Hy Hollinger, Former THR Writer and International Editor, Dies at 97

Hy Hollinger

The respected journalist also worked for Variety, served as a publicist for Warner Bros. and Paramount, and had a memorable encounter with a young Doris Day.

Hy Hollinger, who worked as a reporter and editor for The Hollywood Reporter and Variety for 36 years — believed to be the longest two-trades tenure in history — has died. He was 97.

Hollinger, who also worked for Warner Bros. and Paramount in New York, died Wednesday night at Olympia Medical Center in Los Angeles, his daughter, artist and illustrator Alicia Hollinger, said.

Hollinger spent a total of 20 years at Variety/Daily Variety in two shifts, from 1953-60 and 1979-92. He was lured to THR in 1992 and stayed through December 2008 — shortly after he turned 90.

A real sweetheart of a guy, Hollinger developed a virtual boilerplate for the reporting of international film grosses during his Variety days, then refined the process at THR. As a foreign box-office analyst, he was without peer.

“Hy was particularly adept at getting major studio box-office figures — both foreign and domestic,” said former THR business editor Robert Marich. “His contacts on international box office were great and a source of mystery.

“To me, Hy was the best of trade reporters at the time. He was approachable and personable, but not a patsy. He could not be bought. He’d seen it all and was unflappable.”

Hollinger also was adept at reporting and analyzing the business of selling independent productions directly to film distributors located in markets all over the world.

In the late 1970s and early ’80s, Hollywood-based international film sellers flocked to two dominant overseas markets to sell their wares: the Cannes Film Festival and MIFED, held each year in Milan, Italy. There was nothing comparable to these key events in the U.S. 

At Cannes one year, Hollinger reported the grim mood among American film sellers, and some credit his articles for spurring the formation of the annual American Film Market, now held in Santa Monica, in 1981.

“Why are we all going to Cannes just to sell the American independent film, and why not right here in the U.S.?” Robert Meyers, a founding member and first chairman of the AFM, remembered asking fellow industry execs after reading Hollinger’s reports from France.

Born Herman Hollinger on Sept. 3, 1918, in the Bronx, Hollinger attended Townsend Harris High School, the City College of New York and the Columbia School of Journalism, where he received his masters. In high school, he worked Saturdays as a copy boy and messenger for The New York Times and as an intern for CBS at the 1940 GOP convention in Philadelphia that nominated Wendell Willkie for president.

After serving from 1942 to 1945 in World War II, mostly overseas as a sergeant in Armed Forces Radio, he wrote for a suburban Philadelphia weekly and covered sports for The Morning Telegraph in New York.

Hollinger joined Warner Bros. as a publicist, and, after his first Variety stint, he moved to Paramount as publicity director of International Telemeter Co., an experimental pay TV operation. He later became European production publicity director based in London and then an “ad-pub” (marketing) vp.

In a regime change at the studio, Hollinger left Paramount and for a time beginning in 1972 worked in corporate public relations for such clients as the NBA Players Association and Sagittarius Productions, owned by Seagram chief Edgar Bronfman.

As Hollinger once recalled, he was walking in midtown Manhattan when he had a chance encounter with his former Variety boss Syd Silverman and Variety executive Robert Hawkins. That led to him returning to the weekly in 1979 as an associate editor based in Hollywood, to cover “all aspects of show business with special emphasis on the international scene.”

At the time, Variety in New York and Daily Variety in Hollywood operated pretty much as separate entities. Hollinger’s hire marked “the first time in many years that weekly Variety will have its own editorial presence in the film capital,” a story noted.

In 2012, Hollinger wrote about an assignment for Warner Bros. when, as a young publicist, he was told to escort Les Brown Orchestra singer Doris Day — who had just signed a contract with the studio — to the Daily News Building in Manhattan for a photo shoot to publicize her first movie, 1948’s Romance on the High Seas.

“The News photo editor said he needed a Christmas cover shot for the magazine section and sent me off to Brooks Costume to rent a Santa Claus outfit,” Hollinger wrote. “Little did I know I would be the fall guy, but there I was as Santa bestowing a gift on Doris Day. That photo was seen by millions. Wonder if it's still in the News archives?”

Actress Gina Collens, Hollinger’s wife of 61 years, died in May 2014.

A memorial will take place on Tuesday, Oct. 20 at 6:30 p.m. at Ca' Brea (346 S. La Brea Ave.) in Los Angeles.

Frank Segers contributed to this report.

Twitter: @mikebarnes4