Ned Tanen, Movie Executive With a Taste for Youth Films, Dies at 77
Ned Tanen, a studio executive who seemed to have a Midas touch in bringing youth-oriented films like “American Graffiti” and “Animal House” to the screen, died at his home in Santa Monica, Calif., on Monday. He was 77.
[Mr. Tanen] compiled an enviable record of box-office hits and critical successes, based in no small part on his talent for identifying films that would appeal to young ticket-buyers, including “E.T.: The Extraterrestrial.” After his studio career, he independently produced films by John Hughes, including “Sixteen Candles” and “The Breakfast Club.”
In 1980 he helped Universal set a Hollywood record of $290 million for a single studio’s box-office receipts with films like “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” “The Blues Brothers” and “Smokey and the Bandit II,” then broke it two years later. At Paramount, films like “Pretty in Pink,” “Top Gun” and “Crocodile Dundee,”all released in 1986, earned $600 million, giving Paramount more than double the gross revenues of its nearest competitor. The studio finished first the next year as well.
In the early 1970s, after working as a production supervisor on Milos Forman’s film “Taking Off,” he went into film production full time, helping to develop projects like “American Graffiti,” “The Deer Hunter,” “Smokey and the Bandit” and “Jaws” for Universal, MCA’s film subsidiary.
In 1976 he became president of Universal’s film-producing division, and two years later he was named president of Universal Pictures, its distribution arm. In December 1982, riding a wave of hits, as well as critical successes like “Melvin and Howard” and “Missing,” he resigned from Universal, saying he was exhausted and, he told The Wall Street Journal, tired of playing “the Hollywood game.”