Bill Gavin Dies: Sales Agent, Distributor & Producer Was 83

Bill Gavin at Cannes in 1988. Richard Blanshard

Bill Gavin, the former Goldcrest executive and general manager of Australia’s Hoyts Theatres, has died at the age of 83 at his home in Auckland, New Zealand, after a short illness.

Gavin moved to the UK in the early 1960s after securing a contract to cover New Zealand’s then highly successful Formula One drivers, going on to write a biography of UK driver Jim Clark. He segued initially into the music business and established GTO Films to promote glam rock acts, the company then branched into distribution and worked on the UK release of Weir’s classic Picnic At Hanging Rock and the original version of Swept Away.

In 1978 he moved to Australia to become general manager of Hoyts Theatres and spearheaded the company’s entry into distribution. His down under success distributing the first Muppet Movie caught the eye of Lew Grade, who invited him to join ITC Films’ sales team in London. Among the films he handled were The Dark Crystal, Sophie’s Choice, On Golden Pond and Raise The Titanic.

In the early 1980s he formed London-based sales company Gavin Film, but put this on hold to join newly established Goldcrest Films as director of distribution and marketing. He was given a seat on the board, and travelled the world selling Goldcrest’s films, including Gandhi, Local Hero and The Killing Fields.

Gavin re-established Gavin Film in 1984 and set about pre-selling and financing a slew of mostly British independent movies. Among these were Alex Cox’s Sid And Nancy, Peter Greenaway’s Belly Of An Architect, Stephen Frears’ Sammy And Rosie Get Laid and Prick Up Your Ears, Bill Douglas’ Comrades and Bob Swaim’s Half Moon Street. Gavin also worked on Dennis Hopper’s thriller The Hot Spot, Terry Jones’ Personal Services, Mike Figgis’ feature debut Stormy Monday, and Whit Stillman’s Metropolitan.

After returning to New Zealand in the 1990s, Bill became involved in local producing, including Once Were Warriors sequel What Becomes of the Broken Hearted? He spent two years as head of features at South Pacific Pictures and in this role was instrumental in raising the European financing and pre-sales for director Niki Caro’s Whale Rider.

Over the past decade Bill was a mentor and friend to many New Zealand filmmakers and maintained his extensive network of international connections and relationships, according to a source close to the matter.

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