Mark Urman, Veteran Film Distributor, Dies at 66

The distributor shepherded multiple Oscar campaigns, including several documentary winners.
Sidney Lumet, Mark Urman, Amy Ryan, Ethan Hawke, Richard Pena'Before the Devil Knows You're Dead' film screening at the 45th New York Film Festival, New York, America - 12 Oct 2007
Sidney Lumet, Mark Urman, Amy Ryan, Ethan Hawke and Richard Pena at the 'Before the Devil Knows You're Dead' screening at the 45th New York Film Festival, 2007
Carolyn Contino/BEI/REX/Shutterstock

Veteran independent film executive Mark Urman died Saturday after a short bout with cancer, IndieWire has confirmed. He was 66. His family requests privacy, and advised a statement will be coming in the next few days.

The Union College graduate started out in the international publicity department at United Artists in New York, followed by publicity posts at Columbia Pictures and the studio’s Triumph Films, and PR firm Dennis Davidson and Associates. In 1997, he left DDA to join Cinepix Film Properties, then just acquired by Lions Gate Entertainment Corp., as the head of U.S. distribution.

That was the start of a passionate career in specialized film, including multiple Oscar contenders like “Monsters Ball,” “Affliction,” and “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead.”

Half Nelson
“Half Nelson”Lionsgate Films

As distribution president at New York indie distributor ThinkFilm, Urman delivered seven Academy Award nominations in six years. Alex Gibney’s “Taxi to the Dark Side” and “Born Into Brothels” won Best Documentary Feature; other documentary nominations included “Spellbound,” “The Story of the Weeping Camel,” “Murderball,” and “War/Dance.”

And against all odds, Urman successfully pursued a 2007 Best Actor Oscar nomination for breakout “Half Nelson” star Ryan Gosling after acquiring the film from writer-director Ryan Fleck and co-writer and producer Anna Boden at Sundance. Having also played a role in winning campaigns as Lionsgate Releasing president for “Gods and Monsters” and “Affliction,” Urman knew that acting nominations for breakthrough newcomer performances can be done.

Most recently, Urman was the owner, president, and CEO of New York-based independent distributor Paladin Films, which he founded in 2009. Among Paladin’s titles were Taika Watiti’s “What We Do In the Shadows” and “Boy,” Drake Doremus’ “Douchebag,” and Rob Reiner’s “Being Charlie.” This weekend, Paladin released “Rockaway.”

Dana Harris contributed to this report. 

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