Marvin Antonowsky Dies: Former Universal & Columbia Marketing Giant Was 86

Image courtesy Baruch College-CUNY

UPDATED with Amy Pascal quote: Marvin Antonowsky, the onetime marketing guru at Universal and Columbia and a former VP Programming at NBC, died April 7. He was 86. A service was held this morning.

Antonowsky ran Columbia’s marketing from 1980-84, launching such films as Absence Of Malice, Stir Crazy, Tootsie, The Big Chill, the Oscar-winning Gandhi and many more. After joining Universal as President of Marketing in 1984, he worked on films including Out Of Africa, The Breakfast Club and Fletch. In the late 1980s, Antonowsky served as a marketing consultant for TriStar Pictures, managing campaigns for Look Who’s Talking, The Bear, See No Evil, Hear No Evil and Steel Magnolias, among others.

Back at Columbia in 1990, he was closely aligned with Columbia chair Frank Price, a longtime ally in the business, serving as EVP and assistant to the chairman until 1993, when he left with Price to help create and run Price Entertainment. Films there included A Bronx Tale, Shadowlands and Circle Of Friends. He stayed until 1996 and later offered marketing services for movie and TV projects.

“I worked and was friends with Marvin for many many years Marvin loved the business but what he really loved was movies,” said former Sony Pictures chief Amy Pascal. “He always saw everything and not just the big commercial studio movies and could tell you about the most interesting foreign films and was always up on new directors. He was a special person and a dear friend. He will be missed by many.”

Antonowsky began his long and varied entertainment career in advertising with Kenyon & Eckhart, where he eventually became VP Marketing in 1957. In 1965 he was named VP in charge of media research and spot buying at J. Walter Thompson, and after four years joined ABC as VP in charge of research and then later at NBC as VP Programming during the period where Saturday Night Live was launched. In 1976 he became SVP for Universal Television before eventually heading to the movie side of the industry.

A longtime opera fan, he also served on the board of  the L.A. Opera and was a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. He donated $2.5 million in 2008 to his alma mater, Baruch College in Manhattan, to support a new and expanded Baruch Performing Arts Center, which was renamed the Marvin Antonowsky Performing Arts Complex.

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