Foreign distribution pioneer Norman Katz, one of the founders of the American Film Market and 20-year prexy of Warner Bros. Intl., died Jan. 25 in Santa Monica, Calif. He was 90.
Born in Scranton, Penn., Katz served in Europe during WWII where he specialized in military intelligence. After the war, he stayed on in Paris where he served as exec VP at Discina Intl. Films, distributing films by Jean Cocteau and Jacques Tati.
In 1953, he moved to Warner Bros. Intl., where he spent 20 years, ending as prexy of the studio’s international operations. Katz segued to the independent arena with companies including Cinema Arts and American Cinema. While selling American films to international territories through his Norkat Company, he became founding member of the American Film Marketing Assn., which he chaired from 1985 to 1987.
The film market was the first major film sales event in the U.S., beginning as a response to pricey European film markets like Cannes and Mifed.
A fixture at Cannes, Katz attended some 50 consecutive festivals starting with its founding in 1946. “I just don’t think it is as much fun as it used to be,” he told the L.A. Times in 1991. Reminscing over the 1961 party for Greek pic “Never on Sunday,” he recalled, “They played Greek music, drank wine and danced. It was just a great, great party and we must have destroyed 100,000 dishes throwing them against the wall the way the Greeks do.”
Katz was a longtime board member of the American Film Marketing Assn., as well as founder-chairman of the American Film Export Assn. and a board member of the Motion Picture Export Assn. while at Warner Bros. He was a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
He is survived by his wife Dorothea, five children, 14 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Donations may be made to OPICA ADult Day Services and Counseling Center, opica.org.