictures

00:05:32 - Promoting the film Gandhi

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Partial Transcript: Well, you had three movies, I think, that won an Academy Award for best picture.

Segment Synopsis: Price discusses his role in promoting the film Gandhi, released in 1982, and how he worked with the National Education Association to promote interest in the film's subject matter before it's release.

Keywords: Arthur Gelb; New York Times; NEA

Subjects: Columbia Pictures; Education; Gandhi (Motion picture); National Education Association of the United States.; Motion pictures

00:08:34 - Work on Out of Africa

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Partial Transcript: In 1986, Out of Africa won the Best Picture award.

Segment Synopsis: Price discusses his work getting the production of the film Out of Africa started. He talks about the various people involved, and how he went about convincing them to join the project. Price also mentions some of the difficulties the crew faced getting the film shot, including adverse weather conditions in Kenya. He finishes by discussing how films like Out of Africa are deemed too risky by modern day film production committees due to the way the motion picture landscape has changed.

Keywords: Best Picture; Film budgets; Robert Redford; Sydney Pollack; Casting

Subjects: Academy Awards (Motion pictures); Droughts; Kenya; Motion pictures; Out of Africa (Motion picture); Pollack, Sydney, 1934-2008; Streep, Meryl; Columbia Pictures

00:19:24 - Work on Kramer vs. Kramer / Motivations to greenlight projects

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Partial Transcript: And the other, uh, Best Picture award went to Kramer versus Kramer in 1980.

Segment Synopsis: Price discusses his rationale behind greenlighting Kramer vs. Kramer. He talks about some of the principle people involved in the film, like Dustin Hoffman. He goes on to discuss how his background as a story analyst helped him choose stories to push that other studio heads were unwilling to support. He also mentions the relationship between the Academy Awards and financing projects like Prince of Tides.

Keywords: Budgets; Editors; Role reversals; Story analysts; Marketing and distribution

Subjects: Academy Awards (Motion pictures); Benton, Robert; Hoffman, Dustin, 1937-; Kramer vs. Kramer (Motion picture); Motion pictures; Prince of tides (Motion picture); Streep, Meryl; Streisand, Barbra; Television; Columbia Pictures

00:27:14 - Greenlighting Ghostbusters

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Partial Transcript: The last movie I was going to ask you about was Ghostbusters.

Segment Synopsis: Price discusses his rationale behind greenlighting Ghostbusters, despite other people's hesitancy about the movie. He talks about the relationship between Coca-Cola and Columbia Pictures, and how his marketing methods were different than theirs, as he focused more on television advertising. He mentions how the large budget of the movie was a hurdle to getting it produced.

Keywords: Soft drinks; projects; Coke

Subjects: Coca-Cola Company.; Columbia Pictures; Marketing.; Motion Pictures; Television; Ghostbusters (Motion picture : 1984)

00:32:04 - Lasting impact on motion pictures / Biggest pressures as studio head

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Partial Transcript: What do you think you accomplished during that period of time that had a lasting impact on the motion picture industry.

Segment Synopsis: Price discusses what he thinks is his lasting impact on the movie industry. He mentions that his method of marketing was novel for his time, and shaped how movies were marketed going forward. Price also describes what he feels were the biggest pressures he faced as a studio head.

Keywords: Budgets; Exploitation movies; General audiences; HBO; Marvin Antonowsky; Movies; RCA Victor; Studio heads; Impact

Subjects: Columbia Pictures; Home Box Office (Firm); Marketing; RCA Records; Television; Universal Pictures Company; Motion pictures

00:37:35 - Rise of the independent studio / Predictions for the future of the industry

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Partial Transcript: What do you attribute the rise of the independent studio to, and what changes has that brought about in the industry?

Segment Synopsis: Price goes into the traditional financial needs of a major motion picture studio, and how independent studios often struggled to meet those needs. He also describes how new market disruptions like Netflix have altered the motion picture business and challenged the seven major motion picture studios. Price mentions that these, along with COVID, has made predicting the future of the industry more challenging, but he believes that the studios will continue to profitably exist once more time from COVID has passed. Price also describes how in the past he had prepared for the death of the movie theater as a major distribution method.

Keywords: Film libraries; Films; Movies; Payroll; Distribution networks

Subjects: COVID-19 (Disease); Columbia Pictures; Marketing; Motion picture studios.; Motion picture theaters.; Motion pictures

00:45:42 - What makes Academy Award winners / What Price looks for in adaptation material

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Partial Transcript: If someone made a movie, and then sent it to you, asked you to watch it, and said, at the end I'm going to ask you if you think this could win the Academy Award for best picture as you viewed it, what would you be watching for?

Segment Synopsis: Price discusses what he looks for in movies to see if they have a chance of winning an Academy Award. He also talks about what material makes for a good film adaptation.

Keywords: Directors; Film adaptations; Premises; Source materials; Writers; Performances

Subjects: Academy Awards (Motion pictures); Columbia Pictures; Gandhi (Motion picture); Karate kid (Motion picture : 1984); Out of Africa (motion picture); Tootsie (Motion picture); Motion pictures

00:51:33 - Serving as chair of University of Southern California Board of Councilors

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Partial Transcript: For almost thirty years you served as the chair of the board of councilors--

Segment Synopsis: Price describes his contributions to the University of Southern California by serving as the chair of its Board of Councilors for the film department. He talks about the different members of the board, and details the work of the dean Elizabeth Daley and how he pushed for her to remain dean for longer than the traditional term limits. Price mentions his role in promoting fundraising for the film department.

Keywords: Board of Councilors; Davis, Marvin; Elizabeth Daley; Endowed chairs; Fundraising; USC

Subjects: Computer science; Daley, Elizabeth M.; Education; Fund raising.; Lucas, George, 1944-; Spielberg, Steven, 1946-; Video games; Zemeckis, Robert, 1952-; University of Southern California. School of Cinematic Arts

01:01:05 - Changes in the entertainment industry / Family background

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Partial Transcript: Um, if someone was entering the motion picture industry, or even the entertainment industry, today--

Segment Synopsis: Price talks about the historical circumstances that allowed someone with his background become the head of a major motion picture studio. He describes how these circumstances have changed, and how the shift to a committee system and corporate mergers have eliminated studio head positions like he used to have. He goes on to discuss different ways the entertainment industry has changed since he started at CBS, from technology to finances. He also mentions some of the television shows he worked on early in his career, and his family's history.

Keywords: Board of directors; CBS; Coaxial cables; Dragnet; NBC; Suspense (show); Westerns; Studio heads

Subjects: CBS Broadcasting Inc.; Comcast Corporation; Kentucky; National Broadcasting Company.; Television; Virginia; Columbia Pictures

01:12:08 - Major career achievements

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Partial Transcript: As you look back on your career, what are some of the major achievements you most want to be remembered for?

Segment Synopsis: Price discusses which of his achievements he feels the most proud of from his career. He says that helping make movies that have held up to scrutiny and inspired younger generations are some of his favorite achievements, and mentions the film Groundhog Day in particular. He also discusses how he was pleased he was able to help make both blockbusters and Academy Award winners, and promoted films that focused on race and gender.

Keywords: Achievements; Blockbusters; Comedies

Subjects: Academy Awards (Motion pictures); Boyz n the hood (Motion picture); Careers; Columbia Pictures; Gandhi (Motion picture); Groundhog Day (Motion picture); Majors, Lee, 1939-; Motion pictures; Philosophy; Tootsie (Motion picture); Six million dollar man (Television program)