Upon graduation, Ivan Reitman started New Cinema of Canada, a small film distribution company. His first 35 mm feature was the light sexploitation comedy Foxy Lady (1971), followed by the horror comedy Cannibal Girls (1973) with future SCTV stars Eugene LEVY and Andrea MARTIN.
Ivan Reitman, film producer, director (b at Komarno, Czech 27 Oct 1946). Ivan Reitman's family fled Czechoslovakia in 1950 and immigrated to Canada, settling in Toronto, Ont. While majoring in music and philosophy at McMaster University, he became involved with theatre and film, and for a brief while headed the McMaster Film Board. Following a summer course at the NATIONAL FILM BOARD he made a short film about campus life, Orientation, which he sold to the CBC and 20th Century Fox. In 1969 he produced a 16 mm soft-core sex feature, Columbus of Sex. After one screening at McMaster, Reitman and his fellow producer, Dan Goldberg, were charged with obscenity, and the Ontario Board of Censors banned the film from being shown again in the province. Goldberg and Reitman were found guilty and fined, but in a move that would typify his determination to succeed in the business, Reitman had the film re-cut and sold it to an American distributor for a small profit.
Upon graduation, Ivan Reitman started New Cinema of Canada, a small film distribution company. His first 35 mm feature was the light sexploitation comedy Foxy Lady (1971), followed by the horror comedy Cannibal Girls (1973) with future SCTV stars Eugene LEVY and Andrea MARTIN. Recognizing Reitman's success with low-budget films and his uncanny talent for foreseeing the tastes of North American audiences, Montréal's André Link and John Dunning of Cinepix Inc hired him to produce 2 films by another young filmmaker, David CRONENBERG; Shivers in 1975 and Rabid in 1977 were highly successful on the world market.
Reitman turned to theatre and produced an ambitious magic show put on by fellow McMaster graduate Doug Henning. Spellbound debuted at Toronto's ROYAL ALEXANDRA THEATRE and then moved to Broadway for a successful 5-year run under the title The Magic Show. This led Reitman to produce the off-Broadway production of The National Lampoon Show, which evolved into the Universal feature directed by John Landis, Animal House (1978). The phenomenal success of that film allowed Reitman to produce and direct his first major Canadian comedy, Meatballs (1979), starring Bill Murray in his first film. It was a best picture GENIE AWARD nominee, and Reitman was given the GOLDEN REEL AWARD.
Moving to Los Angeles, Reitman sealed his reputation as a producer of commercial goldmines with Stripes (1981), again with Bill Murray, and, especially, with Ghostbusters (1984), which grossed $310 million and became the biggest moneymaking comedy ever. Co-starring and produced, directed and co-written by Canadians, it has been said that Ghostbusters is the most successful Canadian film made in America. The relative failure of his $40-million romantic comedy Legal Eagles (1986), with Robert Redford and Debra Winger, did nothing to damage his reputation.
He rebounded in 1988 with Twins, pairing the unlikely comic duo of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito. A Ghostbusters sequel (1989) was followed by the comedy smash Kindergarten Cop (1990), again with Schwarzenegger. Beethoven (1992) and Beethoven's 2nd (1993), about a lovable Saint Bernard, were huge successes in the family film genre and Dave (1993), starring Kevin Kline and Sigourney Weaver, was a surprise hit during the 1993 summer season. Junior (1994) was his second comedy with Schwarzenegger and DeVito, and although it was critically acclaimed it did not have a large impact at the box office.
In addition to the Beethoven films, Ivan Reitman's producing credits include the Canadian animated feature Heavy Metal (1981; winner of the Golden Reel Award), Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone (1983), the animated/live-action Space Jam (1996), which teamed Michael Jordan with Looney Tunes characters, Howard Stern's Private Parts (1997), the teen comedy Road Trip (2000), Old School (2003) with Will Ferrell, Trailer Park Boys: The Movie (2006) and Countdown to Liquor Day (2009), and Up in the Air (2009), directed by his son Jason Reitman. Ivan Reitman was nominated for an Emmy Award in 1996 for the television movie The Late Shift, and was given a Special Achievement Genie Award by the Canadian Academy of Film and Television in 1985. In 2001 Ivan Reitman was inducted into Canada's Walk of Fame, and in 2009 he was appointed an officer of the ORDER OF CANADA.
The critical establishment in Canada has dismissed Ivan Reitman's films as lowbrow multiplex "popcorn films" not worthy of serious consideration. However, due to the fact that he has proven himself to be the most consistently successful Canadian producer/director in the history of Hollywood, his status in his homeland has risen considerably.
A parking lot that his father purchased in the 1960s, in what is now the heart of the theatre district of Toronto, is now the headquarters of the Toronto International Film Festival Group. In the spring of 2007 the ground was broken on The Bell Lightbox, which opened to the public in 2010.