Ralph E. Donnelly, 75, exhibitor

Film veteran was one of ShowEast founders

Exhibitor Ralph E. Donnelly died Sept. 21 in Palm Harbor, Fla. He was 75.

Donnelly was a pioneer of specialized exhibition, and established the First Avenue Screening Room in Manhattan and the Mini Cinema in Uniondale, New York. He was a founder of the annual ShowEast convention.

Starting in his teens as an usher, he ultimately became president of Cinema 5 Theaters in Manhattan. He was also head film buyer at City Cinemas, RKO-Stanley Warner Theaters, Creative Film Services and Associated Independent Theaters. A past president of the Variety Club and the Motion Picture Bookers Club, he was also a member of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences and was on the board of the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.

After Donnelly retired, he served as a shipboard host on cruises, screening films and leading discussions of film lore.

He is survived by his wife, Gloria; a sister; three children and five grandchildren.

Donations may be made to Variety – The Children’s Charity.

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  1. Darlene Donnelly says:

    I was his firstborn-just ten months after he married his childhood sweetheart and a day doesn’t go by I don’t think about my charmed upbringing with the unconditional love I got from him. I seem to miss him more these days as I care for my mom who sometimes thinks he is still alive through her illness. He was a dynamic and innovative handsome guy and must be missed in many of his former circles. The men and women of Variety are joined by so many others who still miss his love and friendship and his dedication to his lifework.

    • Keli Donnelly says:

      Nice to see that you had good memories. I miss him more than words can express. I feel blessed to have the amazing memories, and the honor to have celebrated our parents 50 years of marriage with them. A time that was very special.

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