Larry Namer - E! Entertainment - Eurocinema
Larry Namer and Alan Mruvka talked and talked about it and even went as far as writing a business plan but the folks around them just kept saying that it was a nice idea but since they are not Rupert Murdock or Ted Turner, they should just put it on the back burner and get on with real life.
Well, I had grown up in the cable business having joined Time Inc’s Manhattan Cable TV right after college. I was supposed to teach but NYC cut the budgets and there wasn’t much else to do with an economics degree. After ten years splicing cables in the sewers of NYC and then rising to director of operations I was ready for something new.
I moved to Los Angeles to build the first 61 channel cable system in the US and accepted the job as Vice President and General Manager of Valley Cable TV. Well it was 1981 and while there were some new channels like ESPN, CNN, and MTV there wasn’t enough to fill 61 channels so I put on some text channels like the city government channel, the school lunch channel, the library channel, and of course the lost pet channel. I was almost thinking of dividing that into cat and dog just to take up some of the blank channel space.
Being a boy from Brooklyn NY, tossed into the middle of LA life was quite an adjustment for me. I noticed that just about everyone out here would go to movie screenings and premieres and wondered how they got invited to these things. I found out that you had to somehow be in or around “ the business” . Not wanting to admit that building a cable system was more like being in the utility business rather than the entertainment business I contacted the movie studios with this proposition.
“Give me those movie trailers that people only see when they are in the movies and I'll run them for free on a TV channel. In return I want to get invited to these screenings”.
I paid someone about three bucks an hour (or whatever minimum wage was at that time) and they edited them together and we put them on a blank channel. Never even gave it a name. When we did some audience surveys people clearly liked CNN, MTV and "that trailer channel” . I thought that was quite odd. I was getting the best 2 minutes of a movie for free and people were proclaiming it one of their favorite channels. I filed that thought away and went on with building the cable system but then the company I worked for sold out and moved back to Toronto where they were headquartered.
I didn’t move from NY to LA to go to Toronto so I stayed in LA figuring out what would be next for me. It was then (now 1984) that I met Alan Mruvka who was a NJ real estate developer out in LA trying to get into the entertainment business.
He would always say “someone should do an MTV of the movies” . Well after he said it enough times the light bulb went off. Maybe that trailer channels can be the foundation for MTV of the movies. We talked and talked about it and even went as far as writing a business plan but the folks around us just kept saying that it was a nice idea but since we are not Rupert Murdock or Ted Turner, we should just put it on the back burner and get on with real life.
For three and a half years we went around the country pitching this and trying to raise money but didn’t raise a dime. It was just about this time that my then wife got pregnant and pointed out that having 60 bucks left in the bank wasn’t exactly the right way to bring our first child into the world. I would have to forget the dream and get a job. I was almost at the point of accepting that when Alan and I met a gentleman who did acquisitions for Warner Communications. We told him about “Movietime” and he loved it and asked when we were starting. We explained we had no money. He then said he knew of a company that would love this idea and had some cash for start-ups.
So off we went to NY and visited the investment bank, Mabon Nugent. We walked into the office of the head of banking and noticed he had some movie posters on the wall. He explained that when he was in college he was the entertainment reporter for the school newspaper. Alan and I looked at each other and at that instant we knew the search for an investor was now over. Or so we thought. He said he loved it and would give us 2.5 million dollars. We explained that starting a network would take 50 million. Unfortunately he said he only had authority to sign for 2.5. mil so we took it and assumed we will just have to figure something out.
We managed to put Movietime (we later changed the name to E! Entertainment TV) on the air with 11 employees and 31 interns. As soon as people saw it the said “why didn’t you tell us that is what you had in mind we would have given you money years ago”. So we became an instant success. We grew the company very quickly and were the biggest entertainment news organization in the world before we could blink. People always ask if the success of the network surprised us to which Alan and I have the same answer.
“No, we always knew it would be”
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