Looking for Serious Investor to Salvage National Lampoon Comic Brand

Vanity Fair profiles how 'Animal House' brand marred by mediocre movies, lawsuits, and debt.

May 9, 2017 5:00 am
Can Anyone Save the National Lampoon's Brand?
Actor Jason Lively and actresses Dana Hill and Beverly D'Angelo and actor Chevy Chase on set of the Warner Bros. movie National Lampoon's 'European Vacation' in 1985. (Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

When most movie lovers think of the “National Lampoon” brand, they get nostalgic for the classics: Chevy Chase and Vacation, John Belushi and Animal House.

National Lampoon also was known from the Harvard-originated magazine, radio show, and, most importantly, for the comedic talent that all but spewed from its formidable list of alums—including Bill Murray, Gilda Radner, Harold Ramis, John Landis, Ivan Reitman, and John Hughes.

Alas, the brand has fallen onto hard times since—tragic ones even, as documented in an interesting profile in Vanity Fair. Having really ended its first tenure as a movie production company in 1989 with Christmas Vacation, and became more of a licensing business in the ’90s.

That would all change in the early aughts with Van Wilder’s, Ryan Reynolds’ breakout, which carried the National Lampoon title, and made investors see its potential as a production company again. Soon after, a popular website, branded slot machines, TV pilots and reality show ideas materialized, and the company seemed like it was poised for a big revival.

Though it was increasing revenues, National Lampoon was bleeding money, according to Vanity Fair. The spending was all but out of control, and at one point, “It became a running joke among employees that they were living in a movie called National Lampoon’s National Lampoon.” Well into the 2000s, the strategy started to disintegrate into straight-to-DVD movies, off-brand choices, and overindulgence.

Case in point: The hiring of “scanner girls,” beautiful aspiring actresses stationed near the front of the office, whose only job was to scan old issues of the magazine for a digital archive—and look good doing it.

But there’s still hope for a second, more sustained revival. Could a new group of investors raise National Lampoon from the ashes?

Here’s a reminder of its glory days.

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