The Will Rogers Motion Picture Pioneers will honor former Walt Disney Studios Chairman Dick Cook as its 2011 “Pioneer of the Year,” it was jointly announced today by Jeff Goldstein, President of The Will Rogers Motion Picture Pioneers Foundation and Mitch Neuhauser, Managing Director of CinemaCon. In a show of industry unity, the award presentation will take place at the launch of CinemaCon, to be held March 28 – 31, 2011 at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.
When it debuts, CinemaCon, the official convention of The National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO), will be the largest and most important gathering of cinema owners and operators from around the world. The Pioneers will bestow this prestigious honor on Mr. Cook at an all-industry gala dinner on Wednesday evening, March 30.
“From the outset, NATO’s main objective for CinemaCon was to create an event about and for the entire industry. Our partnership with The Will Rogers Motion Picture Pioneers Foundation demonstrates our commitment to that important goal,” noted John Fithian, President and CEO, NATO. “The most exciting aspect of course, is having Dick Cook as the honoree of our first joint effort. Exhibitors have held Dick in the highest regard throughout his illustrious career.”
“Dick’s career is a great example of the American dream. Not only did he work for his success, he has helped many individuals along the way,” said Goldstein. “We are very honored to have Dick Cook as our 2011 Pioneer of the Year, an honor he well deserves.”
The Pioneer of the Year Dinner, an industry tradition for 70 years, honors leaders of the motion picture industry and within the philanthropic community. Past honorees include Cecil B. DeMille, Jack Warner, Darryl F. Zanuck, Frank G. Mancuso, Jack Valenti, Terry Semel, Sumner Redstone, Sherry Lansing, Alan Horn, Jeff Blake, Mike Campbell, Marc Shmuger, David Linde and in 2010, Rob Moore. Proceeds from the event go to the Motion Picture Pioneers Assistance Fund (MPPAF), an industry charity that helps movie industry veterans who are encountering an illness, injury or life-changing event.
Dick Cook began his 38-year career with The Walt Disney Company in 1970, where he was a ride operator on the park’s steam locomotives and monorail at Disneyland in Anaheim. By 1980 Cook entered the motion picture business at Disney as assistant domestic sales manager for the Buena Vista Distribution Company and quickly moved up the ranks. As chairman, Cook oversaw all aspects of the development, production, distribution and marketing for all live-action and animated films released under the Walt Disney Pictures, Touchstone Pictures, Hollywood Pictures and Miramax banners worldwide. He was also responsible for Disney’s worldwide home entertainment operations, as well as Walt Disney Music Group, Walt Disney Theatrical Productions, the Studio’s legal and business affairs, new technology and environmental initiatives.
Under Cook’s leadership, the Studio achieved numerous milestones and had been one of the leading domestic and international distributors for over a decade with global box office receipts in excess of two billion dollars each year. During his tenure, the Studio released 60 films that grossed more than $100 million each domestically. No other studio had accomplished that extraordinary feat.
About The Will Rogers Motion Picture Pioneers Foundation
Named after one of the greatest humanitarians, philanthropists and entertainers – Will Rogers – the Will Rogers Motion Picture Pioneers Foundation perpetuates his legacy through the works of two programs, the Will Rogers Institute and the Motion Picture Pioneers Assistance Fund.
A hospital created for Vaudevillians stricken with tuberculosis, the National Vaudeville Association Hospital was renamed the Will Rogers Memorial Hospital in 1936, as a tribute to Will Rogers. The hospital became a national training facility for doctors treating patients with tuberculosis, becoming known as the Will Rogers Institute. In 2002, the Will Rogers charity merged with the Foundation of Motion Picture Pioneers and became the Will Rogers Motion Picture Pioneers Foundation. Today, WRMPPF operates two distinct programs, under the names Will Rogers Institute and the Motion Picture Pioneers Assistance Fund.
The Motion Picture Pioneers Assistance Fund continues the mission of FMPP by helping individuals from the motion picture community who are encountering an illness, injury or life-changing event. Social workers provide confidential consultations and financial assistance on a short-term or long-term basis, in order to help a person get back to a normal life or continue living with dignity.