Producer, philanthropist and computer technology pioneer Max Palevsky, who contributed to the refurbishment of the American Cinematheque’s Aero Theater, died in Los Angeles Wednesday in his sleep following a heart attack. He was 85.
Palevsky made a fortune in the early computer industry as a founder of Scientific Data Systems and Intel Corp. The influential longtime Angeleno, who was active in liberal politics, also helped rescue Rolling Stone magazine in 1970 and produced several films.
His contribution to the Cinematheque helped rehab Santa Monica’s historic Aero Theater, which was renamed the Max Palevsky/Aero Theater.
“He was one of our staunchest supporters. He really loved movies and came to the theater all the time,” said Barbara Smith, exec director of the Cinematheque. “They were a personal passion of his, he wanted people to see movies. The loss is really to the community, not just to the Cinematheque.”
At the re-opening of the Aero in 2005, Palevsky said, “Movies are important cultural documents, equal to novels or poetry. There should be a place where people can always go to experience them onscreen. Movies were very important to my generation. It was our way of learning about the world before there was TV.”
The son of Polish immigrants, Palevsky was born in Chicago and served in the U.S. Army during WWII as a meteorologist in the Philippines. He attended U. of Chicago, UC Berkeley and UCLA, where he was studying philosophy when he left to enter the fledgling computer field in 1951.
After working as a computer logic designer at Bendix Corp. and as director of Packard Bell Computer Corp., he founded Scientific Data Systems in 1961 and sold it to Xerox Corp. in 1969, after which he became a director and chairman of the executive committee of Xerox.
He put up much of the money to rescue Rolling Stone magazine from financial ruin in 1970, joining the magazine’s board, where he met and befriended Hunter S. Thompson.
During the 1970s he dipped into the film biz, producing the Oscar-winning doc “Marjoe,” as well as Costa Gavras’ “State of Siege,” and “Sense of Loss.”
He backed several films including Terrence Malick’s “Badlands” and co-produced two with Variety veep and editorial director Peter Bart: “Fun With Dick and Jane” and “Islands in the Stream.”
“Palevsky had a true passion for film and throughout his life sought to encourage and support filmmakers and other artists whose work reflected an original vision and point of view,” Bart said.
A major art collector and contributor to LACMA, Palevsky helped establish the Palevsky Design Pavilion in Jerusalem’s Israel Museum, L.A.’s Museum of Contemporary Art and the arts and crafts collection at LACMA.
He also served on the boards of the ACLU, the Constitutional Rights Foundation and People for the American Way.
Survivors include his wife, Jodie Evans; three sons; one stepson; a grandson and a sister.
Donations may be made to the ACLU, LACMA or the American Cinematheque.