Whatever one's personal feelings about him, Jim Mitchell (along with his brother Art) did much to spearhead the "mainstreaming" of adult films in the early '70s. The Mitchells began by developing and launching a wildly successful pornographic stage show and movie house in San Francisco circa 1969; they later moved into feature films, and created a series of historically relevant hardcore pictures, including Behind the Green Door (1972) and Resurrection of Eve (1973). Those first two films attained incredible popularity, thanks in no small part to the enlistment of former "Ivory Snow Girl" Marilyn Chambers in the lead role of each. The Mitchells' strategy involved combining hardcore sex footage with a "dreamlike," art film ambience, thus reeling in a much larger demographic; they also set their films up in such a way that the movies catered expressly to both male and female viewers. Behind the Green Door, in particular, grossed more money than any sex film outside of the legendary Deep Throat.
The Mitchell empire eventually expanded to include 11 coast-to-coast movie theaters and multiple production facilities. Unfortunately, this success was soon qualified by disappointment. The brothers' third cinematic outing -- an ill-conceived hardcore epic entitled Sodom and Gomorrah (1976), which lampooned the biblical account -- bombed disastrously. When coupled with the brothers' ongoing drug problems, it effectively dampened the Mitchells' business despite the emergence of a home video label in the following decade.
Jim and Art Mitchell made headlines again -- on a very sad note -- in February 1991, when Jim murdered Art, reportedly over a business dispute. He insisted that the incident was accidental, but was sentenced to six years in San Quentin Prison and released after three. Jim Mitchell died at age 63, on July 12, 2007, the cause of death undisclosed. The Mitchells were portrayed by Charlie Sheen and his brother Emilio Estevez in the 2000 Showtime movie Rated X.