Will repurpose talkshow footage for documentaries, DVDs

Reelin’ in the Years Prods. has acquired the rights to license all footage from “The Merv Griffin Show,” which ran from October 1962 to September 1986. The deal includes footage of more than 1,500 shows, 5,000 guests and about 2,000 hours of material, according to Reelin’ in the Years founder-president David Peck.

The material — intended to be repurposed for documentaries, television and DVD packages — includes footage of music performers like Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye and the late Whitney Houston in her first TV appearance; comedians such as Jerry Seinfeld, Andy Kaufman and George Carlin; actors including Orson Welles, Grace Kelly and Dustin Hoffman; dignitaries such as Martin Luther King Jr., Richard Nixon and Robert F. Kennedy; and sports figures including Joe Namath, Reggie Jackson and Muhammad Ali.

The nonmonetary deal with the Griffin Group that will see a split on ancillary revenue between the two parties comes on the heals of the October pact Reelin’ inked with the Carson Entertainment Group to license clip rights to live performances and interviews from the music guests who appeared on “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” from 1962-92. In the case of the Griffin Group, Reelin’ is handling the entire library.

“It’s crazy how unkept the library was,” Peck told Variety. “It was kept in a safe area, but people didn’t know what was where. We’ve already gone through about 250 episodes.” Among the findings, says Beck, was a 40-minute interview with King from 1967 and 19 appearances of Richard Pryor from 1965-66.

“We’ve all seen Dr. King give speeches, but to actually see him sit down and talk is really eye-opening,” Peck said. “We also have Richard Nixon in ’66 when he was really out of public office.”

Peck sees Griffin “in the tradition of Dick Cavett, very thought provoking. He pushed the limits of what was acceptable. He had Timothy Leary on the show in 1966, and Leary is saying not only should all kids take LSD but that it shouldn’t be in the care of a doctor.”

In addition to handling the rights to music from Carson, “The Jack Benny Show” and the Bob Hope archives, Reelin’ in the Years Prods. has produced more than 70 music films, including “The American Folk Blues Festival 1962-1969″ and “British Invasion” DVD series.

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