Gary Martin Dies: Former Longtime Sony Pictures Executive Was 79

Gary Martin, a retired longtime executive at Sony Pictures who served as President of Studio Operations and Product during a 32-year stint at the studio, has died. He was 79.

Sony reps said he died November 2 of natural causes at his home in Sherwood Forest, CA.

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Martin began his studio career at 20th Century Fox in 1961, moving over to Columbia 20 years later. Promoted to President, Production Administration in 1988, he retained his position after Sony’s acquisition of Columbia in 1989 and continued to serve in that role even after his promotion to President of Studios Operations in 2003.

During his 32 years with Columbia/Sony, Martin helped define the company’s impressive record of box office hits, overseeing production of such films as Best Picture Oscar nominee Tootsie and Ghostbusters as well as Men in Black, Spider-Man and Casino Royale.

Upon his retirement in 2013, Sony Pictures renamed its most storied sound stage, Stage 15 — one of the largest in the world – as the Gary Martin Stage. Built in 1927, it was used to film The Wizard of Oz and, decades later, the Spider-Man and Men in Black franchises, among other films.

“As a colleague at Sony and then as the production head when I made a few films there, Gary was rough, tough, great at his work — and one of the sweetest, most beautiful people on the lot,” said Sid Ganis, former president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Martin grew up on soundstages as a second-generation industry executive. His father, Ivan, was the Director of Studio Operations at 20th Century Fox for many years. His dad introduced the younger Martin to the Motion Picture and Television Fund — and he never forgot the wonderful care his mother received at the Motion Picture Hospital and remained a lead donor until his death.

The Susan and Gary Martin Screening Room in the Louis B. Mayer theater complex on the MPTF campus in Woodland Hills is just one example of the Martins’ generosity.

“We never had to ask Gary and Susan for anything — they were always one step ahead of us,” said Bob Beitcher, MPTF CEO and Martin’s longtime friend. “Gary would ask, ‘What can we do that would make a positive impact for the residents?’ We’d give him the list of things we were considering, and he’d pick out the most ambitious item and say, ‘Susie and I want to give you the money for that.”

Martin is survived by his wife of 56 years, Susan; son Sean; daughter-in-law Aisha; grandchildren Camille, Norah and Natalie; sister-in-law Nancy Patterson; and several nieces and nephews.

Donations in his memory may be made in lieu of flowers to the Motion Picture and Television Fund. A funeral service will be held at 9 a.m. November 17 in the Old North Church at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Hollywood Hills.

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