John Dunning (film producer)
John Dunning (April 27, 1927 – September 19, 2011) was a pioneering Canadian film producer from Montreal who co-founded the Canadian film production company Cinépix and produced early works by notable Canadian directors David Cronenberg and Ivan Reitman. Dunning launched Cinépix with partner André Link in Montreal in the early 1960s. Their biggest commercial success—and the first Canadian box office hit—came with Reitman's Meatballs (1979).
|Died||September 19, 2011 (aged 84)|
Dunning was born in the Greater Montreal district of Verdun, Quebec—and into the film business. Dunning's father Mickey toured Quebec screening newsreel footage and later owned several cinemas. By the age of 13, John was working the candy counter at his family's Century Theatre in adjacent Ville-Émard. Upon his father's death several years later, Dunning managed the cinema, beginning a lifelong career in film.
Dunning launched Cinépix with partner André Link in Montreal in the early 1960s. Initially a distribution company, Cinépix's first production was the 1969 erotic drama Valérie, which earned $1 million at the box office. Cinépix produced early work by David Cronenberg (Shivers) and Ivan Reitman (Meatballs). The company also distributed art-house films including the grunge rock documentary Hype, Vincent Gallo's Buffalo '66, and SICK: The Life & Death of Bob Flanagan, Supermasochist.
From 1989 to 1994, Cinépix was partners with Famous Players in C/FP Distribution, which was renamed Cinépix Film Properties (C/FP). In 1994, Cinépix bought Famous Players' stake in the organization.
Lions Gate Entertainment Corporation (LGEC) was formed in 1997 by Frank Giustra, a banker. LGEC purchased Cinépix and kept its leadership; Dunning, in turn, left the company. Cinépix was renamed Lions Gate Films on January 13, 1998.
In June 2011, shortly before his death in September of that year, the Toronto Film Critics Association announced that Dunning would receive its Clyde Gilmour Award for lifetime achievement, with Cronenberg stating that "John Dunning is the unacknowledged godfather of an entire generation of Canadian filmmakers. I still consider him my movie mentor." The award was posthumously presented to Dunning's son Greg, at a ceremony in January 2012.
In 2017, the Canadian Screen Awards introduced the new John Dunning Discovery Award, presented to honour the year's best Canadian microbudget film. In 2019, it was merged with the former Claude Jutra Award, presented for the year's best debut film by a first-time director, into the contemporary John Dunning Best First Feature Award.
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