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.