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Xenon Turns 20

13 Jul, 2006 By: Angelique Flores

Xenon Pictures toasted to its 20th anniversary with a cocktail party Wednesday.

CEO Leigh Savidge founded Xenon Pictures in 1986. At the time, he saw an unquenched demand for black films on video, specifically 1970s Blaxploitation films.

Looking for a niche, Savidge asked independent retailers what titles their customers requested and sought out filmmakers to offer them licensing deals. He built up Xenon on a title-by-title basis. By the mid-1990s, the company had acquired the largest collection in North America of films for blacks.

Xenon's initial success came largely through word-of-mouth, Savidge said. With little to no paid advertising, the company relied on the influential relationships that black retail establishments — barbershops, nail salons, independent record stores and swap meets — have with their customers to generate sales. Eventually, Savidge persuaded major retail chains to carry Xenon's product, he said.

Some of the company's most notable acquisitions include Sweet Sweetback's Baadassssss Song (1971), Dolemite (1974), The Human Tornado (1976), Penitentiary (1979), Thug Immortal (1997) and Welcome to Death Row (2001), which was produced in-house.

More recently, the company's success in the urban market has attracted Grupo Televisa. In 2002, the Mexican media powerhouse tapped Xenon to distribute and market its domestic video brand Televisa Home Entertainment, which included telenovelas, classic Mexican TV programs and such theatrical releases as A Day Without a Mexican.

“Like BB King once said, it took me 30 years to become an overnight success,” Savidge said. “This is the same process for Xenon, rather than a meteoric rise and fall. We've kept to a policy of slow but steady market growth.”

In 2004, the company entered a distribution deal with Vivendi Visual Entertainment, which has raised Xenon's visibility.

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