One in all unbiased film’s key gamers, Ray Worth, died July 16 on the age of 75 from coronary heart failure after a protracted battle with most cancers, his long-term associate Meg Madison confirmed.
Speaking to Worth about films, previous and current, was an exhilarating sport that might take some time. He knew his stuff — nobody liked films extra — however greater than anybody through the nice indie a long time of the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s, he was a revered innovator who thought outdoors the field. He started as an exhibitor in San Francisco and shifting on to advertising and marketing, releasing, and producing films, leaning towards the outrageous in how he lured audiences to pattern difficult films.
“Ray, whereas being a defiantly singular particular person, was additionally emblematic of a bygone age of independent film,” Magnolia Footage co-CEO Eamonn Bowles wrote me in an e mail. “From theatre chain proprietor to distributor, beautiful marketer, and manufacturing exec, he all the time sought out novel methods of approaching issues. He really was a insurgent and my coronary heart goes out to his household.”
Worth championed a slew of gifted filmmakers at pivotal factors of their careers: Tran Anh Hung (“The Scent of Inexperienced Papaya”), Gurinder Chadha (“Bhaji on The Seashore”), Carl Franklin (“One False Transfer”), Allison Anders (“Fuel Meals Lodging”), and John Sayles (“The Secret of Roan Inish”). When most specialty distributors handed on “Inish” as a result of they didn’t know easy methods to market the fairy story to children with out spending for Pleased Meals, Worth at First Look lured adults through “Irish Magical Realism,” producer Maggie Renzi instructed me on the cellphone.
“Ray discovered easy methods to promote it as an artwork film to adults. Everybody got here again with the children,” she stated. “The poster was complicated, subtle and lovely. It was timeless. He revered artwork. He was a delight to work with.”
Worth launched his movie profession in 1972, managing Berkeley storefront theater the Rialto, and went on to construct (with Allen Michaan) Renaissance Theaters, an unbiased artwork movie chain that at one level had 33 screens within the Bay Space; it later bought to the Landmark Theatre circuit.
A tricky negotiator and exacting exhibitor, Worth gained a status for redesigning advertising and marketing supplies from posters to press books. “He pulled ‘Repo Man’ from the slush pile,” texted his one-time assistant Marti Mattox, “designed a poster together with his personal cash, and put it in his theater. The remaining is historical past.”
At a time when most arthouse distributors centered on established auteurs from Europe and Asia, Renaissance Theaters exploded these norms by programming new American administrators like Martin Scorsese and John Cassavetes. The corporate additionally took movies out of studio vaults and relaunched them, together with Ridley Scott’s “The Duelist,” Jonathan Demme’s “Melvin and Howard,” Brian de Palma’s “Blowout,” Lewis John Carlino’s “The Nice Santini,” and Christopher Visitor’s “The Huge Image,” amongst others.
“Ray was the very best tactician I’ve ever recognized,” stated Bert Manzari, who shaped an unbiased reserving firm in San Francisco with Worth aptly named ManRay Reserving lengthy earlier than working the Landmark Theatre chain. “Ray not solely taught me about ways, he additionally launched me to Cognac, Armagnac, and different delightfully decadent pursuits. We had a hell of a superb time. Ray had the very best movie sense and his persuasive powers had been unmatched.” He remembers that after one in every of Worth and Madison’s events at their house, Manzari found he had been hanging out with Lawrence Ferlinghetti.
In 1988 Worth relocated to Los Angeles, the place he helped begin a number of distribution firms together with IRS Footage and First Look Footage and constructed the theatrical arm for house video firm TriMark Leisure. He additionally dealt with distribution and advertising and marketing for a slew of unbiased movies, together with “Fuel Meals Lodging,” “One False Transfer,” “The Secret of Roan Inish,” and “The Scent of Inexperienced Papaya,” plus Mira Nair’s “Kama Sutra,” Kasi Lemmon’s “Eve’s Bayou,” Stacy Cochran’s “My New Gun,” Wayne Wang’s “Chinese language Field,” Bobcat Goldthwait’s “Shakes the Clown,” Mary Harron’s “I Shot Andy Warhol,” and Vincenzo Natal’s “Dice.”
Due to Worth, Vietnamese director Tran Anh Hung was launched to limos and continuous public appearances. Two months after the primary limo pickup at LAX, “we had been once more in a protracted limo heading to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion for the Oscars,” stated Tran. “Right now, with expertise, I do know for certain that Ray introduced success to ‘The Scent Of Inexperienced Papaya’ in North America. I’m very grateful to you, Ray.”
A lot of the movies Worth distributed had been from ladies and other people of colour. Many had been first-time administrators as a result of he was all the time in quest of one thing contemporary and surprising akin to “Bhaji on The Seashore,” a social realist comedy set in London’s South Asian neighborhood. One pal requested Worth why he was losing his time on such an obscure title. Gurinder Chadha’s subsequent movie was “Bend it Like Beckham.”
Roadside Sights co-president Howard Cohen knew Worth effectively on the arthouse circuit. “He had a deep information and love of flicks, and was the supply of nice lore in regards to the theatrical distribution enterprise.” he wrote in an e mail. “He was a part of what I would name a vanishing breed of indie movie govt, together with the late Bingham Ray, who got here on the enterprise from a novel mixture of cineaste love and down-to-earth, on the bottom film theatre perspective, usually beginning out managing native theatres.”
Worth was the primary to stream a brand new function movie on-line. After First Look Footage acquired Daisy von Scherler’s Mayer’s cult hit “Celebration Woman,” starring Parker Posey, Worth organized to stream it on the web in black-and-white at 14 fps through a T1 cable on June 3, 1995, garnering protection from NBC Information, amongst others. He was all the time attempting new issues. It was what he lived for.
After 1999, when he joined American Zoetrope, Francis Ford Coppola’s indie movie manufacturing firm, Worth supervised the worldwide gross sales and advertising and marketing of such movies as Sofia Coppola’s “The Virgin Suicides,” which debuted at Cannes — he made certain the American press had been in attendance — and Coppola’s productions of the primary “Jeepers Creepers” entries.
In 2001, Worth rejoined his previous ManRay Reserving associate Manzari to assist rebuild the struggling Landmark Theatre chain, and in addition revealed Landmark’s free FLM indie movie journal that featured first-person articles by movie administrators to create consciousness for movies on the Landmark schedule.
In 2007, Worth returned to the web with a pair of Wayne Wang movies that the director needed to distribute in tandem. Worth felt that“A Thousand Years of Good Prayers” certified as arthouse fare however the companion piece, “The Princess of Nebraska,” wouldn’t work as a theatrical launch. Thus Worth satisfied Wang to present “Princess” away free of charge. The New York Instances, IndieWire, and Selection all agreed to place the movie on the entrance web page of their web sites, the place it achieved 250,000 hits on the opening weekend, and helped to advertise “A Thousand Years.”
Worth additionally took on the position of senior VP of selling and distribution at 2929 Leisure in 2007, boosting the fortunes of such movies as “Turistas.”
On the time of his demise, Worth was selling Rodrigo Reyes’ documentary “Sansón and Me,” a couple of 19-year-old unlawful immigrant sentenced to demise with out parole. The Ford Basis has given a grant to fund a simulcast in prisons which might be open to public discussions. There are plans for a theatrical launch and PBS is scheduled to air the movie within the fall of 2023.
Worth is survived by his long-term associate, Meg Madison, her two sisters Liz and Sean Madison, his kids Antigone Dempsey, Deirdre Worth, and Asher Worth, and his brother Brian Worth. In lieu of flowers, the Worth household requests donations be made to http://give.translifeline.org.