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Ronnee Sass, the always upbeat publicist who was instrumental in the development and execution of promotional campaigns for Warner Bros. Home Entertainment classics during Hollywood’s DVD heyday, has died. She was 72.
Sass died Saturday in Los Angeles after a long battle with leukemia, her husband, Evan Diner, announced.
Sass joined Warner Home Entertainment in 1995 and was named vp publicity and promotion for the studio’s theatrical catalog division in 2006 during an era in which DVD sales often surpassed theatrical grosses. She once noted that a year’s publicity for Warner classics had an advertising equivalent value of nearly $100 million.
Sass helped attract new attention through DVD releases to such films as Citizen Kane, The Wizard of Oz, Gone With the Wind, Casablanca, Singin’ in the Rain, My Fair Lady, Blade Runner, A Clockwork Orange, Unforgiven, Superman and GoodFellas.
Her winning personality guaranteed success in working with top filmmakers and actors, from William Friedkin, Richard Donner, Oliver Stone, Clint Eastwood, Ridley Scott and Warren Beatty to Lauren Bacall, Burt Reynolds, Liza Minnelli, Joel Grey, Rita Moreno, Malcolm McDowell and the Munchkins.
“In all my years at Warners, many of the brightest days were dealing with Ronnee Sass, because she cared for the people as much as the project,” Donner said in a statement. “And she cared for both a tremendous amount.”
Promotional events that she worked on included a cross-country hot air balloon media tour, culminating in a 70th anniversary Emerald Gala in Central Park at the Tavern on the Green, for The Wizard of Oz; a “Break Bread, Not Legs” cast and filmmaker dinner at an L.A. restaurant for GoodFellas; a hippie-costumed celebration tied to the 1970 Woodstock documentary; a screening and party at the Guggenheim for George Lucas’ THX 1138 attended by pals Francis Ford Coppola, Brian De Palma and Martin Scorsese; a “diving for beans” event on Hollywood Boulevard for Blazing Saddles; and a treasure hunt on the Warners lot to celebrate The Goonies’ 25th anniversary.
She left Warner Home Entertainment in 2014.
“Ronnee was a consummate professional working across the industry to bring the Warner Bros. library to fans everywhere,” WBHE president Jim Wuthrich said in a statement. “More importantly, she was a ray of sunshine, always smiling, lighting up any room she entered. She will be missed.”
Added producer-director Chris Roe: “Ronnee was a force of nature. In a business where so many brag about how good they are, Ronnee simply showed her brilliance with thoughtfulness, creativity and a fierce work ethic. Most publicists can’t come close to being anything like Ronnee. She was a shining example of excellence in her profession.”
Born in Baltimore on May 26, 1948, Ronnee Lynn Sass attended Pikesville High and the University of Maryland in College Park. Her first job in entertainment was as the industry’s first female film buyer for Baltimore-based JF Theatres; later, she formed Wolff, Freed and Greenberg, which handled advertising, publicity and promotion for Hollywood studios.
She was an avid gardener who created elaborate flower arrangements and centerpieces.
In addition to her husband of 23 years, Sass is survived by her brother, Steven, and nieces Lauren and Felicia. Donations in her memory may be made to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
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