Long-serving international distribution exec Arthur Abeles, co-founder of United Intl. Pictures (UIP), died of natural causes in London on May 1. He was 85.
Born and raised in New York and a graduate of Duke U., Abeles got his start in overseas distribution with Warner Bros. in Brazil in the 1930s. After several other Latin American posts, he was transferred in 1947 to London, where he became head of Warner distribution for all of Europe. In the late 1960s, Abeles was lured away by Lew Wasserman, a personal friend, to become head of Universal Intl.
Hollywood’s overseas distribberies were going through a prolonged rough patch, and some considered shuttering their London offices. Abeles therefore proposed that Universal Intl. join forces with Paramount’s international operation, then headed by Henri “Ricky” Michaud. The partnership that resulted in 1970 was named Cinema Intl. Corp. (CIC).
Abeles remained co-chairman of CIC with Michaud into the early 1980s. By then, the venture had taken on a third partner, MGM Intl., to be reborn as UIP, and had become a distribution powerhouse, not only in Europe but around the world.
When forced to retire, Abeles and Michaud founded Film Marketeers, a London-based consulting firm. One of their first successes was in persuading AMC Theaters to enter Britain with the founding of Blighty’s first multiplex theater, the Point in Milton Keynes.
Michaud died in the late 1990s, and Film Marketeers is now headed by Sam Shaw, who worked with Abeles for 30 years.
Abeles is survived by his wife, Audrey, and two daughters.