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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Access
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Acquisition Information
  • Custodial History
  • Biography
  • Chronology
  • Collection Description
  • Arrangement
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Samuel Z. Arkoff papers
    Dates: 1921-2008
    Bulk Dates: 1965-1999
    Collection number: 080
    Creator: Arkoff, Samuel Z.
    Collection Size: 96 archival document boxes, 16 oversize archival boxes, 2 map case drawers
    Repository: Loyola Marymount University. Library. Department of Archives and Special Collections.
    Los Angeles, California 90045-2659
    Abstract: The Samuel Z. Arkoff Papers consist of pressbooks, posters, lobby cards, film stills, combined continuities, publicity files and organizational files chronicling Samuel Z. Arkoff's career as a motion picture producer and executive.
    Physical location: Department of Archives and Special Collections. William H. Hannon Library. Loyola Marymount University.
    Languages: Languages represented in the collection: English


    Collection is open to research under the terms of use of the Department of Archives and Special Collections, Loyola Marymount University.

    Publication Rights

    Materials in the Department of Archives and Special Collections may be subject to copyright. Unless explicitly stated otherwise, Loyola Marymount University does not claim ownership of the copyright of any materials in its collections. The user or publisher must secure permission to publish from the copyright owner. Loyola Marymount University does not assume any responsibility for infringement of copyright or of publication rights held by the original author or artists or his/her heirs, assigns, or executors.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Series number, Box and Folder number, Samuel Z. Arkoff papers, 080, Department of Archives and Special Collections, William H. Hannon Library, Loyola Marymount University.

    Acquisition Information

    Gift of Donna Roth and Louis Arkoff. Accession number: 2008.50

    Custodial History

    Originally in possession of the School of Film and Television, Loyola Marymount University.


    Samuel Zachary Arkoff holds an important place in the history of cinema as a leading creator and originator of exploitation, low-budget films. The son of a Russian-Jewish immigrant, Samuel Z. Arkoff was born on June 18, 1918, in Fort Dodge, Iowa, where he spent his youth. Arkoff's father, after deserting the czar's army, had moved to Iowa in 1905, and opened a clothing store in Fort Dodge.
    Arkoff graduated from Fort Dodge High School in 1935 and was a year short of graduating from the University of Iowa when World War II began. During World War II he served in the United States Army Air Force as a cryptographer. In 1945, while still serving in the US armed forces, he married Hilda Rusoff in Winnipeg, Canada. Their two children, Louis and Donna, would later work in the motion picture industry themselves.
    After the war Arkoff moved to Los Angeles and attended Loyola Law School, from which he graduated in 1948.
    Arkoff started his career in the entertainment industry as a legal expert in producer-distributor-exhibitor cases. Arkoff's interest in motion pictures had begun as a youth, after reading a copy of Variety magazine and its depiction of movies, at the 1933 Chicago World's Fair. By 1950, he had become vice-president of Video Associates, for which he produced the Hank McCune Show, one of television's first series.
    Arkoff co-founded American Releasing Corporation in 1954 with his partner, a film exhibitor named James H. Nicholson, and a $3,000 loan from Joseph Moritz, Nicholson's former employer. The company started with the intention of distributing films only, but Arkoff and Nicholson found that, because of the film recession of the 1950s, there was little product to distribute. Thus, they decided to produce their own films as well. They changed American Releasing Corp.'s name to American International Pictures (AIP) in 1955 and started to produce B-movies. Nicholson was president of the organization, Arkoff its chairman of the board.
    In order to make AIP successful, Arkoff and Nicholson astutely discerned that a youth market existed for action and sensationalistic pictures. The pair consequently directed and marketed their product to teenagers, a successful marketing strategy that earned them hundreds of thousands of dollars.
    The company's first release, The Fast and the Furious, was produced by Roger Corman for $66,000 and made a profit of $150,000, drawing audiences with its themes of fast cars and women, and fugitives on the run. The success of AIP was also tied to double bills at the drive-in, with such packages as The Day the World Ended and The Phantom from 10,000 Leagues . This then was the formula for the success of AIP: double-feature films produced on a low budget and built on lurid themes, skillfully illustrated by their titles and craftily marketed. As Arkoff once quipped, "In the morning Jim (Nicholson) would come in and say, What do you think of this title.... The Beast With a Million Eyes? Ahhh, I could hear the money rolling in." He also noted that "exhibitors would come up to me and say 'Sam, if we could just punch sprocket holes in the campaign and throw the film away'." Between 1954 and 1960, the company did not make one film that lost money, and the trend continued. Regardless of the type of movie, whether horror, biker, beach, or science fiction, AIP never had a year in the red in the decades of the 1950s and the 1960s.
    Arkoff helped launch the careers of a number of well known actors and movie makers, such as Roger Corman, the director of his first movie. Others included: Jack Nicholson, Peter Fonda, Woody Allen, Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello (in the beach blanket films), Francis Ford Coppola, Robert DeNiro, Nick Nolte, and Martin Scorsese. Iconic of this trait of AIP and its market was I Was a Teenage Werewolf, released in 1957. Youthful Michael Landon was the teenage werewolf, and the sub-text of teenage alienation, coupled with the movie's horror theme, made the film a hit with teenagers, who flocked to see it. (The film grossed $2000000.) Besides launching new faces, Arkoff also helped the careers of aging stars such as Vincent Price, who starred in AIP's Edgar Allen Poe film series, in the 1960s.
    James H. Nicholson left AIP in 1971, and Arkoff took over as the president of the company. By this time, AIP had become an established production company. Arkoff received a number of honors, including recognition as Producer of the Year in 1963 by the Allied States Association of Motion Picture Theater Owners, and the Master Showman of the Decade award from the Theater Owners of America in 1964. In 1970, he was named Commendatore of the Order of Merit by the president of the Republic of Italy in 1970. In 1973 Arkoff was appointed international ambassador of Variety Clubs, the showmen's organization devoted to helping needy children.
    In 1973 Samuel's son, Louis S. Arkoff, joined AIP as a legal administrator. He would go on to be appointed to the company's executive staff and, in 1976, became vice-president of American International Pictures.
    1978 saw AIP's first financial loss, which forced the company to merge with Filmways, Inc. in 1979 as a subsidiary. The same year as the merger, AIP made and distributed The Amityville Horror, which was the largest grossing independent film of its time. Love at First Bite and Dressed to Kill were also made during this time.
    1979 also saw AIP's 25th anniversary. Arkoff was invited to take part in a number of celebrations, the most notable being at New York's Museum of Modern Art, where an American International Pictures retrospective screened over 30 of AIP's most popular films. Arkoff received this honor with the comment that "time can dignify anything."
    Arkoff left American International Pictures in 1980, citing an inability to work within the confines of a corporate structure. By that time, he had produced and/or distributed more than 500 films. Upon his departure, Arkoff formed the Samuel Z. Arkoff Company in 1980, and, in 1981, his own independent production company, Arkoff International Pictures (also abbreviated AIP), where he worked as a film producer and executive. The company never matched the overall success of his early career.
    In 1992, Arkoff published his memoirs, Flying through Hollywood by the Seat of My Pants, an account of his career as an independent film producer and distributor.
    Samuel Z. Arkoff died in 2001, only months after the death of his wife Hilda.


    1918 Samuel Zachary Arkoff is born on June 18 in Fort Dodge, Iowa.
    1933 Realizes his love for movies after reading a copy of Variety Magazine at the Chicago World's Fair.
    1935 Graduates from Fort Dodge High School.
    1945 Marries Hilda Rusoff while serving as a cryptographer in the US Air Force during World War II.
    1948 Graduates from Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, California.
    1950 Becomes vice president of Video Associates, where he produces the Hank McCune Show, one of television's first series programs.
    1954 Founds American Releasing Corporation with James H. Nicholson.
    1955 American Releasing Corp. becomes American International Pictures (AIP), a company dedicated to the distribution and production of low budget films.
      AIP produces its first release, Roger Corman's Fast and Furious, budgeted at $66,000.00.
    1957 AIP releases I was a Teenage Werewolf, which launches Michael Landon's career.
    1960 AIP starts its Edgar Allen Poe series with House of Usher starring Vincent Price.
    1962 AIP starts producing high budget films.
    1963 Is named Producer of the Year by Allied States Association of Motion Picture Theater Owners.
    1964 Receives the Master Showman of the Decade award from the Theater Owners of America.
    1966 AIP releases Woody Allen's What's Up, Tiger Lily?
    1970 Is named Commendatore of the Order of Merit by the president of the Republic of Italy.
    1971 James H. Nicholson resigns from AIP; Arkoff takes over as the company's president.
    1972 James H. Nicholson dies from a brain tumor.
    1979 Is honored at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City for AIP's 25th anniversary.
      AIP becomes a subsidiary of Filmways, Inc. and loses its independence.
    1980 Quits AIP and starts the Samuel Z. Arkoff Company.
    1981 Founds Arkoff International Pictures.
    1992 Releases his memoirs, Flying through Hollywood by the Seat of My Pants.
    2001 Dies of natural causes.

    Collection Description

    The Samuel Z. Arkoff Papers consist of pressbooks, posters, lobby cards, stills, combined continuities, publicity files and organizational files chronicling the career of Samuel Z. Arkoff career as a motion picture producer and executive. Notable topics covered in this collection include information about the companies Arkoff started and worked for, American International Picture's 1979 merger with Filmways, Inc., contracts and agreements with actors, directors, writers and other AIP employees, publicity and advertising materials concerning films produced and distributed by Arkoff's companies, and Louis Arkoff's (Samuel Arkoff's son) career as a film producer. Key items within the collection include posters, lobby cards and pressbooks for seminal American International Pictures films such as "Machine Gun Kelly", "Cool and Crazy", and "The Day the World Ended". Also included are publications and advertising materials for the twenty-fifth anniversary of AIP, including information about a retrospective for the company held at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.


    The Samuel Z. Arkoff Papers are arranged into ten series, some with subseries.
    Series 1: Press Books
    Series 2. Publicity Files. Subseries A: 1950s, Subseries B: 1960s, Subseries C: 1970s,Subseries D: 1980s, Subseries E: 1990s
    Series 3. Organizational Files. Subseries A: American International Pictures, Subseries B: Arkoff international Pictures, Subseries C: American International Television
    Series 4: Combined Continuities
    Series 5: Motion Picture Posters
    Series 6: Lobby Cards
    Series 7: Film Stills
    Series 8: Charities
    Series 9: Nightcrawler
    Series 10: Personal Files

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.
    Arkoff, Samuel Z., -- 1918-2001.
    Nicholson, James H., -- 1916-1972.
    American International Pictures.
    American International Pictures (Firm).
    American International Pictures (Firm) -- History.
    B films -- United States -- History and criticism.
    Exploitation films -- United States.
    Motion picture industry -- United States.
    Motion picture producers and directors -- United States.
    Sensationalism in motion pictures.
    Teen films.