Variety film reporter Dave McNary dies at 69

Variety reporter Dave McNary, 69, died Saturday in Pasadena.
Variety reporter Dave McNary, a prolific writer who covered industry guilds and labor issues, died Saturday in Pasadena. He was 69.
(Courtesy Sharon McNary)

Dave McNary, a veteran reporter who covered the film industry for Variety, died Saturday in Pasadena. He was 69.

McNary had been hospitalized since Dec. 19, when he suffered a stroke, said his wife, Sharon McNary.

He worked at a number of publications over more than 40 years in journalism, including UPI, the Los Angeles Daily News, the San Gabriel Valley Tribune and the Pasadena Star-News before joining Variety in 1999.


“We are all heartbroken over the loss of Dave McNary,” Variety Editor in Chief Claudia Eller said in a statement to The Times. “He’s been part of the fabric of Variety for more than two decades and our newsroom will never be the same without him. Dave’s loss is truly immeasurable.”

McNary was a prolific reporter known for his dogged coverage of industry guilds and labor issues, including the 2007-08 Writers Guild strike and, more recently, the news that Ed Asner and other members of SAG-AFTRA were filing a class-action lawsuit against the guild over cuts to healthcare benefits for seniors, many of whom were unable to work during the pandemic.

“There was nobody who had as encyclopedic knowledge of the issues facing all the unionized workers in Hollywood,” said Sharon McNary, an infrastructure reporter at KPCC-FM (89.3).

McNary had been a shop steward and a guild president over the course of his journalism career, and he was passionate about labor issues, his wife said.

“He’d been in negotiations, he’d been at the table, he’d been around contracts, and he knew that collective bargaining really matters,” she said. “He really wanted to see that the unions were making the best deal for the people they represented. It’s basically where he staked his reputation.”

Colleagues and industry figures recalled McNary’s generosity and old-school work ethic on social media Saturday.


“Thanks for the professionalism and kindness all these years, Dave,” director Ava DuVernay said on Twitter.

A graduate of UCLA, where he was editor of the Daily Bruin newspaper, he worked his way up the ranks as a business reporter and editor and gradually began to specialize in the entertainment industry.

At UPI in the late ’80s and early ’90s, McNary saw an opportunity to scoop his competitors at the Associated Press by covering weekend box office more aggressively, Sharon McNary said. (The couple met at UPI.)

Instead of waiting until Monday for the results, he’d call on Sunday.

“He really made it his thing,” Sharon McNary said. “He realized if he just started calling people on Sunday, he could beat the AP and get his copy picked up in papers nationwide. Now it’s become a standard part of entertainment reporting: ‘Who won the box office that weekend?’ I think Dave’s work really elevated that to where it became something people just talk about.”

McNary was also a longtime fixture in the Los Angeles comedy scene, hosting the All-Star Variety Show, a weekly Sunday night showcase at the Ice House in Pasadena, for decades until the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The auditions were always a social event,” Sharon McNary said.

His love of comedy dated to the 1970s, when he trained with the Groundlings and the group’s founder, Gary Austin. He performed with a comedy troupe called The Procrastinators, who regularly appeared on “The Gong Show.” McNary used his earnings from “The Gong Show” to buy his first car, his wife said.


In addition to his wife, McNary is survived by sisters Nancy McNary Leach, Barbara McNary Spindler, Jane McNary O’Meara and Patti McNary.