Al Shapiro; New Line Cinema Distribution Chief
Al Shapiro, president of domestic theatrical distribution for the highly successful independent film company New Line Cinema, has died at the age of 57.
Shapiro died Sunday in Los Angeles after a brief illness, company officials announced.
In his four-decade career, Shapiro moved from usher to executive. At New Line, where he worked for the past 13 years, he was in charge of a staff of 55 and had responsibility for tailoring release patterns for about 30 films a year produced by the company. He was credited with helping New Line grow from a niche-oriented film production and distribution concern into one of the industry’s most prominent independent studios.
Among other films, Shapiro oversaw distribution of the two top-grossing “Austin Powers” movies, “Boogie Nights,” “Wag the Dog,” “Mortal Kombat” and “Shine.”
Born in Brooklyn, Shapiro began his motion picture career modestly in 1957--as an usher at Walter Reade theaters in Long Branch, N.J. He worked his way through Monmouth University in West Long Branch as a theater manager, and after graduation became a division manager for the chain A.I.T. Theaters.
He went on to become a division manager for Cinecom Theaters in New York, a company that promoted him to film buyer. He also booked screens in the Midwest for Cinecom.
Sumner Redstone’s Northeast Theater Circuit next recruited him as its film buyer. From 1973 until he joined New Line in 1986, Shapiro worked for American Theater Management, winding up as president.
Shapiro was active in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the Foundation of Motion Picture Pioneers. In 1998, he was named humanitarian of the year by the Variety Boys and Girls Club of Queens. He was a member of the Monmouth University Communication Council and was president of the Inter-Society Committee for the Enhancement of Theatrical Presentation.
He is survived by his wife, Honnie; his mother, Frieda; and his brother, Richard.