Sundance Institute just announced that independent film champion Bingham Ray passed away today. He was 58. “It is with great sadness that the Sundance Institute acknowledges the passing of Bingham Ray, cherished independent film executive and most recently Executive Director of the San Francisco Film Society. On behalf of the independent film community in Park City for the 2012 Sundance Film Festival and elsewhere, we offer our support and condolences to his family. Bingham’s many contributions to this community and business are indelible, and his legacy will not be soon forgotten.” He had taken ill unexpectedly and was hospitalized but stable in Provo, Utah. That’s nearby Park City where he was attending the Art House Convergence Conference before the Sundance Film Festival began. Formerly co-founder of October Films and United Artists president, Bingham Ray took over as executive director of the San Francisco Film Society effective November 7th and ran the San Francisco International Film Festival. “The board of directors and staff of the Film Society are stunned and deeply saddened by the untimely death of our executive director Bingham Ray. We at the Film Society and the entire film community have lost far too early an energetic and visionary impact player who has helped shape the independent film industry for decades in so many important and valuable ways,” said Pat McBaine, SFFS board president. “He shall be dearly missed.”
Ray came to the San Francisco Film Society from New York City, where he’d recently served as the first run programming consultant to the Film Society of Lincoln Center, executive consultant to the digital distribution company SnagFilms, and adjunct professor at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. Ray co-founded October Films in 1991 and served as its co-president until its sale to USA Networks in 1999. October was one of the foremost independent film companies of the 1990s, winning two Oscars and garnering 13 Oscar nominations and top prizes at the Cannes Film Festival on three occasions. Some of October Films’ credits include the internationally acclaimed Secrets & Lies, The Apostle, Cookie’s Fortune, The Celebration, Lost Highway, The Last Seduction and Breaking The Waves.
In September 2001, Ray assumed the post of president of United Artists. During his tenure at UA, the company acquired and/or produced films such as No Man’s Land, winner of the 2001 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, Michael Moore’s Bowling For Columbine, winner of the 2002 Academy Award for Best Feature Documentary and the 2004 Academy Award-nominated Hotel Rwanda. Other United Artists films successfully released during Ray’s tenure include Jeepers Creepers 1 & 2, Nicholas Nickleby, Ghost World, Igby Goes Down, and Pieces Of April.
In 2007 Ray joined the Los Angeles-based production company Sidney Kimmel Entertainment and held two posts during his three-year tenure, president of Kimmel Distribution and president of creative affairs for the original Death At A Funeral, Talk To Me, Lars and the Real Girl and Synecdoche, N.Y. as well as supervising the development of a seven-film production slate.