Fond farewell to Greg Coote

Greg Coote was remembered as the “heart and soul” of the Australian film renaissance of the 1970s and 80s at a celebration of his life and career on Sunday.

Hundreds of family, friends and former colleagues gathered at Village Roadshow’s Sydney offices to pay homage to the film and TV industry executive and producer who died at his home in Los Angeles on June 27, aged 72.

“Like so many filmmakers I owe my career to Greg Coote,” said Newsfront director Phillip Noyce in a message read by David Elfick, who produced that 1978 classic.

Noyce credited Coote with championing the film from the script stage right through the shoot, editing and the theatrical release. “He was the heart and soul of the new wave of Australian cinema in the 1970s and 80s,” the director said.

Village Roadshow co-chairman/co-CEO Graham Burke noted that his long-time friend and former colleague spent 58 years in the screen industry, starting in the mailroom of Hoyts.

Burke recalled that when the company’s founder Roc Kirby decide to open a Roadshow branch in Sydney in 1968, he rang Coote, then working in the advertising department at Hoyts, to offer him an air ticket to Melbourne to discuss the job of running the office.

Coote accepted and only later did Burke discover the main reason was that Coote had a ticket to a football game in Melbourne. ”That’s how we started this incredible relationship,” said Burke. “He was a good, decent intelligent human being. I wish you were here.”

Amalgamated Holdings Ltd. chairman Alan Rydge recalled that Coote was asked by his father Sir Norman Rydge to teach him about the film distribution business in the early 70s when the young Rydge was serving his apprenticeship. ”I’ll never forget the enthusiasm and passion with which Greg embraced the industry,” said Rydge.

Village Roadshow deputy chairman John Kirby summed up the mood in the room when he said, “He was lovable. When he spoke to you he looked at you directly in the eye with his sparkling blue eyes.”

Alan Finney, a former MD of Roadshow Films and Disney’s Australian distribution company, said he had no idea how the film industry operated until he joined Roadshow and worked with Coote in the early 1970s.

Finney praised Coote for supporting a broad range of films, which included Mad Max, Caddie, Alvin Purple, Diana & Me, Joey and The Delinquents.

Coote’s daughter Rebecca gave a moving and often amusing account of her dad’s interests, passions, his generosity and his devotion to his grandchildren.

Amanda Price, Greg’s partner for the past seven years, said, “He saw as his greatest achievement his four daughters.”