Producer, philanthropist and computer technology pioneer Max Palevsky, who contributed to the refurbishment of the American Cinematheque’s Aero Theater, died early Wednesday in his sleep following a heart attack in Los Angeles. He was 85.
The son of Polish immigrants, Palevsky made a fortune in the fledgling computer industry as founder of Scientific Data Systems in 1961 and Intel Corp. in 1968.
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 December 1998, 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.”
Palevsky went to school on the GI Bill after serving in the U.S. Army during World War II as a meteorologist in the Philippines. He studied at the U. of Chicago, UCLA and UC Berkeley. After working as a computer logic designer at Bendix Corp. and the director of Packard Bell Computer Corp., Max founded and SDS in 1961 and sold it to Xerox Corp. in 1969, at which time 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. He joined the magazine’s board, where he met and befriended Hunter Thompson.
In showbiz Palevsky produced the Oscar-winning doc “Marjoe,” as well as Costa Gavras’ “State of Siege,” and “Sense of Loss.” He backed several films financially including Terrence Malick’s “Badlands” and co-produced two with 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,” said Bart, Variety VP and editorial director.
As a philanthropist, besides the Cinematheque, Palevsky, a major art collector and contributor to LACMA, helped establish the Palevsky Design Pavilion in Jerusalem’s Israel Museum, L.A.’s Museum of Contemprory Art and the arts and crafts collection at LACMA. Palevsky was a member of the Folger Committee of the Folger Shakespeare Library. 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.