Al Drebin, owner of L.A.’s Budget Films archive, died of heart failure Tuesdayin Los Angeles. He was 89.
Starting as a non-theatrical distributor, Drebin founded Budget Films in 1965, renting 16mm films to schools, churches and researchers.
When the non-theatrical business faded with the advent of videotape, he repurposed Budget’s large film library as a stock footage company. Until recently, Drebin continued to be active in the company, which supplies stock and archival footage to TV shows, documentaries, theatrical films and humanitarian projects.
Raised in Seattle, he had a love of film and an entrepreneurial spirit from the start, charging neighborhood children admission to view movies projected in his backyard. He worked at Seattle’s Madrona Theater; led Seattle dance bands and played the trombone. After graduating the U. of Washington, he moved to Los Angeles.
Drebin worked as a bandleader and at Lockheed aircraft during the war. He then moved briefly to San Diego, where he began to acquire and show films. His San Diego diner, the Cinema Dog, was a combination drive-in and car hop restaurant, where food was served to customers in their cars while movies were shown on an outdoor screen.
He returned to Los Angeles in 1950 with a collection of films and projectors and established himself as a film distributor.
He is survived by his wife of 31 years, Aliki; daughter Layne Murphy, president of Budget Films; three grandchildren and a great-granddaughter.