Jonathan Barker, a producer and executive who co-founded the giant-screen producer-distributor SK Films and was its CEO, died Thursday morning of cancer in Toronto. He was 66.
Also a board member of the Giant Screen Cinema Association, Barker launched SK Films two decades ago with Bob Kerr, who had co-founded Imax Corp in 1968. SK went on to produce more than a dozen projects that combine human drama and natural history discoveries. Among them was the eco-adventure series The Water Brothers, which Barker executive produced and starred his environmentalist sons Alex and Tyler.
Other titles produced and/or distirubted by SK Films include the Oscar-shortlisted 2003 docu short Bugs! and 2012’s Flight of the Butterflies, the only film to sweep the GSCA Awards. Barker was executive producer of those films, along with other SK titles such as 1997’s Mission to Mir, 2009’s Journey to Mecca and its 2010 follow-up Roads to Mecca, and this year’s Backyard Wilderness. He also worked on the upcoming films Turtle Odyssey and Volcanoes.
Before launching SK Films, Barker spent more than 12 years as president and co-CEO of Shaftesbury Films, which he helped grow into one of Canada’s leading TV production companies. He previously also ran Imax’s worldwide film business, where he produced the 3D smash T-Rex: Back to the Cretaceous (1998), which grossed more than $103 million worldwide to become one of the most successful Imax-format films ever.
A founding director of the GSCA and a director of Film Ontario, Barker also had a stint as SVP Business and Legal Affairs at Cinexus Group, which owns Panavision Canada and C/FP, and CEO of the Ontario Film Development Corporation. He began his career as an entertainment lawyer and also was a theater producer and singer for an R&B band.
Barker is survived by his wife and business partner, Wendy MacKeigan, EVP of SK Films who takes over as its CEO; and his children Scott, Tyler, Georgia, Alex and Caleigh. The family will hold a small private service. Details of a celebration of life are TBA.