You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Bill Sargent

Producer, entrepreneur

H. William “Bill” Sargent, producer and entrepreneur, died Oct. 19 of a heart attack in Caddo, Okla. He was 76. Sargent pioneered the use of pay-per-view and videotaping live events for theatrical release.

In the early 1960s, he established Home Entertainment Co. (H.E.C.) in Los Angeles, which broadcast a closed-circuit Cassius Clay boxing match to theaters around the country and thus launched a forerunner of pay-per-view.

After selling H.EC., he founded Electronovision with the forward-thinking idea of videotaping live events and distributing them in theaters. Although the still-nascent videotape technology was barely up to the challenge, Electronovision’s first release, “Hamlet” starring Richard Burton, was released on more than 1,000 screens and grossed $3 million.

In 1964, Sargent produced the first filmed rock concert, “The T.A.M.I. Show,” which featured the Rolling Stones, the Supremes, James Brown, the Beach Boys, Chuck Berry and Marvin Gaye. He also produced a filmed version of the play “Stop the World! I Want to Get Off” and “Harlow,” a biopic of Jean Harlow starring Carol Lynley.

An avid electronics experimenter and ham radio operator, Sargent held some 400 patents on tape heads, camera components and other equipment.

His ambitious but often-unrealized schemes included a benefit rock concert called “Stop the War!” with Warren Beatty and producer Frank Mankiewicz, canceled due to pressure from Richard Nixon’s White House; and a proposed closed-circuit fight between a man and a great white shark, stopped by the United Nations. He also tried to turn the Super Bowl into a closed-circuit theatrical event, but the NFL pulled out even as the House of Representatives was looking into prohibiting the deal.

Moving to Salt Lake City, Sargent converted a former Mormon church into a state-of-the-art recording studio. Jack Nitzche used the studio to record a portion of his Oscar-nominated score for “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” Other musicians who recorded at the studio included America, Billy Joel and the Doobie Brothers.

In 1975, Sargent formed Theatrovision and produced the one-man show “Give ’em Hell, Harry!” based on the life of President Harry S. Truman. Taped in front of a live audience, pic grossed $15 million-plus and netted James Whitmore an Oscar best actor nom. Sargent’s biggest film hit was 1979’s “Richard Pryor Live in Concert.”

He invested in numerous Broadway productions, including “Beatlemania,” and remounted “Stop the World, I Want to Get Off” with Sammy Davis Jr.

Sargent is survived by his wife, Helen, two sisters, a brother, two daughters and three sons. Private services are planned in his hometown of Caddo. Donations may be made to the Bill Sargent Scholarship at USC’s Peter Stark Producing Program.

More Scene

  • First Look at SAG Awards' Cuban

    First Look at SAG Awards' Cuban-Inspired After-Party (EXCLUSIVE)

    Celebrities at this year’s SAG Awards won’t have to go far for some tropical fun. Sunday’s annual post-show gala, hosted by People magazine for the 23rd year, is set to feature a Cuban-themed party space adjacent to the Shrine Auditorium. “We’re kind of going back to more of a thematic element. I have some close [...]

  • DF-10956_R – Gwilym Lee (Brian May) and

    'Bohemian Rhapsody' Producer Confirms Bryan Singer's Reason for Leaving, Says 'No One' Was Attached to Play Mercury

    “Bohemian Rhapsody” producer Graham King provided insight into some of the events surrounding the Golden Globe-winning film Saturday at the Producers Guild Awards Nominees Breakfast, including director Bryan Singer’s departure from the film partway through production. “It’s an unfortunate situation, with like 16, 17 days to go and Bryan Singer just had some issues, his [...]

  • Mj Rodriguez, Nico Santos to Announce

    Mj Rodriguez, Nico Santos to Announce GLAAD Media Award Nominations

    Mj Rodriguez and Nico Santos are set to announce the nominees for the 30th annual GLAAD Media Awards. The “Pose” star and “Crazy Rich Asians” funny man will make the announcement during a live-stream hosted by AT&T and from the AT&T Hello Lounge at the Sundance Film Festival on Friday, Jan. 25. “The images and stories recognized [...]

  • Emile Hirsch, Matt SmileyEmile Hirsch hosts

    Emile Hirsch Hosts Smiley Face Art Opening at Mondrian Hotel

    Despite the rain on Wednesday night in West Hollywood, there were plenty of smiles inside the Mondrian hotel thanks to artist Matt Smiley‘s Refresh exhibition. Not only is Smiley his real last name, but several of his paintings and other pieces in the exhibit feature smiley faces. “I’ve seen more smiley symbolism lately, and I’ve [...]

  • Randall Park, left, and Constance Wu

    Constance Wu Wants Her 'Fresh Off the Boat' Co-Star Randall Park to Host the Oscars

    While the Academy may have decided to go hostless for this year’s Oscars, that doesn’t mean the rest of Hollywood has stopped thinking about who would be a good choice for the emceeing gig. Former host Whoopi Goldberg recently suggested Ken Jeong. Jeong said, when he was a guest on “The View,” Goldberg told him [...]

  • 'Schitt's Creek' Stars Reveal Dream Guest

    'Schitt's Creek' Cast Reveals Dream Guest Stars: Oprah, Beyonce and ...

    “Schitt’s Creek” has big dreams. Dan Levy, who stars as David on the series, says his wish list of guest stars includes Oprah, Beyonce, Mariah Carey and Gwyneth Paltrow. “All for different reasons, none of whom we’ll get,” he cracked at the Critics’ Choice Awards. For those who haven’t caught on to the “Schitt’s Creek” [...]

  • Barbra Streisand and Gisele Bundchen

    Barbra Streisand and Gisele Bündchen to Be Honored at UCLA Science Gala

    Science can be very glamorous. It certainly will be during Oscar week on Feb. 21 when the UCLA Institute of the Environment & Sustainability (IoES) honors Barbra Streisand and Gisele Bündchen for environmental activism at its annual Hollywood for Science Gala. “When I moved to LA, the air was unbreathable. Rivers were catching fire in [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content