Gary Martin, former Sony Pictures executive and major supporter of the Motion Picture & Television Fund, has a storied history Wizard of Oz soundstage named after him, has died. He was 79.
Martin died Thursday of natural causes at his home in Sherwood Forest, California, a family spokesperson announced.
When he retired as president of studio operations and production at Sony in 2013, the studio renamed its legendary Stage 15 – one of the largest in the world – the Gary Martin Stage. Built in 1927, it was used in 1939 The Wizard of Oz – the yellow brick road lies beneath the current stage floor – and more recently in front of it Spider-Man And Men in black movies.
At the dedication, then-Sony Pictures Entertainment co-chairman Amy Pascal said of Martin: “His leadership, grace and skill are unparalleled in our industry. There is no one who comes close.”
He oversaw the production of more than 600 films at the studio.
Martin spent his childhood on soundstages while his father, Ivan, was director of studio operations at 20th Century Fox for many years.
He began his career as a laborer and over the next twenty years worked in various capacities at multiple studios before arriving at Sony (and then Columbia Pictures) as a production manager in 1981. From 1988 he oversaw physical production and post-production and added studio operations in 2003.
Martin was known as a straight shooter, an executive who wanted to ensure that Sony Pictures got the best return for its investment.
“As a colleague at Sony and then as head of production when I made a few films there, Gary was rough, tough, great at his job and one of the sweetest and nicest people of the bunch,” former Academy President Sid Ganis said in a statement.
Martin and his wife Susan were also quite generous to the MPTF, an organization his father introduced him to in his early days in the industry. His mother received care at the MPTF hospital and he remained a main donor until his death.
In 2014, the Martins paid for a major renovation of a screening room in the Louis B. Mayer Theater Complex on the MPTF campus in Woodland Hills to bring it up to industry standards in both technology and aesthetics. It is now known as The Susan and Gary Martin Screening Room.
Additionally, Martin and Clint Eastwood have been supporting MPTF’s benefits program for military veterans in the entertainment industry for years.
“We never had to ask Gary and Susan anything. They were always one step ahead of us,” friend and CEO of MPTF Bob Beitcher said in a statement. “Gary asked himself, ‘What can we do to have a positive impact on residents?’ We gave him the list of things we were considering, and he picked the most ambitious item and said, “Susie and I want to give you the money for that.”
“He was the best donor, someone who always gave from his heart.”
In addition to his wife of 56 years, survivors include his son Sean; daughter-in-law Aisha; grandchildren Camille, Norah and Natalie; sister-in-law Nancy; cousins Larry, Steve, Jason and Matthew and their families; and nieces Colleen, Linda, Nicole and their families.
Donations in his memory can be filed with the MPTF. A funeral service will be held at 9 a.m. on November 17 at Old North Church in Forest Lawn in Los Angeles.