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Gary Martin, Longtime Sony Pictures Exec and MPTF Benefactor, Dies at 79

Gary Martin, the longtime Sony Pictures executive and major supporter of the Motion Picture & Television Fund who has a historic Wizard of Oz soundstage named for him, has died. He was 79.

Martin died Thursday of natural causes at his home in Sherwood Forest, California, a family spokesperson announced.

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When he retired as president of studio operations and production at Sony in 2013, the studio renamed its storied Stage 15 — one of the largest in the world — the Gary Martin Stage. Built in 1927, it was used for 1939’s The Wizard of Oz — the yellow brick road is under the current stage floor — and more recently for Spider-Man and Men in Black films.

At the dedication, then-Sony Pictures Entertainment co-chair Amy Pascal said of Martin: “His leadership, grace and skill are unparalleled in our business. There is no one who comes close.”

He oversaw production of more than 600 films at the studio.

Martin spent his childhood on soundstages as his father, Ivan, served as the director of studio operations at 20th Century Fox for many years.

He started his career as a laborer, and during the next 20 years, he worked in several capacities at multiple studios before arriving at Sony — then Columbia Pictures — as a production manager in 1981. He oversaw physical production and postproduction starting in 1988 and added studio operations in 2003.

Martin was known for being a straight shooter, an exec committed to making sure that Sony Pictures got the best result for its investment.

“As a colleague at Sony and then as the production head when I made a few films there, Gary was rough, tough, great at his work, and one of the sweetest, most beautiful people on the lot,” former Academy president Sid Ganis said in a statement.

Martin and his wife, Susan, also were quite generous to the MPTF, an organization introduced to him by his dad in his early days in the industry. His mother was cared for at the MPTF hospital, and he remained a lead donor until his death.

In 2014, the Martins paid for a gut renovation of a screening room in the Louis B. Mayer theater complex on the MPTF campus in Woodland Hills to bring it up to industry standards both in technology and aesthetics. It’s now known as The Susan and Gary Martin Screening Room.

Additionally, Martin and Clint Eastwood have supported MPTF’s benefits assistance program for military veterans in the entertainment industry for years.

“We never had to ask Gary and Susan for anything. They were always one step ahead of us,” friend and MPTF CEO Bob Beitcher said in a statement. “Gary would ask, ‘What can we do that would make a positive impact for the residents?’ We’d give him the list of things we were considering, and he’d pick out the most ambitious item and say, ‘Susie and I want to give you the money for that.’

“He was the best kind of donor, one who always gave from his heart.”

In addition to his wife of 56 years, survivors include his son, Sean; daughter-in-law Aisha; grandchildren Camille, Norah and Natalie; sister-in-law Nancy; nephews Larry, Steve, Jason and Matthew and their families; and nieces Colleen, Linda, Nicole and their families.

Donations in his memory may be made to the MPTF. A funeral service will be held at 9 a.m. on Nov. 17 at the Old North Church at Forest Lawn in Los Angeles.

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