The movie industry gave the late Erik Lomis — the bold and shrewd studio distribution chief who released hundreds of movies during his career — a fitting send-off Wednesday night.
Lomis, who died suddenly in March at age 64, posthumously received the 2023 Will Rogers Pioneer of the Year Award during an emotional and touching ceremony at The Beverly Hilton on Oct. 4. And, in a surprise for those attending, Philadelphia Eagles‘ radio announcer Merill Reese narrated a tribute reel shown before team Eagles mascot Swoop presented the Pioneer Award to Lomis’ widow, Patricia Laucella (the Philly born and raised Lomis was a diehard Eagles fan).
“Your instinct and inspiration never led you astray. I’m honored to have worked so closely with you,” said Creed series star and Creed III director Michael B. Jordan via video (the MGM threequel was the last film Lomis released in theaters before his death).
The long list of filmmakers, stars and studio executives paying tribute to Lomis throughout the evening also included director Paul Thomas Anderson — the duo worked closely together on the release of indie hit Licorice Pizza — and Chris Aronson, host of the evening and longtime Lomis colleague who now runs domestic distribution at Paramount. The event was sponsored by Amazon MGM Studios, where Lomis was working at the time of his death.
“I was smitten with him, and our love affair began immediately. I could listen to his voice for hours,” Anderson said on stage when recalling first working together on The Master at The Weinstein Co. (Lomis never hesitated in standing up to Harvey Weinstein, a point alluded to repeatedly at Wednesday night’s dinner by those who know him best.)
Anderson continued in describing Lomis: “I never met anyone who looked like a fucking booker or lineman whose language could make Richard Pryor blush,” says Anderson. “But it didn’t take me very long to realize he was just a big softie.”
“He was an inspirational leader who had an impact wherever he went,” Aronson later told the crowd before announcing that Wednesday’s event raised $1,200,007.
Christina Blumer, executive director of the Will Rogers Foundation, spearheaded the committee that decided to use this year’s event as a way of paying tribute to Lomis.
The Pioneer Award, an annual tradition for more than seven decades, is one of the most prestigious tributes in the entertainment industry and within the philanthropic community. The proceeds from the charity dinner benefits the Pioneers Assistance Fund, which provides financial assistance to individuals in the motion picture distribution and exhibition community who are encountering an illness, injury or life-changing event.
Lomis was closely involved with the charity and was the host of last year’s show when Broccoli and Wilson received the Pioneer Award.
Past Pioneer honorees include Cruise, Donna Langley, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, Elizabeth Banks, Jim Gianopulos, Dick Cook, Michael D. Eisner, Alan Horn, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Kathleen Kennedy, Sherry Lansing, Jack Warner, Darryl F. Zanuck and Cecil B. DeMille.