Fans keep fuse lit on ‘Mission’ theme

Pix, ringtones help Schifrin earn estimated $10 mil

For a 30-second piece of music written 40 years ago, Lalo Schifrin has gotten a lot of mileage out of one tune.

Schifrin composed other TV themes including “Starsky & Hutch” and “Mannix,” but “Mission: Impossible” is his evergreen — and ever-greener — calling card.

While not as lucrative as Merv Griffin’s “Jeopardy” theme — from which he has estimated an income of $70 million — or Paul Anka’s “Tonight” show theme (which started as a $1,100 a day earner in the ’60s), Schifrin has pulled in an estimated $10 million from “M:I,” according to an exec familiar with music royalty calculations.

The tune was a minor hit in 1968, reaching No. 41 on the singles chart. Schifrin’s album “Music From Mission: Impossible” reached No. 47.

But it had a major revival with the launch of the action films and the rise of cellphone ringtones. In 2005, BMI gave Schifrin a ringtone award for having the most-performed TV theme song in the international mobile space.

The song has been played on the radio about 1 million times in its 40 years and on TV an additional 250,000.

“Suffice it to say, that theme has kept him going all these years,” says one of Schifrin’s colleagues regarding the income the theme has generated.

Schifrin streams the “M:I” theme on his Web site and he continues to conduct, compose and perform. His next job is scoring “Rush Hour 3.”

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