Tom Sherak to Receive 2014 Pioneer of the Year Award

Tom Sherak 84th Academy Awards Final Oscar Ballot - H 2012
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Tom Sherak 84th Academy Awards Final Oscar Ballot - H 2012

The honor from the Will Rogers Motion Picture Pioneer Foundation will be presented to L.A.'s Film Czar at a dinner in March, during CinemaCon in Las Vegas.

Tom Sherak will receive one of the movie industry’s most prestigious honors, the 2014 Pioneer of the Year award, at a dinner in Las Vegas on March 26, during CinemaCon.

Sherak will be honored as a humanitarian and industry icon, according to an announcement Wednesday by the Will Rogers Motion Picture Pioneer Foundation, which expects to raise around $1 million for its charitable activities from the event.

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Last year the Pioneer honoree was producer and executive Kathleen Kennedy. Prior honorees at this event, which dates back to 1947, have included Sumner Redstone, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Alan Horn, Michael Eisner, Sherry Lansing, Jack Valenti, Jack Warner, Darryl Zanuck and Cecil B. DeMille.

Sherak says that he grew up as a member of the Pioneers, who quietly provide assistance to former movie theater and movie industry employees who have fallen on hard times.

“I know how much it meant to an earlier generation and how much it means today,” says Sherak, “for the industry to take care of its own. This is one of the biggest honors you can get.”

Sherak also will be honored April 11 with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

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The Motion Picture Pioneers were founded in 1939, and in 2002 merged with the Will Rogers Memorial Fund to become the Will Rogers Motion Picture Pioneers Foundation. Last year, the group gave grants of about $4 million, according to executive director Todd Vrandenburg.

The dinner used to be held in Los Angeles but since 2011, it has taken place adjacent to the CinemaCon convention of movie theater owners and operators, which attracts representatives of most major movie distributors and a lot of press.

This year’s dinner will be held at Caesars Palace Hotel, and is expected to have about 2,000 attendees.

Most of the honorees over the years were heads of big companies and their staff helped sell ads in the program as well as tickets. Sherak said when Dick Cook called to tell him he was being honored, he noted he did not have staff to help out. Cook said it would not be a problem and assured him they would sell out as usual.

Sherak said he asked Cook if he could be on the fundraising committee, but Cook laughed and told him it was enough for him to be their much deserving honoree.

Sherak, currently serving as film czar for Mayor Eric Garcetti and the city of Los Angeles, has had a long career in movie marketing, production and distribution.

Sherak held a number of high-level posts at 20th Century Fox, mostly in marketing and distribution, working his way up to chairman of the domestic film group. He left Fox to become a partner in Revolution Studios, and also has consulted for Marvel Studios and others.

Sherak has a remarkable record as a philanthropist and for various charities. He chaired the MS Dinner of Champions for more than 20 years, raising over $47 million for multiple sclerosis research and programs.

He also has been on the boards of the Fulfillment Fund of Southern California, the Will Rogers Foundation, the Motion Pictures and Television Fund and Southern California Variety – the Children’s Charity.

Sherak served as president of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences, after serving as treasurer and as a longtime board member.