The bright lights of Hollywood fascinated Westside native Paul Colichman at an early age: He worked the candy counter of the Westwood Plaza Theater when he was 12.


He got serious about an entertainment career when he attended UCLA, where he majored in political science and went on to earn his M.B.A. From there he worked on the front lines of the entertainment industry, with stints at Fox TV and IRS Media. He also as produced a cancer research benefit for the AMC Cancer Research Center. When IRS was bought in 1995, Colichman co-founded Regent Entertainment. Regent burst onto the Hollywood map with its 1999 film "Gods and Monsters," which was nominated for three Academy Awards and won for best adapted screenplay. Since then, the firm has produced profitable theatrical films across a wide range of genres, become a leader in gay-themed films and TV and grown into the largest independent international TV distributor. In 2002, Colichman headed the launch of Regent's Here Network, aimed at gay and lesbian viewers. The network is now available to more than 50 million viewers over cable and satellite.


Question: By working the Westwood Plaza candy counter at 12, you really did get your start in showbiz early, didn't you?
Answer: Film has always been around me. After the Plaza, I moved to the four-screen United Artists complex as a counter boy, and eventually became an assistant to a film buyer for UA. The film buyer I worked for was a hot, up-and-coming young man named John Lambert, who is now my head of film distribution. He's still hot, but not quite as young.


Q: When you got of business school in 1985, where did you go?
A: Fox TV, where I was in charge of late-night broadcasting. I helped create "The Joan Rivers Show" and did a lot of concert series. From there I went on to work with Miles Copeland III at IRS Media, which was originally a record label.


Q: How did you hook up with him?
A: I had consulted for Miles after business school, when I produced a cancer research center benefit for AMC, which went really well. I produced a few more, and after working for Fox, Miles hired me in 1987 to create a television and video unit for his music company, IRS Records. Some of the first things I produced for IRS were actually music specials for Fox.


Q: You started Regent after that?
A: After I left IRS and the company was sold to the EMI Group's Capitol Records, I founded Regent Entertainment with Steve Jarchow, who is also my partner at Here. Regent was like the next generation of IRS, the natural next step.We did "Twilight of the Golds," which was released theatrically in combination with its release on Showtime, and the pay TV revenues supported the theatrical release. For a time, we were the largest independent producer of material for the Fox Family Channel.


Q: What's the biggest difference between IRS and Regent in terms of the business model?
A: IRS focused on mainly on the video market, and Regent Entertainment is focused on pay TV, and we want to build on that. I financed my early films with U.S. home video presales. Now I generate revenues from all media worldwide. We have 120 other feature and TV movies and a 5,000-title library, which we got the old fashioned way we bought it.


Q: What's the next step for Regent and Here Network?
A: Regent's purpose was to build a substantial library for exploitation in all markets worldwide. Here was formed to generate worldwide television, pay per view and video on demand revenue from our successful gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender theatrical product. The gay and lesbian marketplace has not really changed much; it remains terribly underserved given its extraordinary buying power. The network's goals are to authentically serve our community by providing full, rich media images in our entertainment content. What we're doing now is trying to expand our online content, and we're planning to launch another niche pay network in 2007.


Q: How are your Internet projects doing?
A: Our content is available on Google video, which is still in beta testing, but has been wildly successful so far, and will only get more so.The folks at Google are so forward thinking. They know what people want and have really been at the head of the technology curve, which is crucial for emerging mediums.


Q: From Fox, to IRS Records to Regent to Here, you've really shifted over time, haven't you?
A: I believe it is essential that everybody reinvent themselves every five years, so that you don't get stuck in the past. You don't want to just throw away past experience, you want to build on it, but you have to ask, what's changed the market, the business, the industry atmosphere, or any personal changes you've been through. Always ask what's next, so you don't get passed by. I have a healthy respect for the history of business, but always want to move forward.


Q: You are still doing business with many of the people who helped you get your start. Have those relationships proven helpful over the years?
A: Most everyone I worked with early is still around. Steve and I have been business partners for 11 years and that's longer than most marriages.


There's nothing like an old friend with whom you have a deep, trusting bond. Knowing each other well, the ins and outs, the strengths and weaknesses, has really helped. Without trust there is nothing. That's why I work with so many old friends.


Q: Besides the people you worked with, did you have any mentors?
A: Early on in business school, Peter Guber was my professor, and he said that your reputation is the one thing that you carry with you throughout your life. Everything else comes and goes. That really stuck with me. It's something I live by.


Q: You really are a Southern California guy, aren't you?
A: This is my home, where I have my roots. After I graduated from UCLA in 1983, I went on to Anderson School of Business for my M.B.A. in 1985. Both of my parents and my sister also went to UCLA, so we're all dedicated to the school and area. I was very involved on campus with student government, became the university's film commissioner and was appointed to the directing board for campus events.


Q: A big-time Bruin, then?
A: When I was growing up, Westwood was the center of the entertainment universe and everything else was chopped liver. The Westwood theaters were the exclusive venues for openings. Woody Allen would only open at the Regent in Westwood, and movie openings were always these grand red carpet events. It was where you had to be. Now, Westwood is an also-ran to Century City, the Grove, the Arclight, Santa Monica and so on.


It's a shame. Theaters have pulled out because it just isn't what it once was. It hasn't kept up with audience needs.


Q: What can be done about it?
A: Westwood needs to lure the movie-going public back by offering what virtually all other theaters do these days lots of free parking, the restaurants and businesses to keep people in the area. I really want to bring Westwood back. That's why we have our offices here, a very visible penthouse presence in Westwood, because we believe in the area.


Q: Where do you live now?
A: I live in the Hormel Meat mansion. I moved in about three years ago. The best part about it is that it's beautiful, on 2.6 acres in lower Bel Air hard to beat that. George Hormel lived and retired there.


Q: What do you regard as the biggest success of your career?
A: In terms of my career, I am most proud of (the Lions Gate production) "Gods and Monsters," which we distributed. It was a breakthrough for us. My first film was one I am still very proud of. It was in 1987, and it was a documentary called "The Decline of Western Civilization II: The Metal Years." It was amazing. We worked with Jonathan Dayton and Penelope Spheeris, who have gone on to do great things.


Q: And your personal life?
A: The thing I am most proud of in my personal life is the way I was able to care for my father at the end of his life. My father suffered the last 10 years of his life with mental illness senile dementia. I was able to take care of him in his own home after he became virtually unable to communicate. I just wanted home to be as happy and comfortable as possible.


It was one of the hardest things I have ever done, especially difficult because I was building a movie studio and television network at the time. Loss is so much easier when you have no regrets. I have sadness about his passing but no regrets, because I did everything I could to take care of him.


Q: "Gods and Monsters" was a hit with the critics, but only made $6.5 million. All the awards put you on the map though, and it only cost $4 million to make.
A: The films that make us the most money are probably ones people don't know about, the ones with small budgets that don't cost much to make, usually less than $4 million. The ones that win critical acclaim are the ones that usually don't make much money, so we have to make a diversity of pictures to defray risk. It's a balance.


Q: What was the biggest challenge you faced?
A: Interestingly enough, the biggest challenge wasn't the fact that our business was in the gay niche, it was getting people to grab onto the idea of paying for video on demand, which we got into a few years ago. Trying to sell people on it at that time was very difficult. They weren't comfortable with the concept.


Q: How do you think emerging technology such as video on demand and iPods are changing the face of entertainment?
A: It's all about giving people their time back. When I got the first replay TV, and could come home at 1 a.m. and watch the 11 p.m. news and fast-forward through all of the commercials, it was an epiphany, and it's changed my life. It's absolutely addictive, video on demand is the crack of the 21st century. The demand is just astonishing.


Q: You're clearly sold.
A: Some in the entertainment business were really slow to pick up on it. They have to realize that technology has changed the rules. If they don't pick it up, they're going to get left behind. What we have to remember is that we are primarily in the content business. We are supposed to be in service to our audience so are we serving them, or aren't we? That's what the business is all about.


Q: Do you think this year's Oscar nominations for films with gay subject matter will bring more attention to gay content?
A: I think that "Brokeback Mountain" is not just a good movie, but it is notable in that it made gay cinema more relatable to straight women and straight couples, and reached out to a community that has traditionally been squeamish with gay media.


Q: Are you disappointed that it didn't draw bigger crowds?
A: Some people don't realize that with a few exceptions, blockbusters seldom win the awards. We've had Oscar nominations for "Tom and Viv" and won best adapted screenplay for "Gods and Monsters," neither of which fall into the blockbuster category. What you have to realize is that an Academy Award is not for commercial success. That award is given at the box office, and the studios get to take it home and put it in the bank. An Oscar is an award for the art of filmmaking.


* Paul Colichman
Title: Co-founder and chairman
Company: Regent Entertainment Inc. and Here Network
Born: Los Angeles, 1962
Education: B.A., UCLA; M.B.A., UCLA's Anderson School of Business
Career Turning Point: The success of "Gods and Monsters" in 1997, which earned three Academy Award nominations
Most Admired Person: Barry Diller
Personal: Lives in the Bel Air area in the mansion once owned by Hormel Foods Corp. founder George Hormel
Hobbies: Acquiring and restoring historic real estate

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