UPDATED with details of memorial service: Hy Hollinger, one of the last of the old-school Daily Variety “mugs,” died late Wednesday at Olympia Medical Center in Los Angeles. He was 97. A longtime reporter and editor, Hollinger was the one of the industry’s longest-serving trade reporters, covering international news, first for Variety and then for The Hollywood Reporter, for close to 50 years.
Hollinger worked for Variety in New York for many years – when its reporters were affectionately referred to as “mugs” – before taking a series of publicity jobs at Paramount in the 1960s. He then returned for a long stint covering the international markets for Daily Variety in Los Angeles, later joining the staff of THR as International Editor in the early 1990s.
Those of us who were lucky enough to have worked with him, as I did at Daily Variety and THR, remember him as a great reporter, a kind man, and a terrific storyteller.
At Paramount, he worked on the publicity campaigns for Love Story and many other films of the 1960s and ‘70s, before returning to his true calling – journalism. At Variety in the 1970s and ‘80s, he reported on the discontent of Hollywood film sellers at the Cannes Film Festival, which led to the creation of the American Film Market in 1981.
As former Variety mugs Robert Marich and Frank Segers noted, “While based in London for Variety and working with London bureau chief Don Groves, Hollinger helped develop a ground-breaking system for tracking revenue generated by movies in the patchwork of overseas theaters. At the time, international box office was largely not covered by journalists because difficulty in obtaining and evaluating data.”
They recalled that during the 1980 Cannes festival, Hollinger broke the story in Variety that the festival jury chaired by Kirk Douglas “was blind-sided by a decision made unilaterally by festival organizers to elevate a French film to co-winner status. The film was announced as winning the Grand Prize of the Jury when actually it had been passed over by the jury.”
He also was The Hollywood Reporter’s overseas box office guru in the 1990s to 2000s at the end of his career.
“I remember when I first came to the Reporter in 1988 and Variety was really the icon of the business and that’s because they had such great journalists there, and Hy Hollinger was one of them,” said Bob Dowling, former Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of The Hollywood Reporter. “He was one of the brands in the business and I thought to myself. ‘boy, if we could hire him and some others … because how can you compete otherwise? A few years later, we were lucky enough to get him and he came to work at The Hollywood Reporter, and I thought that him coming over as well as others was really the turning point of the paper becoming so much more successful.”
“From a personal point of view, I just really loved the guy,” added Dowling. “He was one of the senior people in the newsroom and he helped everyone. He was a gentle man who was so kind. He had a sense of calm about him and everyone loved being in the same room with him. He was just a great guy.”
Alex Ben Block, former editor of THR from the mid-to-late-1980s to 2001, said he would echo Dowling’s sentiments about Hollinger. “When I was editor of The Hollywood Reporter in the 1990s, Hy Hollinger came aboard and played a significant role in improving and expanding our international coverage,” said Block. “He had a great reputation from his many years at Variety and was someone who was willing to work with all the staff, young and old, to improve our coverage and help make The Reporter the world class organization it has become. He was always a class act and a shared his knowledge freely with everyone and added great value to our editorial operations. Personally, he was someone who everyone loved working with.”
Anita Busch, former THR Editor and now Film Editor of Deadline was one of those young journalists he took under his wing. “Hy Hollinger taught me about international box office and explained the entire rental process to me. He was very generous sharing the wisdom of his experience, and he did that with everyone,” said Busch. “So many people appreciated his kindness and demeanor. He was a true gentleman. He was sincerely loved and will be greatly missed by all who had the honor of knowing him.”
John Burman, who was the International General Manager at THR and worked side by side with Hollinger for several years remembers: “During 9/11, Hy had the week off but, just like a true journalist, he walked in and we all looked up and asked, ‘What are you doing here?’ and he said, ‘let’s get to work.’ That’s the kind of dedication he had. He was a newsman through and through, and I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with him. He was such a humble man and good friend.”
Hollinger got his start in journalism while still in high school in the Bronx, working Saturdays as a copy boy and messenger at The New York Times. After graduating from the City College of New York, he earned a Master’s degree from the Columbia School of Journalism. While at Columbia, he served as an intern for CBS radio at the 1940 GOP convention in Philadelphia that nominated Wendell Willkie.
Hollinger’s wife of 61 years, actress Gina Collens, died last year. He is survived by his daughter Alicia, a digital artist, writer and film producer who lives in Los Angeles. A memorial service will be held at 6:30 PM Tuesday at Ca Brea restaurant in Los Angles.