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Marvin Antonowsky Dies at 86; Exec Was Marketing Chief at Universal, Columbia

Marvin Antonowsky, who ran the marketing departments at Universal and Columbia and also did a stint as NBC’s VP of programming, died April 7. He was 86.

While at Columbia from 1980-84, Antonowsky oversaw the campaigns for films including “Absence of Malice,” Oscar best picture winner “Gandhi,” “Tootsie,” “The Big Chill” and “Stir Crazy,” . In 1984 he leaped to Universal as president of marketing in 1984, launching films including “The Breakfast Club,” “Out of Africa” and “Fletch.” Later in the decade, Antonowsky was a consultant for TriStar Pictures, managing the marketing for “Steel Magnolias,” “Look Who’s Talking,” “The Bear” and “See No Evil, Hear No Evil.”

He returned in 1990 to Columbia to join chairman Frank Price, a close friend, serving as exec VP and assistant to the chairman; in 1993, Antonowsky and Price both exited to launch Price Entertainment, whose films would include “Circle of Friends,” “A Bronx Tale” and “Shadowlands.” He remained until 1996 and subsequently consulted on marketing for movie and TV projects.

Antonowsky began his showbiz career in advertising at Kenyon & Eckhart, where he rose to VP of marketing in 1957. In 1965 he was named VP in charge of media research and spot buying at J. Walter Thompson; moving into television four years later, he joined ABC as VP in charge of research and after that served at NBC as VP of programming at the time when the network launched “Saturday Night Live.”

He became senior VP at Universal Television in 1976 before beginning the movie phase of his career.

Antonowsky was a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences and served on the board of the L.A. Opera. In 2008 he donated $2.5 million to his alma mater, Manhattan’s Baruch College to aid in the expansion of the campus’ performing arts center, which was redubbed the Marvin Antonowsky Performing Arts Complex.

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