The death of MGM distribution chief Erik Lomis on Wednesday has shocked many around Hollywood. More than just being a sage to filmmakers and executives about the motion picture business, Lomis was known for his generosity fundraising with the Will Rogers Institute, cultivating others’ careers, and even being a mentor to many in their personal lives.
“I don’t think the industry will realize until a couple of months from now how Erik Lomis was George Bailey,” EDO box office analytics partner Derek McLay, a former lieutenant of Lomis’ during the distribution exec’s early MGM days, told Deadline. “He was so many things to so many people that he touched and did quietly, and he’s intertwined in everything we do.”
Lomis oversaw the distribution of several 007 films including Daniel Craig’s swan song, No Time to Die, as well as the Pierce Brosnan cannon Goldeneye, Tomorrow Never Dies, The World Is Not Enough and Die Another Day to name a few in a decades long working relationship with Eon Productions’ Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson. Lomis was the first distribution exec in Hollywood to pivot and protect No Time to Die from Covid, foreseeing the pandemic’s impact on global exhibition before other studios followed suit. Lomis held tight on the film, championing continually for the pic’s future theatrical release over any options for a streaming or theatrical-day-and-date PVOD release. No Time to Die was the fourth highest grossing movie of 2021 making over $774M worldwide. Lomis was also the host and a key organizer of Broccoli and Wilson’s tribute at last fall’s 2022 Pioneer Dinner. The 007 franchise producer and Eon Productions Chief Barbara Broccoli shares with Deadline tonight, “We are absolutely devastated by the sudden loss of our dearest and most loyal friend Erik Lomis. He was a fierce supporter of theatrical distribution and handled each film with passion and care. He is irreplaceable. A part of the industry has died with him today.”
Current Warner Bros Motion Picture Studio chair and CEO Michael De Luca worked with Lomis during the former’s tenure as MGM’s chairman. De Luca, whose run with Lomis included such pics as House of Gucci, Licorice Pizza and development on Creed III, tells Deadline, “Every day with Lomis was a victory, he loved movies and exhibition so much.”
De Luca continues, “I remember how excited and giddy he was to outfit the Mann Village theater with 70mm to play Licorice Pizza and how proud he was when it broke records there. Erik’s pure film love with things like that directly led to giving MGM their first Best Picture nom since 1988 [this year’s Women Talking]. He was a joy to work with, treated everyone like family, and had the best most generous spirit I’ve ever seen. He was a blue-collar, movie theater guy — irreplaceable.”
Former MGM Motion Picture Group president and Creed III producer Jonathan Glickman, who worked with Lomis on The Addams Family animated movie and the Rocky spinoff franchise, says, “I had lunch with Erik and Irwin Winkler yesterday to celebrate the incredible job he did releasing Creed III. He was his typical hilarious self and in great spirits about work and his family, so I am shocked and broken-hearted to hear of his passing.
“Erik was more than a colleague — he was a friend, a sparring partner and mentor who treated me like family even when I woke him up at 5 a.m. to pester him for box office numbers or tracking. There was no truer champion of theatrical movies than Erik. I can honestly say, “they don’t make them like him anymore”. He was a mensch, a class act and unforgettable – I will miss him.”
Gary Barber, the former MGM CEO and now chairman and CEO of Spyglass Media Group, says: “I’m beyond heartbroken over Erik’s sudden passing and find it hard to put into words just how meaningful his loyalty and friendship has meant to me over the years. The film industry lost one of its biggest champions today and I can’t imagine facing an opening weekend without his shrewd analysis and bold predictions. I’ll always remember how he’d include ‘007’ in his box office reporting as a nod to James Bond. Sending my deepest sympathies and condolences to Patricia, his family and to all who knew him. FLY, ERIK FLY!”
In addition to being close friends, Barber and Lomis worked closely during Barber’s time at MGM and through the MGM/Annapurna joint venture.
Adam Aron, chairman and CEO of AMC Entertainment adds, “Like just about everyone else who knew him, at AMC we were both shocked and saddened to hear of the sudden passing this morning of Erik Lomis. He was a giant in the field of theatrical exhibition. More than that, he was a really good human being. I truly enjoyed each and every minute I was with him, and will never forget his big-hearted smile. We send our most sincere condolences to his family and his professional colleagues at MGM, UA Releasing and Amazon. Erik, you will be widely mourned and you will be greatly missed.”
John Fithian, NATO Chairman and CEO, adds, “Erik Lomis’ impact on the movie and theatrical experience literally has no parallel. Erik loved and lived the theatrical experience and brought so many major titles to our screens. I am devastated by this loss. Movie screens across America are bleeding right now. Erik was the movies to me.”
Says Universal domestic distribution boss Jim Orr, who worked with Lomis during the early 2000s at MGM: “Erik was more than a good friend, a true mentor to me and many others in this industry, someone who was larger than life not only in theatrical distribution but even more so in the numerous philanthropic endeavors he championed. Erik left an indelible mark on this world, an iconic figure that will be sorely missed.”
Says Lionsgate domestic distribution head David Spitz, who began his career working for Lomis, “I loved Erik. I respected Erik. I will miss him. My heart goes out to Patricia and the entire family. Truly a huge loss for our industry.”
Focus Features Distribution President Lisa Bunnell tells Deadline, “Erik Lomis was ‘The Godfather’ to so many of us in exhibition and distribution. A larger than life figure who was a generous leader not only in the theatrical world, but also through the charities he supported. To say Erik will be missed is an understatement.”
Warner Bros. Domestic Distribution boss Jeff Goldstein adds: “I’ve know Erik since the beginning of our careers. He was bigger than life in so many ways. As a business person, he was inventive, relentless, curious and effective. As a philanthropist, he was a tireless supporter of Will Rogers and Variety with a heart of pure gold. As a friend, he was someone you could always count on. We’ll miss his boundless energy and joke-telling. This world is truly a better place because he was here.”
Joe Garel, VP of Film at exhibitor Cinepolis Cinemas, says, “This is a sad day for theatrical. Erik was in a pivotal spot running theatrical for MGM. Erik always had our backs when we were releasing films at TWC. He was a boss I respected and he made you feel like you were part of the club. He will be missed.”
Lee Daniels’ The Butler producer Cassian Elwes wrote on social media: