Born in Egypt in 1921, Hassanein came to the United States in 1945. He served in the US Armed Forces from 1945 to 1947. He began his long career in the film industry as an usher at a movie theater in New York City and rose through the corporate ranks to become President of United Artists Eastern Theaters and subsequently President of Warner Brothers International Theaters. Fluent in several languages, Hassanein was responsible for creating a network of movie theaters in Europe, Japan and Australia for Warner Brothers. From 1994 to 2000, he was President of The Todd-AO Corporation, a sound-mixing studio in Los Angeles.
Hassanein was involved in several films including Kentucky Fried Chicken, as well as serving as EP on George Romero’s Day of the Dead and Creepshow, the latter written by Stephen King and the 1985 Raul Julia, Susan Sarandon comedy Compromising Positions.
In 2011, Hassanein received the Ellis Island Medal of Honor in recognition of US citizens who have distinguished themselves by exemplifying the values of the American way of life. He is the namesake of the film industry’s ShowEast Salah M. Hassanein Humanitarian Award, given each year to an individual in the theater exhibition business who has bettered the world through their philanthropic efforts. Hassanein served as a member of the board of the Variety Boys & Girls Club of Queens (which was renamed in his honor) for many years, and was Chairman of the Board and President of Variety Clubs International, as well as President and Honorary Chairman of the Will Rogers Motion Picture Pioneers Foundation, among many other board positions held at various charities. Hassanein was also instrumental in creating the Will Rogers Institute on the grounds of Burke Rehabilitation Hospital after the closure of the Will Rogers Hospital in 1975.
In San Diego, Hassanein and his partner Zandra Rhodes chaired many gala events to raise funds to construct the Sulpizio Cardiovascular Center, which opened in 2011 at UCSD in La Jolla, CA. He also served as a board member of the Athenaeum Music & Arts Library in La Jolla, and worked extensively with the Salvation Army in San Diego for many years.
Out of all of Hassanein’s philanthropic endeavors, he considered his work with the Children’s Lifeline International to be his life’s greatest achievement. In 1983, when First Lady Nancy Reagan brought two children from South Korea to the United States for open-heart surgery, she turned to the motion picture industry for assistance. Hassanein, along with an industry colleague, immediately responded. Under Hassanein’s leadership, Children’s Lifeline became the sponsor of medical missions to developing countries where doctors, nurses and other medical practitioners from US hospitals performed lifesaving pediatric cardiac surgery, among other treatments. Throughout the years, medical personnel from more than 25 US hospitals have treated children on Children’s Lifeline missions to 50 different countries.
Hassanein is survived by four children, Richard Hassanein and his wife, Adrienne King Hassanein, Nesa Hassanein, Salah Hassanein and Neva Hassanein four grandchildren, three great-grandchildren, and his long-time partner, Zandra Rhodes. His son, Roland, predeceased him in 2015. He is also survived by his half-brother, Esmat, and many nieces and nephews.