‘Video Insider’ Co-Founder and Former Publisher Douglas Kirschner Dies

Surrounded by loved ones, Douglas Kirschner, co-founder and former publisher of the early home entertainment industry trade Video Insider, passed away Jan. 7 as a result of complications from COVID in his hometown of Philadelphia.

He was 71.

In 1983, Kirschner co-founded Video Insider with Steven Apple, who is now VP of industry sales at streaming industry organization OTT.X. Kirschner served as its publisher for nine years, with Apple serving as editor, until it ceased publishing in 1992. The magazine was an influential home entertainment trade publication, launched when the industry was still nascent.

Kirscher is survived by his brother Kenny Kirschner and sister Barbara Otti.

Visit this site to plant a tree in memory of Kirschner.

Film Programmer Doug Jones, Who Helped Relaunch Vidiots, Dies

Doug Jones, a leader in the independent film community who helped relaunch the venerable Los Angeles landmark Vidiots as a movie theater and video store, has died. He was 53.

Vidiots in a statement on social media described Jones as “a beloved and indispensible member of the Vidiots family and a cornerstone of the global film programming community.”

He was instrumental in helping to establish the newly reopened Vidiots cinema and video store in Eagle Rock as programmer and film buyer under the leadership of longtime friend and L.A. Film Festival colleague and mentee Maggie Mackay. 

He was also a consulting programmer for the South by Southwest Film and TV Festival and artistic director at the Overlook Film Festival.

“He was a fixture in the independent film and film festival world with a vast and versatile knowledge of international, art house and genre cinema,” according to a Vidiots release. 

In 2002 he began a 12-year run working with the Los Angeles Film Festival and Film Independent, where he specialized in discovering new independent filmmakers and producing large-scale film events. He became associate director of programming at the festival in 2009.

Born in Boulder, Colo., and raised in South Dakota and Minnesota, Jones spent his Saturdays as a child glued to cartoons and his Sundays poring over Academy Award-winning films. Later he would spin his lifelong love of film into a three-decade career fostering community among filmmakers and audiences. 

Jones scored his first job in film at 14, by his own admission, by fudging his age to sling popcorn at a movie theater in Sioux Falls, S.D. Earning a degree in film studies from Metropolitan State University in St. Paul, Minn., and dabbling in film production, he worked at movie theaters in the Midwest before starting his career in film programming for prominent nonprofits and film festivals.

His passion for film would take him across the country. Over the course of his career he cut his teeth in the Twin Cities film scene working under Al Milgrom at the U Film Society, and served in programming positions at the Oak Street Cinema in Minneapolis and the Philadelphia Film Festival. He contributed to SXSW as a screener for more than a decade.

He was a founding member of the nominations committee for the Cinema Eye Honors for Nonfiction Filmmaking and served as artistic director for the genre-focused Overlook Film Festival. 

In 1995 he joined the San Francisco International Film Festival, where he worked his way up from print traffic coordinator to full-time associate programmer.

He also programmed for the San Francisco Film Society and curated films for San Francisco’s Red Vic Movie House, Noise Pop Film Festival and the Mill Valley Film Festival. 

His writing on film and dispatches from film festivals across the globe appeared in publications including IndieWire, Twitch Film and Film Comment. 

From 2014 to 2022 he served as executive director of the single screen nonprofit art house Images Cinema in Williamstown, Mass. 

He was predeceased by his wife, Paula, and is survived by his son Wylie Jones, mother Judy and sister Kathy.

Dave Hollis, Former Disney Distribution Chief and Home Video Veteran, Dies at 47

Dave Hollis, a former distribution chief at Walt Disney Studios who got his start at Disney in the home video division, has died at the age of 47.

Hollis passed away Saturday night at his home in Austin, Texas. No cause of death was given, although Hollis had recently been hospitalized for health issues related to his heart. He is survived by his four children.

Hollis joined The Walt Disney Co. in 2001 as assistant brand manager for Miramax Home Video, where he developed and executed strategic marketing plans for Miramax and Dimension films such as Chocolat and Amelie.

From 2002 to 2003, he was national sales manager for Walt Disney Home Video, serving as the sales lead for Best Buy, Musicland and various other retail accounts.

In 2003, Hollis began a two-year run as director of new business development for the home video organization, which was flying high at the time thanks to DVD. He was charged with opening new distribution points such as gas stations, pizza parlors and department stores.

Hollis subsequently shifted to marketing and, under division head Bob Chapek, served from 2006 to 2007 as executive director of retail marketing, a role in which he led the team responsible for consumer marketing and promotions at such major retailers as Walmart, Target, Best Buy and Blockbuster.

From 2007 to 2008 he was VP of trade marketing, and from 2008 to 2011 he was VP of distribution strategy. In the latter role Hollis headed the Blu-ray Disc launch team and introduced shorter theatrical windows beginning with Alice in Wonderland.

In 2011 Hollis was tapped to replace the retiring Chuck Viane as president of global theatrical distribution, a big job he held for the next seven years. During that time, Disney saw huge box office growth thanks to new films from Marvel Studios and Pixar as well as the relaunch of the “Star Wars” franchise.

Hollis resigned from Disney in May 2018 to run Chic Media, a production company founded by his wife, Rachel Hollis, an author, motivational speaker, and blogger. The two divorced in 2020 and Hollis launched his own career as an author and social media influencer, writing two self-help books that detailed his own struggles in his marriage and his career. He also wrote a children’s book, Here’s to Your Dreams, and hosted a podcast, “Rise Together.”

Bill O’Brien, Former ‘Video Business’ Publisher and Video Hall of Fame Founder, Dies

Respected by those whose business he engaged, revered by those who learned from him, loved by those whose lives he touched profoundly, iconic home entertainment industry influencer William “Bill” Christopher O’Brien passed away Friday, Nov. 18. He had battled a longterm illness resulting from complications of a brain tumor.

Known for data-driven management discipline, blunt honesty, and inspiring leadership, even in retirement from a distinguished publishing career that spanned 40 years, O’Brien was a fierce and indomitable fighter to the end.

One of the true originals of the home video business, O’Brien was there in the early 1980s at the market’s inception, and through the years proved to be a passionate champion of — and a catalyst in — its ascension as a Hollywood cash cow.

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Bill co-founded two of the industry’s seminal symbols of self-identity — trade periodical Video Business (VB) and the Video Hall of Fame, which inducted him in 2007. Notably, he was part of a class that included Netflix cofounder Reed Hastings, as well as Steven Beeks, then head of Lionsgate. Bill called it “one of the highlights of my life.”

If the 27th annual induction ceremony was way too overdue recognition for one of the Hall’s “founding fathers,” it’s only because Bill himself had fended off previous overtures (from this admirer among others) to honor him. He loved to brag — but never about himself. His joy came from the achievements and success of others that redounded to the business units and products under his watch.

A collector of business aphorisms, one of his favorites combines humility with steely resolve: “A good manager gives credit and takes blame.” He practiced what he preached.  It was an honor to be held accountable by Bill because it meant he felt you were worth his investment. It also meant you couldn’t help but up your game by having him on your side.

A Facebook comment by my longtime colleague Bruce Mishkin eloquently sums up how many in Bill’s orbit feel about his generosity of spirit and his singular influence on our careers. “I would not be the person I am today,” wrote Mishkin, “without the mentorship Bill selflessly provided and the pressure he constantly exerted on me to be better. I loved the man.”

The same goes for me. The decade I worked for Bill O’Brien was akin to a master class in best practices — not only in business but in life. It’s been a quarter-century since I reported to the man, and to this day my stories about him invariably start with the richly deserved identifier, “The best boss I ever had …”

As an editor, working for Bill was a rare privilege because he was the rarest of publishers. Thanks to his ramrod backbone and the market stature of Video Business that rested on his shoulders, he would unequivocally support his editorial staff even in the face of irate advertisers, including major Hollywood studios, threatening to cancel their ads.

If a studio executive complained about an “unfair” article, Bill would matter-of-factly ask, “Were any facts wrong?” If they came up empty with evidence, which they almost always did, he would tell the executive that a retraction is not warranted.

That position did not budge an inch, not even as retribution was exacted on us when a studio would petulantly pull its advertising. He was perfectly willing to lose their ad dollars — even six figures a year — in exchange for maintaining the integrity of the product and the respect of his staff. “They’ll be back,” he told us. And he was right. He rarely wasn’t.   

William Christopher O’Brien was born April 4, 1941, in Lowville, New York. He graduated from Clarkson University with a degree in chemical engineering, earned an MBA from Columbia University, and served a stint in the U.S. Army Reserves.

In his own words, Bill “fled a promising career at Union Carbide to join an entrepreneurial publishing venture (a quartet of professional journals for lawyers, doctors, MBAs and engineers) that would teach this survivor the many mistakes not to be repeated — lessons learned that enabled future triumphs.”

The triumphs came soon enough for the fastidious manager and numbers cruncher par excellence who planned far ahead and left nothing to chance.

After the hard knocks of his introduction to publishing, he (again in his words) “got lucky.”

When Bill was asked to spearhead the introduction of both trade monthly Video Business and consumer monthly Video Review, he said, “It was love at first sight, both for the magazines and for the video industry itself.”

Seven years after Video Business made its debut, with Bill having risen to publisher, he teamed with Video Business editor John Gaffney to convert VB to a weekly. He says he was called “nuts” by the Hollywood video cognoscenti. It was a runaway success. He willed it so.

He took great pride, too, in the millions of dollars the Video Hall of Fame raised for Variety — The Children’s Charity under his 15-year stewardship of the fundraiser, during which it honored the likes of Ted Turner, Jane Fonda, James Cameron, Jerry Bruckheimer, and “Father of DVD” Warren Lieberfarb of Warner Home Video.

O’Brien’s legendary mastery of optimizing operational efficiencies led him to run other U.S. business units for publishing giant Reed Elsevier, ultimately becoming chairman of Reed Data Services prior to retiring.

His publishing proficiency knew no bounds, editorial and sales included. “There is an editor inside me screaming to get out,” he said early in his Hall of Fame career. That’s also when Bill’s formidable sales prowess could be gleaned, as he and his partners at one point persuaded Rupert Murdoch to invest in their fledgling venture of magazines for young professionals. 

Bill’s penchant for planning ahead was peerless. With his and my offices connected by a vestibule where his assistant sat, I was privy to his meticulous machinations that were worthy of the engineer in him. There was the time his assistant resigned in a huff, and virtually the next day her successor was in place. Bill told me he had been talking to the person for a long time about “standing by.” He counseled us to always be prepared not only with a backup plan, but with a backup person to fill a slot. He clearly led by example.

“First we’ll be best, then we’ll be first,” was another of Bill’s preferred aphorisms. Indeed, he always brought out the best in those who worked with him because he was (and always will be) the best.

Bill is survived by wife Nancy, daughter Cara, son Liam and wife Amy, and their two children. The eldest of nine siblings, one of whom predeceased him, he also leaves behind five brothers and two sisters, along with many nephews, nieces, and cousins.

 A memorial tribute will be held in early January 2023 at a location on the New Jersey shore.  

 Those who would like details can contact Bill’s wife Nancy Nolan at NANNOL7@yahoo.com.

Editor’s Note: Long before Media Play News became the sole Hollywood trade to focus exclusively on home entertainment, there were five publications battling it out in what was then called the home video business, which revolved around the rental to consumers of videocassettes. The two leading publications were Video Business and Video Store Magazine. Bill O’Brien was publisher of Video Business during its heyday, and Bruce Apar was editor. Apar authored the first regular column on home video in 1976, handled publicity for the U.S. introduction of VHS in 1977, held managerial roles at Video, Home Viewer, Video Business, Video Store Magazine, and Post magazines, co-created the Time Video Man of the Year award, and created Mediaware magazine for the International Recording Media Association. In recent years, he has been publisher of a suburban weekly newspaper in metro New York and has ghostwritten two motivational books for the Forbes Books imprint, with the second, Get a Life by Bob Fisch, available in January 2023. He currently writes a weekly newspaper column and publishes community monthlies in the river towns of New York’s lower Hudson Valley. He is a non-union actor, appearing locally on theater stages and in TV commercials, and reviews theater for BroadwayWorld.com. 

Veteran Home Entertainment Publicist Carl Samrock Dies at 81

Veteran home entertainment publicist Carl Samrock died Oct. 1 of pancreatic cancer.

He was 81.

Samrock is survived by his wife of 44 years, Carol; two sons, Gabriel (Faye Hudson) and Steven (Katsue Anzai); sister Ellen; and granddaughter Daisy.

According to an email from Carol, a private graveside burial is planned. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Pancreatic Action Network.

Samrock spent 15 years at Warner Bros. Pictures as a publicity executive, under chairmen Bob Daly and Terry Semel. He joined the company in 1982 as West Coast Publicity Director and eventually built and managed a 16-member staff responsible for publicity duties on some 30 films in production or release annually. He ultimately rose to VP of national publicity.

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After leaving Warner theatrical publicity in 1997, Samrock moved to Warner Home Video as a consultant to help then-president Warren Lieberfarb, known as the “father” of DVD, introduce the new format that would revolutionize the home entertainment business model.

“Carl was the penultimate professional whose contributions were vitally important, both to the theatrical and home video industries,” Lieberfarb said. “Carl played a significant role in the launch of DVD, and he will always be remembered and certainly not be forgotten. He also was a true mensch.”

The following year, in 1998, Samrock founded Carl Samrock Public Relations, a boutique firm that focused primarily on publicity and promotion campaigns for major studios’ DVD and Blu-ray Disc releases. For the next nearly two decades, the company handled anniversary home video releases of such tentpole titles as The Wizard of Oz, Casablanca, Gone With the Wind for Warner; Sony Pictures Home Entertainment’s Seinfeld: The Complete Series; and many Disney and DreamWorks Animation classics. In 2017, the firm was acquired by its strategic partner Click Communications.

Samrock was born on June 1, 1941, on the Upper Westside of Manhattan, the son of the late Victor Samrock, a Broadway producer and manager, and the late Hyla Rubin Samrock, a former member of the Doris Humphreys modern dance troupe.

Samrock attended the Little Red School House and Elizabeth Irwin High School and graduated from the Horace Mann School in 1959 and Tufts University in 1965. Soon after college, Samrock worked extensively as a theatrical press agent on shows including Broadway’s “The Subject Was Roses”; “Private Lives” with Maggie Smith; “In Praise of Love” with Rex Harrison and Julie Harris; “A Day in the Life of Joe Egg” with Albert Finney; “I Have a Dream,” starring Billy Dee Williams as Martin Luther King and Off-Broadway’s “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown.”

In 1977, Samrock was appointed VP in the New York Office of ICPR Public Relations, a corporate and entertainment publicity firm that worked with major movie studios and independent film producers, movie stars and filmmakers.

From the late 1960s through the mid-’70s, Samrock was a freelance photographer, specializing in entertainment and editorial work, in particular for The New York Times‘ Arts and Leisure section. He made many personality portraits for the paper including Ingrid Bergman, Gregory Peck, Jessica Tandy, Randy Newman, Joan Baez, Robert Altman, Anne Baxter and Christopher Walken. In 1972, his photo coverage of Bella Abzug’s run for Congress accompanied a New York Times Magazine feature on the campaign. In addition to Broadway and off Broadway shows, he provided publicity photos for WNET/13 (the “Great Performance” series, “The Adams Chronicles,” “Theatre in America,” and Monty Python’s 1972 trip to New York City); Warner Bros. Records (Joe Cocker, Gordon Lightfoot, Bob Seeger) and others.

Samrock was involved in community and educational activities over the years. He lectured regularly on publicity at Loyola Marymount University and the University of California, Los Angeles, serving on the latter’s faculty for a brief period. He was president of the Encino Little League for the 1995-96 season. He was a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and on the board of directors of the American Society of Magazine Photographers.

(Samrock himself contributed to this obituary prior to his passing.) 

Home Video Vet Hank Huth, One of the Big Blockbuster Franchisees, Dies at 65

Veteran home video retailer Hank Huth, who once operated one of the biggest Blockbuster franchises in the country, died Aug. 24 at the age of 65 after a brief battle with cancer.

Hank Huth

Huth was the owner of the New York/New England Blockbuster franchise, which between 1987 and 2010 numbered more than 50 stores, mostly in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. Huth was a ubiquitous presence at the annual Video Software Dealers Association (VSDA) conventions, as well as regional trade events such as the East Coast Video Shows. He and his team also were awarded the Blockbuster Video Chairman’s Award twice for operational excellence and the President’s Award several times for the highest volume and most profitable stores. Huth also was named Video Retailer of the Year by the VSDA.

“Hank made his Blockbuster franchise group a ‘must’ meeting at all industry conventions with all major studios, the indies, and distribution,” recalled Norm Burrington, a former executive with New Line Cinema and MPI Home Video. “His input helped form the industry as we knew it through the golden days of VHS into the transition to DVD. Hank’s observations and recommendations were instrumental in building strategies at every level in the video industry.

“Hank’s humor and likeable personality made meeting with him and his team feel more like a social meeting with close friends. He always marveled at our industry and how unique it was that all competitors were such good friends. He went a long way to enhance and carry that attitude forward.”

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“The cliche ‘he was one of the good guys’ was basically created for Hank Huth,” said Joe Amodei of Virgil Films. “He had a level of optimism that was infectious. When after working for more than a few studios and then going out on my own, Hank was one of the first people to call me and give me guidance on the good and the bad of doing it on your own. In the beginning, he was always there to answer questions, but, more than that, to offer support whenever I needed it. But on top of all the business stuff he was just a wonderful guy who made you feel important every time you were in his presence. Those of us who had the good fortune of being a part of the industry when it was prosperous and fun at the same time are indebted to people like Hank for sharing those times with us.”

Henry Clay Huth Jr. was born in Cambridge, Ohio, on April 28, 1957. He grew up in Charlotte, N.C.; Saratoga, Calif.; and Elkhart, Ind. He graduated from Albion College in 1979 with a degree in accounting.

Huth started his career at Peat Marwick in Detroit. He later moved to Chicago, where he was a manager in the tax division at Arthur Andersen.

With his wife of 39 years, Barbara, he moved to Darien and then Riverside, Conn., where he became involved in various franchises, including Blockbuster, Boston Market, Einstein Brothers Bagels, Palm Beach Tan, and, most recently, Dunkin’ Donuts.

After the demise of Blockbuster, Huth continued to be involved with other franchises and in 2007 was named Mega Developer of the Year by Area Developer Magazine.

Huth is survived by his wife Barbara “Boo” King Huth; children Halsey Huth, Abby Huth Donohue, Phebe Huth, Brecky Huth; son-in-law Peter Donohue; and siblings Paul Huth, Cami Huth O’Herren, Zach Huth, and Muffy Fox. He had 12 nieces and nephews.

A memorial service will be held at Riverside Yacht Club in Greenwich, Conn., on Sept. 16 at 4 p.m.

Thanks for the Memories, Vin

He was the greatest voice of the greatest game.

Vin Scully, the legendary Dodgers broadcaster who entertained millions of baseball fans for generations by turning each game into a story unto itself, died Aug. 2, 2022, at the age of 94.

Even among the Dodgers’ storied franchise history that includes celebrated personalities such as Tommy Lasorda and Jackie Robinson, Vin Scully stood out as one of the team’s iconic representatives.

After a two-year stint in the U.S. Navy, Scully, a native of The Bronx, became a student at New York’s Fordham University and did radio broadcasts for many of the school’s sports teams. He caught the ear of CBS Radio’s Red Barber, who recruited Scully for the network’s college football coverage. In his first assignment in November 1949, he braved freezing weather on the roof of Fenway Park in Boston after leaving his coat behind due to a misunderstanding about the location of the broadcast facilities.

Barber, who instilled in Scully a sense of objectivity and professionalism, then brought the young redhead over to the Brooklyn Dodgers, starting in 1950. When Barber left after the 1953 season, Scully became the team’s primary voice. He was there for the latter half of Jackie Robinson’s career, including the Dodger franchise’s first World Series win, and only one in Brooklyn, in 1955.

His arrival in Los Angeles when the team moved here in 1958 proved a perfect match for a growing city built on freeways and car culture. Fans could acquaint themselves with their new team on the go by listening to Dodger games on their car radios, and many became so accustomed to Vin’s voice they began bringing transistor radios to games at the L.A. Coliseum (where the team played before Dodger Stadium opened in 1962). Some games there were so many radios in the stands tuned to Vin in unison that the players reportedly could hear the broadcast on the field as they were playing.

Scully unsurprisingly was on hand for many of baseball’s most iconic moments during his career, from the perfect games of Don Larson and Sandy Koufax, to Hank Aaron passing Babe Ruth’s career home run total, to more somber moments such as welcoming back fans in 2001 after 9/11. He was there for the Dodgers’ L.A. title legacy in 1959, 1963, 1965, 1981 and 1988. He was there for Fernandomania. He even shared play-by-play duties with President Ronald Reagan during an inning of the 1989 All-Star game in Anaheim, Calif. Undoubtedly his two most memorable calls happened during World Series: the Mets comeback against the Red Sox in game six of 1986, and Kirk Gibson’s walk-off homer in game one to lead the Dodgers past the A’s in 1988.

For me and so many others growing up in the Greater Los Angeles area, Scully’s voice was synonymous with the sound of a baseball game. He always seemed just as knowledgeable about the visiting team’s players as the home team, and had such a knack for telling stories about players or the history of the game in between pitches that he always seemed to finish just before the inning did and the broadcast cut to commercial.

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While he was the primary voice of the Dodgers and his Gibson call remains an indelible moment of the team’s history, many forget that he was actually in the booth for that game as part of NBC’s broadcasting team alongside Joe Garagiola, just as he was in 1986. In the 1980s, World Series broadcasts alternated between ABC in the odd years and NBC in the even ones, so Scully’s presence for those two moments was something of a happenstance. He worked for NBC from 1983 through 1989.

Outside of baseball, Scully called tennis, PGA Tour golf and NFL football games for CBS from 1975 to 1982. His most famous call during this stretch was probably “The Catch,” Dwight Clark’s touchdown that put the 49ers into Super Bowl XVI.

Beyond sports, Scully hosted a number of TV shows, including the game show “It Takes Two” from 1969 to 1970 on NBC; most of the episodes are believed lost due to the common but shortsighted practice at the time of reusing broadcast tapes, though some episodes can be found on YouTube.

Scully also plays himself in the 1999 Kevin Costner baseball movie For the Love of the Game as one of the broadcasters, his most notable among several film cameos.

As a sign of his influence on Hollywood, the character of Dana Scully on “The X-Files” is named after him.

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However, he will be first and foremost remembered for his association with baseball. He was given the Ford C. Frick award, often referred to as being included in the baseball hall of fame broadcaster’s wing, in 1982. As television evolved and networks built broadcasting teams with separate play-by-play announcers and color analysts, Scully remained a throwback to an earlier era when working the booth solo was the norm. Even as the Dodgers moved past single-man booths in the early 2000s, Scully remained one of the last solo play-by-play announcers through the end of his career. More often than not, a portrayal (or spoof) of a generic baseball announcer was doing an impersonation of Scully.

Scully maintained a cherished place in the Dodgers’ broadcast booth for 67 years, finally retiring in 2016. His most iconic catchphrase, “It’s time for Dodger baseball,” lives on as part of the pregame ceremony before every Dodgers home game. Both the press box at Dodger Stadium and a street leading to the park were re-named in his honor.

While Scully would pop up for official team appearances from time to time after his retirement, his final role as the voice of the Dodgers was to help celebrate the team’s 2020 World Series win by narrating Major League Baseball’s official championship documentary.

“I know I’ve been so very fortunate to see the celebration of every one of their championships,” Scully says in closing out the official 2020 World Series Film. “Every legend of every generation, enjoying their greatest moment on the game’s grandest stage.”

That’s the beauty of baseball — a continuity of stats, records and achievements that dates back for more than a century. And for nearly half the history of the sport, spanning the careers of thousands of players that came and went, Vin Scully was a common thread connecting them all. As baseball’s traditions struggled to meet the demands of modern entertainment, he was a calming reassurance that the game would be fine, a living embodiment of the principle that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

And still, the game will never be the same without him.

Movie Producer, Talent Agent Chris Nassif Passes Away at 62

Longtime Los Angeles talent agent and movie producer Christopher Nassif died on July 6. Cause of death is unknown at this time, according to a statement from his family. He was 62.

In 2018, Nassif formed Insurrection Entertainment in association with home entertainment distributor Cinedigm. Recent movies included Jeepers Creepers 3, Who Stole My Daughter, American Federale and Monster Mutt. The company was in pre-production on a new film in the “Piranha” franchise.

Nassif opened CNA and Associates Talent Agency in 1983, shortly after graduating from USC. He is known to be the youngest man ever to establish a top talent agency at age 22. At CNA he started the acting careers of Luke Perry, Ricky Martin and Jay Hernandez. The agency also represented Michael Rapaport, Fran Drescher, Molly Shannon and Robert Forster.

In 2000, he expanded and merged CNA with Premiere Artists Talent Agency to form Diverse Talent Group. DTG, under the guidance of Chris, started the careers of Chrissy Metz, James Van Der Beek, Michael Wetherly and Austin Butler. He also represented Kunal Nayar, Josh Holloway and Martin Landau to name a few.

He is survived by his wife of 35 years, Robin Nassif, sons Chris Nassif Jr. and Ryan Nassif, his sister Alexis Nassif and brother Dr. Paul Nassif.

Home Video Veteran Len Levy Dies at 97

Len Levy, a veteran of the home video industry since the early days of VHS, died March 14, 2022 of a heart attack. He was 97. Levy is survived by a cousin, Dave Fogel of Chicago.

Levy  was born on Jan. 10, 1925, to Jean and Sol Levy in Rochester, New York. His maternal grandfather, Samuel Hoffman, owned a record store, where he learned about music, composers, and performers. Levy graduated from Ohio State University, though his education was interrupted by 18
months’ service in the South Pacific.

After college, while working in his grandfather’s store, Levy began booking talent for a nearby supper club. That led to his meeting various New York City agents and managers. He soon joined the local distributorship of Coral Records, a subsidiary of Decca Records, as sales manager. In January 1955 he became office manager with Coral in New York. He then became national sales manager for Top Rank Records.

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In 1961, Levy joined Epic Records, a subsidiary of Columbia Records, as sales
manager. He signed singer Bobby Vinton, whose first Epic single was the multimillion seller “Roses Are Red.” Through his connections in Britain at EMI, Levy signed Lulu, Cliff Richards, Donovan, The Yardbirds, and
the Dave Clark Five to Epic. He opened an office for Epic in Nashville and discovered and guided the careers of Tammy Wynette and Charlie Rich, among others, and was voted into Who’s Who in County Music. He ultimately rose to SVP and GM at Epic.

Levy later served as president of Chess Records of Chicago before being approached in 1976 by The Wherehouse to head up the national record store chain’s new Video Division. In the early 1980s, Levy became marketing manager of Family Home Entertainment, where he acquired home
video rights to the Care Bears, Strawberry Shortcake, Clifford the Big Red Dog, Inspector Gadget, and other familiar family brands, building FHE into the second-biggest children’s video company, behind the Walt Disney Co.

Levy created several well-regarded labels under the FHE leadership, including International Video Entertainment (IVE) and Thriller Video. The latter featured Elvira hosting films from the Hammer House of Horror. IVE’s releases included On Golden Pond, Hoosiers, 1984, Bolero, Angel Heart, First Blood and Supergirl.

In 1987, Levy headed a new division of Fries Entertainment: Fries Home Video. He acquired new episodes of the “Care Bears,” “Shari Lewis & Lambchop,” and an eclectic collection of programming including Follies In Concert, the indie film hit Wish You Were Here, Troop Beverly Hills and Flowers in the Attic.

In 1998, Levy formed Pro-Active Entertainment Group in Rancho Mirage, Calif., providing sales and marketing advice to independent producers. The firm closed in 2007.

He married Florence (“Flo”) on May 24, 1960. Flo died of lung cancer on Feb. 17, 2016, in Rancho Mirage.

Len and Flo Levy (photo courtesy BJ Markel).

Former Columbia TriStar Home Video President Pat Campbell Dies

Former Columbia TriStar Home Video president Walter Patrick “Pat” Campbell has died.

Campbell, of East Hampton, N.Y., passed away on March 28, according to an announcement in the Philadelphia Inquirer. He was 76.

Pat Campbell (Prayer card photo)

Campbell was president of what is now Sony Pictures Home Entertainment from 1989 until 1994. He began his tenure there in 1984 when he was asked to head the recently formed entertainment joint venture between RCA and Columbia Pictures, RCA/Columbia Pictures International Video, to distribute tapes overseas. He was named worldwide president in 1989 and remained at the helm after the company’s 1991 rebranding to Columbia TriStar Home Video. Top VHS releases during Campbell’s presidency included Total Recall, Flatliners, Misery, Boyz n the Hood, Ghostbusters II and Sex, Lies and Videotape.

In an interview with the LaSalle University Winter Magazine in 1997, 30 years after he graduated from the school with an undergraduate degree in political science, Campbell said RCA/Columbia was a unique business because it acquired as well as produced movies. “We took the video company worldwide,” Campbell said. “We were the only ones that had more revenue overseas than we did domestic because we recognized that there was a tremendous overseas market. We were number one in market share even though the flow of products from our studio was number seven. I was very proud of that. And we also developed some people who are now very significant in the entertainment business.”

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Campbell said his most difficult challenge was “dealing with the talent.” “At one point we were producing about 20 films a year and buying hundreds of others around the world,” he told the LaSalle Winter Magazine. “Generally when you’re dealing with first-time talent it’s fairly easy. But boy, when they have a success or two, that took all of your wits and patience.” 

In the interview, Campbell said that while his division enjoyed a string of successful VHS releases, there also was one big miss. A staffer woke him early one morning at the Cannes Film Festival to watch a rough cut of an independent film partially subtitled in American Indian. “By about 9:30, I hadn’t had breakfast and I was hungry,” Campbell told the publication. “I said, ‘There’s no way I want to touch this film.’ And we walked away from it.”

That film was Dances with Wolves.

“He was respected by his team and innovative in the area of making independent films for the home video marketplace,” said Ben Feingold, CEO of Samuel Goldwyn Films, who succeeded Campbell as president of Columbia TriStar Home Video in 1994.

Campbell left Columbia TriStar in January 1994 to join Ameritech, one of seven Regional Bell Operating Companies, or “Baby Bells,” created following the breakup of AT&T in 1984. As EVP of corporate strategy and business development, he helped negotiate the $81 billion merger of Ameritech and SBC Communications, one of the largest corporate mergers in history at that time. The Winter 1997-98 edition of the LaSalle Winter Magazine called Campbell “one of the key players on the Information Superhighway.”

In an interview with Supermarket News, Campbell talked about tech companies recruiting home video executives. “The reality is the information superhighway is coming and is going to be an exciting, vibrant thing to work on, but it is a ways into the future,” he said. “Video is an incredibly important aspect of the entertainment business right now.”

Campbell was born on Feb. 9, 1946, in Philadelphia. A 1967 graduate of LaSalle University with an undergraduate degree in political science, he began his career at Proctor-Silex in Philadelphia and later held a series of progressively more responsible positions at McGraw Edison, and Norelco.

Campbell is survived by his wife, Kathleen Campbell; daughter Megan Officer and her husband, Graham; daughter Kristin Doble and her husband, Hunter; and grandchildren Campbell and Colin Officer and Katharine, Emily and Graham Doble.

Following his retirement, Campbell continued to serve on the board of directors of Jefferies Financial Group and Black and Veatch, according to the announcement.

There will be a Celebration of Life for him on April 3 from 1 to 6 p.m. at the Flourtown Country Club in Flourtown, Penn.