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MTI Celebrates 25 Years as an Independent

4 Mar, 2009 By: Chris Tribbey

At the Video Software Dealers Association show 25 years ago, a new company launched with the release of Freedanse, a fitness video starring Marine Jahan from Flashdance.

MTI Home Video doesn’t do fitness anymore, but instead has relied on good business practices, a variety of product and knowing when the winds are changing (VHS to DVD, revenue sharing, rental to sellthrough) to establish itself as the oldest independent home entertainment company in America.

“We’re still trying to figure out how it happened,” MTI president Larry Brahms said, when asked how MTI had stuck around for 25 years. “When you’re small you kind of go under the radar. A lot of luck.”

From ushering in Lions Gate of Canada’s initial entry in the American home video market (under the Avalanche label) to grabbing an adult title and making it suitable for the mass market, MTI has survived and thrived in an industry that’s seen dozens of independents whither and die.

“It’s amazing how easy it is when you have a great relationship with someone,” said Scott J. Jones, president of Artist View Entertainment, which has had more than 100 films released through MTI. “They know what they’re doing, they know what their niche is, and they generate great sales.”

Larry Brahms concurred: “We’ve got a good reputation for paying people on time.”

Regarding the Lions Gate deal, partner Claudia Brahms said the deal put MTI on the map. “It gave us a chance to put out our own bigger films,” she said. “People that normally would have gone somewhere else would come to us.”

Revenue sharing with Hollywood Video in the 1990s was another turning point for the company, Larry Brahms said.

The Brahms noted a few of the titles that contributed to MTI’s success over the years:

The Turning in 1998, which featured a nude scene by Gillian Anderson during the height of the “X-Files” craze. “It was probably the most successful three minutes of video we ever had,” Larry Brahms said.

Timelock in 1999, the very first title MTI paid for, and Mirror Mirror II in 1995, the first to feature holographic box art. Regarding Timelock, Larry Brahms shared the story of how he broke the news to Claudia that he had paid a $50,000 advance on the title. “Claudia was pregnant with our son when I told her, and I was worried she was going to have a miscarriage,” he said. “She had a coronary.”

One Special Night (in 2002), starring James Garner and Julie Andrews. “It’s one of those titles that keeps on giving, year in and year out,” Claudia Brahms said. “I remember we were shipping that title every month. To this day it’s still a good title for us.”

Pirates in 2006, which was first an adult film before getting a few cuts to get it down to an ‘R’ rating for the masses. “Pirates has its own little place in our heart,” Larry Brahms said. “It performed extremely well, and it’s always fun to reinvent the wheel and do something nobody else has done.”

Partnering with several studios to release more than 30 titles a year, the Brahms said they see MTI going on for another 25 years.

“There’s always going to be a delivery system necessary for creativity,” Larry Brahms said. “It’s never going to die. It’s just going to change.”

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