Marvin Goldfarb, motion picture distributor and buyer adept at choosing box office successes from unfinished films, has died at the age of 84.
Goldfarb, an entertainment executive for six decades, died Friday in Los Angeles.
In early 1978, he saw a six-minute clip of an unfinished science fiction movie and decided to take a chance. He bid $35,000 for the opportunity to show it.
The film was "Star Wars," and it grossed $2 million during a 53-week run at two of his Denver theaters.
At the time, Goldfarb was head film buyer for Kansas City-based Commonwealth Theaters, which operated 550 movie theaters in the Midwest and Colorado.
The process was called "blind bidding," a type of theatrical roulette requiring theater owners to pay upfront fees plus guarantee a percentage of box office receipts for unseen films. Goldfarb was good in his choices but not omniscient.
In 1982, he had to line up a prime movie for the high-stakes Christmas season, and wanted a comedy. He chose Steve Martin's "Pennies From Heaven" without seeing a film clip. When he did see the movie, Goldfarb knew it would be a failure.
"What do I have for this Christmas?" he told Newsweek at the time. "I've got headaches."
Born in Denver, Goldfarb overcame the loss of his left eye in a childhood accident and graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder.
After working in film distribution for RKO, Goldfarb was recruited by Walt Disney in 1954 for Disney's Buena Vista distribution company. When he retired from Disney in 1974, Goldfarb earned its Duckster Award for lifetime achievement in the film business.
Goldfarb then worked for Commonwealth and moved with the firm to Los Angeles in 1988 when it was acquired by Golan & Globus.
In 1991, he joined businessman Marvin Davis' Spectradyne, provider of in-room entertainment services for hotels.
Goldfarb was a founder and president of the Denver-area Variety Club and was active in the Pioneers of the Motion Picture Industry.
He is survived by his wife of 55 years, Evelyn; daughter, Terry Goldfarb-Lee; son, Tom, and one granddaughter.
Goldfarb left his body to UCLA for medical research. The family has asked that memorial contributions be sent to the Muscular Dystrophy Assn., the American Cancer Society or the Children's Diabetes Foundation in Denver.
Services are planned today at 3 p.m. in the Friar's Club, 9900 Little Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills.