Polygram Entertainment is seeing a rebirth. Universal Music Group is re-launching Polygram Entertainment as part of an expansion of its film and TV production. Its first project will be The Story of Motown, a documentary about the history and cultural impact of the iconic record label with the participation of Motown founder Berry Gordy.
As part of the deal, Polygram will develop and produce feature films and television, including scripted and unscripted productions as well as financing premium documentaries. The company will work closely with UMG’s labels, Universal Music Publishing Group and other Vivendi companies, as well as Hollywood studios, networks, digital outlets and media partners. Polygram will provide deeper narratives and perspectives on the artists, music and cultural events.
The Story of Motown will be spearheaded by Steve Barnett, Chairman and CEO of Capitol Music Group, and with the unprecedented participation of Gordy. Featuring footage and recordings from Gordy’s personal archive, the documentary focuses on the time period stretching from Motown’s birth in Detroit in 1958 until its 1972 relocation to Los Angeles, a period during which the label released some of the most iconic musicians of the 20th Century against the backdrop of tumultuous cultural and civil upheaval. Polygram, Motown, Ghost Pictures and Fulwell 73 are producing the film.
Polygram is based in Santa Monica and led by David Blackman, UMG’s Head of Film & Television Development and Production. Blackman reports to UMG Executive Vice President Michele Anthony and Universal Music Publishing Group Chairman and CEO Jody Gerson.
“Polygram will play an important role in furthering UMG’s global strategy to produce the very best in audio-visual storytelling and provide our artists with an important medium for their expression and creativity,” Anthony said. “Music is essential to film and television – and the stories surrounding our artists and their music provide compelling narratives for audiences around the world.”
Polygram is also currently financing and co-producing Mystify, a film first announced last year that follows the extraordinary life of INXS lead singer Michael Hutchence. In September, Polygram and Studio Canal co-distributed the Ron Howard-directed film The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years, about the legendary band’s earliest days on the road. The movie is nominated for a BAFTA and a Grammy for best documentary and recently received The Critics Choice Documentary Award for Best Music Documentary.
UMG’s recent credits include Amy, Oscar-winning documentary about Amy Winehouse released in 2015, and Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, a 2015 documentary on the Nirvana front man’s life, music career and death. In 2014, UMG acquired Eagle Rock Entertainment, a producer and distributor of music films and programming for theatrical, television, home entertainment and digital media with a library of 800 concert films and documentaries.