According to his official biography, Avi Lerner claims to have produced about 200 films.
Born and raised in Israel, Avi Lerner studied economics and social sciences at the University of Tel-Aviv. He served as a paratrooper and officer in the Israeli Army.
His career in the film industry began as the manager of Israel's first drive-in cinema, which he eventually purchased. He then bought a chain of movie theaters while simultaneously producing several low-budget features.
In 1979, Lerner pioneered the largest specialized video distribution company in Israel and he became a partner in the largest theatrical distribution company in Israel.
In 1984, Lerner served as Executive Producer on KING SOLOMON'S MINES (Richard Chamberlain, Sharon Stone), which was shot in Zimbabwe. The success of this film led to a sequel, ALAN QUARTERMAIN AND THE LOST CITY OF GOLD, and Lerner's decision to sell his Israeli company and relocate to Johannesburg, South Africa.
In1986, Lerner founded the Nu Metro Entertainment Group, the largest entertainment company in the South Africa. Nu Metro owned and operated 35 theatre locations with a total of 140 screens.
In 1991 Lerner sold Nu Metro, and took a position as Managing Director of MGM U.K. while continuing to produce movies. One year later, in 1992, Lerner moved to Los Angeles and founded Nu Image together with Danny Dimbort, Trevor Short and Danny Lerner.
In 1996 Nu Image formed Millennium Films to address the market's growing need for quality art films and higher budget action features, while Nu Image continued to cater to the lucrative world home video market. Between the two divisions, over 100 films have been produced since 1992.
Nu Image and Millennium Films currently have a co-production deal with Miramax/ Dimension which has been in operation for the past 3 years. Between Nu Image and Millennium Films Lerner produces 15 to 18 pictures annually.
Avi Lerner did not respond to repeated requests for an interview.
A year after British director Donald Cammell committed suicide, Avi Lerner's Nu Image decided to release a director's cut of his last film Wild Side. Nu Image had cut 30 minutes from Cammell's cut before initially releasing the film. Then Anne Heche became a star, and it seemed like a good idea to release the steamy girl-girl action starring her. Lerner said: "This picture is really something you haven't seen before. Every man will have something to keep in his home, and it's something every woman would like to see."
David Poland writes for Entertainment Weekly 5/30/97: "Pssst! Wanna see Anne Heche make love to a woman? Wanna own the video? The cheap-thrill barons at NuImage are betting on it.
"Just one year ago, the film production company, known for broads-and-bullets treats like Cyborg Cop II, counted its $3.5 million gamble on cult director Donald Cammell as a loser. His movie Wild Side was supposed to have been an arty, sexy thriller with Christopher Walken, Joan Chen, and rising actress Anne Heche as Alex, Long Beach banker by day, sophisticated call girl by night. Trouble was, Wild Side seemed too arty and sexy. "It was too explicit to get the R rating we needed," says NuImage president Avi Lerner, calling in from Cannes. "The moment you go with an unrated version or NC-17, you eliminate a lot of potential sales." So the company recut the film into a shorter, simpler, more salable version. Or so Lerner thought. Wild Side, first shown on HBO in February 1996, never made it into theaters and made no dent on the video charts.
"While some obituaries reported a link between Wild Side's fate and Cammell's depression before his suicide, Lerner calls the inference "outrageous.""
Lerner told the New York Times about financing the upcoming Holocaust film The Grey Zone, "This is the first—and only—time I am making a movie that has nothing to do with financial considerations."
Africa News Service, 12/23/99: "Fly-by-nighters, including Canon films headed by Avi Lerner, spent more than R400-million [rand] of taxpayers' money making straight-to-video dirges like American Ninja 3, 4, and 5."
Martin Peers writes in the Wall Street Journal: Avi Lerner, an independent producer of low-budget action films ("Octopus," "Shark Attack"), is sometimes called the "King of B Movies." Working outside the studios, he is accustomed to making his living on the margins. "Premieres" of his pictures usually occur in video or in late-night slots on pay-cable channels like Home Box Office. HBO's success with original programming such as "The Sopranos" has made his job even tougher.
But a couple of years ago, he found new financing from an unlikely source - Blockbuster Inc. The video giant, a majority-owned unit of Viacom Inc., is "the best thing that happened to the independents," says Mr. Lerner, who makes 12 to 15 films a year. About half of this output now is acquired or partially financed by Blockbuster.