Michael Gray, a Hollywood marketing executive which introduced the electronic press kit to the industry, died Monday at his home in Baltimore. He was 87.
His daughter Madeleine Gray confirmed his death on Facebook, saying that he died in his sleep following complications of a hip fracture sustained in January. “We are relieved he did not have to suffer in his greatly-reduced cognitive and physical condition — the things he most dreaded about aging — for too long,” she wrote on Facebook.
Gray graduated from New York University and worked in newspapers before transitioning to the world of publicity. He was the manager at Columbia Pictures’ TV division Screen Gems While there, he introduced Naked City, Route 66 and The Flintstones to the fold. His experience would bring him to Rogers & Cowan where he would take on the role of director of its New York television department.
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By 1967 he made the move to United Artists where he became worldwide publicity director of United Artists. His staff included Jonathan Demme and Mort Engelberg, who would later become a producer of Smokey and the Bandit. While there the studio hosted screenings with celebrities of Midnight Cowboy which would go on to win the Oscar for Best Picture. This would blaze a trail for the future of award season screening campaigns.
Two years later, he crossed the pond to London and he worked on UA’s European production marketing division, working on films such as On Her Majesty’s Secret Service in 1969 and Fiddler on the Roof in 1971.
He returned stateside to Santa Monica and created press kits for numerous films that would become classics including Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Return of the Jedi, Ghostbusters and Platoon.
In 1984, Universal Pictures tasked him with designing a brochure for a new TV publicity project and thus, the idea of the “electronic press kit” (aka the EPK) was born. The first official EPK was for Rodney Dangerfield’s 1986 comedy Back to School. He then created multiple EPKs for iconic films including Moonstruck, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, The Addams Family, Philadelphia and The Silence of the Lambs. He took on the role of public relations vice president at Universal Studios from 1995-97.
Gray is survived by his wife Adele and his daughter Madeleine.
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