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Motown Reentering the Soundtrack Business

Music: Recording company can tap popular artists such as Boyz II Men or use oldies by the likes of the Supremes and Temptations.

May 28, 1996|JAMES BATES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Motown Records, moving to take advantage of the lucrative market for film soundtracks, is expected to unveil plans this week to get back into that business after more than a decade.

The company, owned by European entertainment giant PolyGram, is forming a separate soundtrack division, using songs from its current roster of artists such as Boyz II Men as well as exploiting the rich Motown catalog. Its repository includes classic songs from stars such as the Supremes, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, the Jackson Five, the Temptations and the Four Tops.

The division will be headed by Cassandra Mills, who was the president of the black music division at Irving Azoff's former Giant Records, where she worked on soundtrack albums related to films such as "New Jack City" and "Beverly Hills, 90210."

"We all know soundtracks are a very lucrative business now," she said. "Our goal is to have an important and central focus in making it known that we are in it for the long run."

Motown will release two film soundtracks later this year. They are "Sleepers," related to the film starring Brad Pitt, Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman and Kevin Bacon; and the Whoopi Goldberg comedy "The Associate."

Both films are being made through Motown sister companies in PolyGram's film division. "Sleepers" is from Propaganda Films, and "The Associate" is being made through the film unit of Interscope Communications.

Although numerous Motown songs have been licensed for use in films and on soundtrack albums, the company itself hasn't released a soundtrack since the one tied to "The Big Chill" in 1983.

Mills said the company's goal next year will be to release at least four soundtracks.

In recent years, numerous soundtracks have become major hit records, including "Dangerous Minds" and "The Air Up There." In some cases, soundtrack albums have become top sellers even if the movie bombs at the box office.

For their part, film companies like soundtracks because they can boost a movie's appeal, help tell a story and be used in music videos to market a film.

Interscope's Adam Leipzig said that in the case of "The Associate," a movie about a woman trying to fight her way through Wall Street, the producers and director Donald Petrie wanted a soundtrack featuring only female artists to reflect the character's struggle.

Motown, founded in 1959 by Berry Gordy Jr. in Detroit, was bought by PolyGram in 1993 from its then-majority owner, Boston Ventures, in a $325-million deal.

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