Gary O. Martin, a former Sony Pictures executive who served as president of studio operations and production for several decades, died of natural causes on Thursday at his home in Sherwood Forest, Calif. He was 79 years old.
Martin’s death was confirmed by a publicist for his family members.
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After coming to Sony — then Columbia Pictures — as a production manager in 1981, Martin was elevated to overseeing production and post-production on the lot in 1988. In 2003, he took on the responsibilities of studio operations. His tenure at the studio helped steer the launch of franchises such as “Spider-Man,” “Men in Black” and Ron Howard’s adaptations of Dan Brown novels.
“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,” Sid Ganis, former president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, wrote in a statement remembering Martin.
Upon Martin’s retirement in 2013, Sony Pictures renamed one of its most famous sound stages — where “The Wizard of Oz” was shot — in his honor.
“His leadership, grace and skill are unparalleled in our business. There is no one who comes close,” Amy Pascal, then co-chair of Sony Pictures Entertainment, said of Martin at the dedication in 2013.
His father, Ivan, was director of studio operations at 20th Century Fox. Martin grew up around sound stages before beginning his career, working at several studios before arriving at Sony. Martin was also a dedicated, lifelong supporter of the Motion Picture and Television Fund. In 2014, the Martin family paid to renovate what is now the Susan and Gary Martin Screening Room at the Louis B. Mayer Theatre on the MPTF campus.
“We never had to ask Gary and Susan for anything. They were always one step ahead of us,” said Bob Beitcher, CEO of the MPTF and friend to Gary. “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. 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; nephews, Larry Ellena, Steve Ellena, Jason Ellena and Matthew Ellena; and nieces, Colleen Milroy, Linda Patterson and Nicole Ellena. Funeral services will be held at Old North Church at Forest Lawn at 9 a.m. on Nov. 17. Donations in Martin’s memory may be made in lieu of flowers to the Motion Picture and Television Fund.