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Jane Alsobrook, a marketing and acquisitions executive who worked on such films as Eating Raoul, The Last Emperor, Coal Miner’s Daughter, Rock ‘n’ Roll High School and The Blair Witch Project, has died. She was 78.
Alsobrook died Dec. 13 at her home in Sedona, Ariz., after a long battle with breast cancer, a family spokesperson announced.
In 1975, she joined ABC Records as national publicity director and worked alongside such music legends as Crosby & Nash, The Pointer Sisters, Steely Dan and Chaka Khan.
She first entered the studio world at Twentieth Century Fox and worked on such films as D.A. Pennebaker‘s Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars (1979), The Gods Must Be Crazy (1980), Eating Raoul (1982) and Reuben, Reuben (1983).
When Fox closed its International Classics art house division, she and friend Charles Lippincott launched their own marketing company, and she served as the unit publicist on Coal Miner’s Daughter (1980), Creepshow (1982) — she shared a desk with first-time screenwriter Stephen King on that — and The Black Stallion Returns (1983).
Alsobrook was recruited by Columbia Pictures chief David Puttnam as senior vp marketing and distribution, and she did the marketing for Spike Lee’s School Daze (1988) and led the Academy Award campaign for Bernardo Bertolucci‘s The Last Emperor (1987), which won nine Oscars, including best picture, from nine nominations.
When Puttman was ousted from Columbia, Alsobrook was rehired but soon joined Greg Coote as president of marketing at Island Pictures.
She and her husband, Australian actor-writer Gerard Maguire, moved to his home country in 1995, and she headed the film division at the Becker Group. Under her watch, the company acquired the Gwyneth Paltrow-starring Emma (1996), Brassed Off (1996), Scream (1996) and Cate Blanchett’s breakout film, Thank God He Met Lizzie (1997).
At the 1999 Sundance Film Festival, Alsobrook overheard young women talking about an extremely scary documentary-like film. Without having seen the movie, she took a DVD back to Australia to check it out and went on to buy rights to The Blair Witch Project.
She returned to the U.S. in 2002 and was introduced by producer, distributor and marketer Ira Deutchman to writer-director Amy Waddell, who brought Alsobrook aboard as an executive producer on Brothel (2008), a horror film set in the ghost town of Jerome, Ariz., not too far from Sedona.
Born on July 28, 1943, Alsobrook was recruited to help organize the Los Angeles Film Exposition (also known as Filmex) while attending graduate school at USC, and that spurred her interest in a movie career.
While working for famed indie producer Roger Corman, she supervised the Academy Award campaign for Federico Fellini’s Amarcord (1973), which received the Oscar for best foreign language film.
Her music connections proved invaluable when she was tasked with bringing in The Ramones for New World Pictures’ Rock ‘n’ Roll High School (1979), executive produced by Corman.
Alsobrook became involved with the launch of Robert Redford’s Sundance Institute, where she was a member of an advisory committee that organized a June 1981 conference titled “The Distribution, Marketing and Exhibition of Specialized Films in the 1980s.”
The conference took place during the first June Filmmakers Lab at the Sundance Resort, which gathered 10 emerging filmmakers to workshop their projects. She continued to support the Institute over the years, participating on panels advising filmmakers and the community on creative marketing and distribution.
In a statement, Michelle Satter, founding director of the Sundance Institute’s Feature Film Program, called Alsobrook “a pioneer in film marketing and deeply dedicated to finding and engaging audiences for the bold and visionary films that defined the ’80s and ’90s.
“Jane always brought her generosity and creativity to all she accomplished and was a mentor to me and many others in this early community of film lovers, who made an indelible commitment to the field of what we now call independent filmmaking.”
Alsobrook’s battle with breast cancer began in 1992. She helped found LABC, a Los Angeles activist group dedicated to educating, supporting and empowering women while raising public awareness and funding for breast cancer research.
She was among a delegation of women who in 1994 met with first lady Hillary Clinton and Director of the Office of Management and Budget Leon Panetta at the White House; from that, more than $200 million was taken from the military budget and allocated for women’s cancer research.
In addition to her husband, survivors include her brother, Allen, niece Isabella and nephew Forrest.
“Impressive as her career in films was, it was her warmth and wisdom that endeared her to everyone she met,” Maguire said. “As news of her passing spreads, a common theme from tributes is her radiance from light that seemed to emanate from her. She was much loved and is heartbreakingly missed.”
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