*For more than a decade, “Soul Train” creator Don Cornelius worked on developing a film based on his influential dance program without much success.
But his death from a self-inflicted gunshot wound Feb. 1 in Los Angeles might jump-start interest in a “Soul Train” movie and other ventures that would exploit the storied brand, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Producer Darryl Porter (“Dead Presidents”), a longtime Cornelius friend and business associate, says he and Don tried but failed to launch a movie with Universal during the 1990s. As recently as 2009, Warner Bros. showed interest in a project. “He wanted to do a buddy action comedy, like Rush Hour set in the world of Soul Train,” says a Warners source. But that project also stalled. Porter, who would have been a producer on the film, says a second script, which turned the project into a coming-of-age dance movie, “was not the kind of movie Warners was going to make.”
Now, Soul Train Holdings is working with WME to explore ways to grow the brand, including a film, musical and TV show. “Certainly we want to proceed in a way that will highlight the contribution of Don to the creation of the brand and its subsequent impact on American culture,” says Kenard Gibbs, CEO of Soul Train Holdings. One major obstacle to exploiting the Soul Train brand for a film or other venture is securing rights to use the music that filled each episode. Obtaining such clearances can be costly, though Gibbs notes that Soul Train Holdings was able to clear the necessary songs for The Best of Soul Train, a DVD boxed set the company released in 2010.
Porter says that in recent years, Cornelius continued to examine potential business deals — including a Soul Train TV channel and radio station — but was interested only in ventures “he thought reached a certain level of dignity and magnitude.” Tony says his father felt that overall, the franchise’s current owners have “done a great job,” though he adds that for the Soul Train creator, it was “very difficult to part with something that you started and be satisfied all the time.”
A private memorial for Cornelius is planned for Feb. 16 in Los Angeles.