Jonathan Barker, CEO of Giant-Screen Cinema Company SK Films, Dies at 66

Courtesy of SK Films
Jonathan Barker

He co-founded the Toronto-based firm and was a producer on such nature projects as 'Into the Deep,' 'Bugs!' and 'The Water Brothers.'

Jonathan Barker, the co-founder and CEO of SK Films, a giant-screen cinema company and a leader in 3D film production and distribution, has died. He was 66.

Barker died Thursday of cancer in Toronto, a spokesperson for the firm announced. His wife, Wendy MacKeigan, now an executive vp, will take over as CEO.

Barker launched SK Films 20 years ago with Bob Kerr, co-founder of Imax Corp. The Toronto-based outfit specializes in Imax/giant-screen films that combine human drama and natural history. 

Barker also was a producer of such titles as Into the Deep (1994); the Oscar-shortlisted film Bugs! (2003); Flight of the Butterflies (2012), a big winner at that year's Giant Screen Cinema Association awards; Amazon Adventure (2017); Volcanoes (2017); Backyard Wilderness (2018); and the upcoming Turtle Odyssey.

He also served as executive producer of the SK eco-adventure series The Water Brothers, produced with and hosted by two of his sons, Alex Mifflin and Tyler Mifflin, both environmentalists. The show debuted on Canadian public service broadcaster TVO in 2012 and has been seen around the world.

Through these projects, Barker and his wife worked with organizations dedicated to science literacy and understanding the natural world, including Tangled Bank Studios (a division of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute), the U.S. National Science Foundation, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and the Smithsonian Institution.

Barker ignited his passion for giant-screen films at Imax, where he oversaw production and distribution of David Attenborough's Survival Island (1996) and developed the blockbuster 3D film T-Rex: Back to the Cretaceous (1998).

Earlier, Barker served for more than 12 years as president and co-CEO of Shaftesbury Films. He also was senior vp business and legal affairs for Cinexus Group (owners of Panavision Canada and C/FP) and CEO of the Ontario Film Development Corp. 

Barker began his career as an entertainment lawyer.

In addition to Wendy, Alex and Tyler, survivors include his other children Scott, Georgia and Caleigh.

The family said it will hold a small private service, with a public celebration of his life to take place later. Details will be announced on the SK Films website.