×
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.

Popular on Variety

More Scene

  • Laverne Cox Charlie's Angels

    How Laverne Cox Landed a Cameo in Elizabeth Banks' 'Charlie’s Angels'

    Laverne Cox officially earned her wings, scoring a role in Sony’s “Charlie’s Angels.” But she revealed her cameo almost didn’t happen. When the Emmy-nominee heard that Elizabeth Banks was directing the film, the longtime fan of the franchise (and of Banks herself) reached out about being part of the project. Cox had previously worked with [...]

  • Lena Waithe'The Inheritance' Broadway play opening,

    Lena Waithe, Anderson Cooper Attend Broadway Opening of 'The Inheritance'

    “The Inheritance” pulls viewers in many directions — toward pain and hope, trauma and healing. It’s what brought stars like Andy Cohen, Anderson Cooper, Sarah Jessica Parker, Matthew Broderick and Lena Waithe to Broadway on Sunday — a chance to heal, to remember and grieve. Also in attendance for the premiere at the Barrymore Theater [...]

  • Cybill ShepherdTrevorLIVE, Show, The Beverly Hilton,

    'The L Word' Co-Stars Cybill Shepherd and Jane Lynch Reunite at TrevorLive

    Fans of Showtime’s “The L Word” will be happy to hear that Cybill Shepherd eagerly reprised her on-screen romance with former co-star Jane Lynch on Sunday night at the TrevorLive Gala at the Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles. While accepting the champion Award, Shepherd kissed Lynch not one, but twice. The “Moonlighting” star was recognized [...]

  • Rami Malek, Robert Pattinson and John

    Robert Pattinson Praises Fans for Raising Funds for Go Campaign: ‘It’s So Sweet’

    Robert Pattinson is giving back, but he’s even more impressed that his friends and fans are joining him in the fight. “It’s amazing,” Pattinson told Variety on the black carpet outside Neuehouse in Hollywood at the Go Campaign’s annual gala. “And they’ve done it every year. It’s kind of — it’s so sweet and I [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content