Earl Lestz, Former President of Paramount Pictures' Studio Group, Dies at 78

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Earl Lestz

He spearheaded major renovations and development on the historic Hollywood lot during his 21-year stay with the company.

Earl Lestz, the former president of Paramount Pictures' Studio Group who helped modernize the storied lot on Melrose Avenue in Hollywood, has died. He was 78.

Lestz, who served as studio group president from 1983-2004, died Tuesday of an apparent heart attack, a Paramount spokesman announced.

Under his leadership, the studio's lot — now 65 acres — underwent major renovations and development. More than 1.3 million square feet of new facilities were added, including office buildings, parking structures and videotape and postproduction facilities; soundstages were renovated; and a child-care center, a first for any Hollywood studio, was launched.

The original lot opened on 26 acres with four soundstages at a cost of $1 million in 1926.

After he left Paramount, Lestz was hired as CEO of Plymouth Rock Studios, an ambitious film and television production studio dubbed "Hollywood East" that was to be built (but never was) in Plymouth, Mass.

A native of Philadelphia, Lestz received his undergraduate degree in business administration from Drexel University and completed the executive management program at UCLA's Graduate School of Management.

He was a senior vp operations for Federated Department Stores, part of the Bullock's chain, before joining Paramount.

Lestz also served as chairman of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce and received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in July 2004.

Survivors include his children Paul and Marcie and six grandchildren. A service will take place at 9 a.m. on Friday at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills.