‘I Love Lucy’ Stars Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz Paid For High-Quality Film Out of Their Own Pocket

by Emily Morgan

It’s undeniable that Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz were trailblazers in the entertainment industry thanks to the massive success of “I Love Lucy.” Despite the worldwide fame the show garnered, it wasn’t without its costs. In fact, Ball and Arnaz had to put up their own funds to finance the show.

To make sure the show was delivering high-quality content, Ball and Arnaz didn’t skimp on necessary resources. In addition to wowing audiences with their humor and acting, they wanted to make sure fans got the best film quality. However, network executives stuck their noses up and refused to pay the expenses of high-quality film. As a result, Ball and Arnaz decided to use their own money to finance the film. However, they stipulated that they would own the film’s rights if they paid for the film.

Desilu Productions shot the beloved show on 35mm film instead of the traditional kinescope to give audiences high-quality content. Since both Ball and Arnaz retained all rights to the program, they were able to sell the series into syndication and play reruns during the series, and as a result, they had a long-lasting effect on the industry.

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This would be just the beginning of the power couple’s smart business moves in the entertainment industry. Later, their production company, Desilu Studios, invented the idea of the “rerun” to make a profit on the show’s syndication to continue to fund their company.

Since shooting on film cost more, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz took a pay cut in their salaries. However, they would make their money back and more with the profit from syndication. These profits allowed Desilu to finance other remarkable series like “The Untouchables,” “The Andy Griffith Show,” and “My Three Sons.”

Even though they lost money initially, their forward-thinking ideas and business strategy would end up playing their favor. Their decision to produce a high-quality show allowed them to garner fans not just in the United States but worldwide.

Even though Lucille Ball appeared as a ditzy klutz on the show, she was the complete opposite of her character. In reality, she was a savvy businesswoman who left a lasting mark on television’s development for generations.