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Film distribution and exhibition arms in Australia and New Zealand are united in grief after the passing of two of the sector's most experienced and respected executives this week.

The death of Australian-born, Auckland-based Michael Eldred (pictured, above), General Manager of Transmission Films New Zealand, was publically announced via a heartfelt post on the distributor’s Facebook page on March 6. “Michael said goodbye yesterday following a brief and dignified illness,” the release stated, noting the executive ”was a generous and enthusiastic champion of independent cinema in Australia and New Zealand, and a driving force behind the release of hundreds of films.”

In 2016, Eldred was appointed by Transmission Managing Director Richard Payten to oversee the expansion of the company’s operations in New Zealand, where the mini-major had been a committed investor in local content since 2008. Eldred had vast managerial experience in sales and programming on both sides of The Tasman Sea, after stints with Dendy Cinemas, Hoyts Distribution and Madman Entertainment.

He was deeply respected within the New Zealand filmmaking community, having championed such works as Taika Waititi’s Boy (2010), Robert Sarkies’ Out Of The Blue (2006), James Napier Robertson’s The Dark Horse (2014), Toa Fraser’s The Dead Lands (2014), Gaylene Preston’s My Year with Helen (2017) and Roger Donaldson’s McLaren (2017). He was credited as Associate Producer on Tusi Tamasese’s acclaimed The Orator (2011), the director’s follow-up effort One Thousand Ropes (2016), as well as Max Currie’s Everything We Loved (2014).

The late executive’s colleagues at Transmission acknowledge the support their friend received from Hospice West Auckland in his final days. Eldred is survived by his wife Sally and son Nicholas.

In Sydney, PR maven Fiona Nix announced via a Facebook post on March 8 the passing of her close friend, distribution and exhibition great John Politzer. A 50-year veteran whose ebullient presence spanned the great picture palace era of film exhibition through the suburban multiplex boom years, Politzer earned a reputation as one of the most savvy managerial minds the industry has ever known (pictured, right; Politzer, centre, with GUO managing director Alan Rydge, right, and producer Anthony Buckley).

Hired in the local office of Hollywood studio giant Twentieth Century Fox in the 1950s, Politzer was soon recruited by local operator Village Roadshow to build a slate of commercial and critical hits that helped the Australian company become established and flourish. By the late 1970s, Politzer’s achievements were noted by exhibition giant The Greater Union Organisation, who were about to embark on a vast suburban multiplex expansion. Hired in 1979 as Controller of Film Booking, Politzer would forge a 16-year association with GUO, ascending to National Programming Manager before his retirement in 1995 (his senior programming role filled by Peter Cody, whom Politzer had mentored since 1986 following the departure of Scott Neeson). Politzer’s outgoing demeanour and warm managerial style made him one of the most endearing personalities in the local film sector.

Presenting the Independent Spirit Award to Politzer at the 2012 Australian International Movement Convention (an honour accepted by Nix on behalf of her absent friend), former recipient and fellow exhibition giant Bob Parr highlighted the late executive’s unwavering dedication to homegrown cinema.  “His love of and commitment to Australian films and the local industry (soon) became evident,” Parr told the industry crowd, “John secured screens for Australian films so producers and distributors could be confident of strong, wide releases and was a champion of films like Sunday Too Far Away, Caddie, Fran and Praise. John's initiative and support for Ray Lawrence’s Bliss…saved the film from obscurity and launched its amazing six month record-breaking season at the Pitt Centre.” (Pictured, left; Politzer, seated centre with, from left, GUO executives Peter Marrett, Peter Cody, Andrew Mackie and Hugh Liney)

Politzer’s expertise became invaluable to Australian producers and directors, who employed his service in consultancy roles in the years after his retirement from GUO.

Details of memorial services for Michael Eldred and John Politzer will be announced in the days ahead.

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