The pioneering Australian exhibitor and an architect of the renaissance of Australian cinema in the 1970s and 80s, David Williams died May 11 in Sydney after an extended illness. He was 83.
Williams built the largest exhibition chain and cinema holding company in Australia through the 60s, 70s and 80s, developing multiplexes in all capital cities.
He served as managing director of the Greater Union Organization; chairman of subsidiary Birch, Carroll & Coyle (the dominant chain in Queensland and regional Australia); Colorfilm (the then leading film laboratory and post production services group); and as a director of Village Roadshow.
His passion for cinema — its product, audiences, technology and production — permeated everything he undertook. As a protege of the legendary business dynamo Sir Norman Rydge, he rose from office boy through buying and booking roles to become GUO’s first general manager in 1968 and then managing director in 1975 until his retirement in 1986.
A member of the government assistance body the Australian Film Commission, he ensured that Greater Union was a dedicated investor in the revival of the Australian film industry as a major supporter of Peter Weir’s “Picnic at Hanging Rock,” Gillian Armstrong’s “My Brilliant Career,” Donald Crombie’s “The Irishman,” Stephen Wallace’s “For Love Alone” and more than 30 other original Australian productions.
He was awarded the Australian industry’s highest accolade, the Australian Film Institute’s Raymond Longford Award, in 1984, and was appointed a Member in the Order of Australia for services to the Australian film industry in 1986.
He is survived by daughter Candice, son Kim, chairman of the Sydney Opera House and CEO of paycaster FOXTEL and two grandchildren .