One of the most important independents of the home video scene in the '80s and the '90s, International Video Entertainment has one of the most interesting histories of them all.
IVE had its roots in Family Home Entertainment, founded by adult filmmaker Noel Christopher Bloom Sr. in 1981, a year after his adult firm, Caballero Control Corporation, entered the home video market. FHE's initial lineup, which included Pippin, Tom Jones Live in Las Vegas, a trio of early Toei Animation features (The Adventures Of Sindbad The Sailor, The Littlest Warrior, and Panda And The Magic Serpent), and several animated programs, including Captain Harlock, Angel, Captain Future, Force Five: Spaceketeers, Little Lulu and Tubby, Fables of the Green Forest, Candy Candy, Space Angel, The Undersea Adventures Of Captain Nemo, and Gumby, was introduced at that year's Summer CES in Chicago. Most, if not all, of the initial offerings were licensed from ZIV International, which would later be absorbed by Lorimar-Telepictures. From there, FHE had nowhere to go but up, acquiring such lucrative properties as Strawberry Shortcake, Care Bears, Inspector Gadget, The Transformers, G.I. Joe, and others, including several from Filmation. On some tapes, various Looney Tunes shorts, mainly from the AAP library, were included as padding if the content fell short of an hour.
Not wanting to restrict his mainstream programming to children's entertainment, Bloom entered into a joint venture with Scott Mansfield to form Monterey Home Video; its first release was Mansfield's own Deadly Games. The next year, Bloom started a third mainstream division, U.S.A. Home Video, with three releases: Fiona, a biography of adult star Fiona Richmond; Ms. 45, Abel Ferrara's second feature-length film; and Thin Thighs in Thirty Days, an exercise video. Starting out with just ten titles, U.S.A. Home Video would expand vigorously the next year, acquiring films from producer Alexander Salkind, Viacom, ITC Entertainment, Tomorrow Entertainment, Alan Landsburg Productions, and Lorimar, among others. Its biggest hits were Supergirl and Nineteen Eighty-Four, the former a theatrical flop which ended up doing better business on home video, and the latter a faithful adaptation of the great George Orwell's dystopian novel which happened to be filmed in the exact timeframe in which the story takes place.
In late summer 1984, FHE, up to then the name of Caballero's mainstream division, changed its name to International Video Entertainment, with FHE becoming a sublabel along with Monterey and U.S.A. Around the same time, they signed a deal with Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, to host a series of horror titles under the ThrillerVideo label (Elvira stayed away from the more adult titles, as well as those that included scenes of animal cruelty, out of concern for her own image); the next year, they entered into a similar pact with Sybil Danning for a series of cult action titles under the Adventure Video label and additionally started releasing sports titles. Around 1986, Carolco Pictures took a majority stake in IVE, which would release most of its subsequent product on home video. By this point the IVE name had largely replaced the U.S.A. Home Video label on mainstream releases. Carolco brought in former RCA executive Jose Menendez to help stem IVE's massive losses. Bloom did not get along with Menendez and quickly left to start another video firm. IVE quickly began making money again, and also expanded into distribution of video titles for pay-TV.
1989 saw the merger of IVE with Lieberman Enterprises, a wholesale distribution firm based in Minneapolis that handled videos, records, and computer software. This resulted into a renaming to LIVE Entertainment, though the IVE name continued to be used for another year or so. They also established more sub-labels, including Carolco Home Video and the budget label Avid Home Entertainment (which distributed cheaper EP/SLP versions of tapes from Live and the other labels).
On a darker note, Jose Menendez found himself murdered that year in one of America's most infamous criminal cases, by his own sons Lyle and Erik.
The next few years were rough as the company struggled with a large debt load and a revolving door of executives. It didn't help when they bought all sorts of stuff, including the remains of rival Vestron Video, and several regional record and video store chains. By 1994 the company had begun to sell or spin-off its' unprofitable parts (including the retail operations and Lieberman assets), while a changing video market meant that LIVE had begun to invest in film production. They also nearly merged with old partner Carolco— itself nearly at death's door due to several box-office flops— but fortunately for Live, this plan was averted and they escaped Carolco's fate. They continued to distribute Carolco titles on video after striking a deal with the owner of Carolco's remnants, the French firm Studio Canal.
1997 saw the company taken private by Bain Capital, and another renaming, to Artisan Entertainment. By 2000 they were distributing the Republic Pictures back catalog (under license from Paramount), as well as Hallmark Hall of Fame and other Hallmark Entertainment titles, and Discovery Channel Video too. They'd had a major theatrical success with the Found Footage horror film The Blair Witch Project. They also struck a deal with Marvel Comics to develop films based on their characters, although this deal ultimately bore little fruit.
In 2003, after a string of flops, Artisan was put up for sale and various consortiums began to bid, among them the aforementioned Marvel Comics (which had the backing of Miramax Films, somewhat ironically). Ultimately, Canadian film house Lions' Gate Films wound up the winner and merged with Artisan in 2004. Since then, Lionsgate (as it's known now) has become a major Hollywood player— but it hasn't forgotten about the Artisan side of things, as it's been tapping the Artisan and Vestron library for their Vidmark Roku channel (Vidmark being the name of one of Lionsgate's predecessor companies) and the Vestron Video Collector's Series on Blu-Ray.