Bernard Myerson, 84, former president-CEO of Loews Theaters and long one of the prime forces in the exhibition field, died Nov. 13 of heart failure at his home in Rancho Mirage. He had been in excellent health until the time of his death.
Brought in to run the theater side of the company when Larry and Bob Tisch bought the Loews Corp. from MGM in 1963, Myerson oversaw an expansion of the chain from 160 single-screen theaters to some 840 screens in approximately 260 venues. In 1985, he teamed with Jerry Perenchio to acquire Loews Theaters from its parent and continued to run the company for several years after selling it to TriStar the following year.
A mentor to many industry execs past and present, Myerson worked his way up from humble beginnings. A native of the Bronx, he quit school at 15 to support his family during the Depression and, after suffering an attack of appendicitis while working at the Fulton Fish Market, at 19 took the less strenuous jobs of usher, ticket taker and office boy at the Fabian Theaters chain.
During his 25-year tenure at Fabian, he worked as booker, chief buyer, circuit general manager and, finally, executive VP. He was responsible for bringing in DJs Alan Freed and Murray the K to stage the all-star rock ‘n’ roll shows at the Fox Fabian movie palace in the ’50s.
Lured to Loews by the Tisches, Myerson was one of the first in exhibition to move ahead with extensive multiplexing of older, larger theaters, including the chain flagship Loews State in Manhattan, and to build new venues in suburban shopping centers. With Paramount’s Frank Yablans, he devised the initial New York distribution pattern for “The Godfather,” which broke with precedent by premiering in five theaters rather than one. Myerson remained on the Loews Corp. board until his death.
A low-key executive, he shunned personal publicity while involving himself extensively in charities and philanthropic activities. He had been president and chairman of the Motion Picture Pioneers, chief barker of the Variety Club Tent 35 of New York and a director of Variety Clubs Intl., board chairman of the Will Rogers Memorial Fund and an executive and/or board member with many other organizations including the National Assn. of Theater Owners, the March of Dimes, the Burke Rehabilitation Center, the Friars Club and the American Film Institute.
He is survived by his wife, Muriel, two sons, four grandchildren and two sisters.