Film executive, distributor and marketing whizz Jane Alsobrook died this week at her home in Sedona, Arizona, aged 78. She was part of Australia’s film distribution scene for a time and won the hearts of many with her dazzling smile and sharp intellect.
She came to Australia from the US in 1995, and lived here for six years. She replaced Richard Sheffield as president of REP Film Distribution, which was then part of the Becker Group of companies. Sheffield was leaving in order to head up Polygram Filmed Entertainment’s new Australian/New Zealand office – which meant that REP was losing the Polygram product that made them a significant distributor of the time.
Becker acquired Lyn McCarthy and Graeme Tubbenhauer’s Dendy Film Distribution while Alsobrook was on the payroll, and her role expanded to head of distribution. Troy Lum and Mark Gooder were among those whom she worked alongside during her time in Australia. Successful acquisitions she was involved in included Emma, Scream, and The Blair Witch Project.
Alsobrook had much more to do with Australia than these facts indicate, however, as her husband was the Australian actor and writer Gerard Maguire, in whose arms she died. They met while she was working as senior vice president of marketing and creative advertising at Columbia Pictures. After leaving Columbia she worked as president of distribution and marketing for Island Pictures, with another Australian, Greg Coote.
Alsobrook’s first film jobs were in the 1970s at various festivals. This lead to her working in distribution and marketing for a giant of independent cinema, filmmaker Roger Corman. She had a big part in the Academy Award campaign that saw Frederico Fellini’s Amarcord win best foreign language film in 1973.
She entered the world of the big studios when she co-founded and headed Twentieth Century Fox Classics in the 1980s. Columbia came later and while there she was an adviser and board member at the Sundance Institute.
She has been a key player in the acquisition, distribution and marketing – and success – of many films, both arthouse and mainstream, including Paris, Texas, The Man From Snowy River, Eating Raoul, The Gods Must Be Crazy, The Last Emperor, Bagdad Café, Mr Holland’s Opus, The Gods Must Be Crazy, All About My Mother, Amelie, Walking Ned Devine, Brassed Off and The Buena Vista Social Club.
For a short period she worked at ABC Records, promoting the work of Steely Dan, Pointer Sisters, Crosby and Nash and many other legends of that period.
Alsobrook was diagnosed with cancer decades ago. During the early treatment, she helped launch the Los Angeles Breast Cancer Alliance and successfully lobbied for money for research from the Clinton Administration.
In social media posts she has been described by friends and colleagues as “treasured”, “a positive force of love and kindness” and “a smiling, glowing, beautiful woman”.
Alsobrook is survived by her husband Maguire, her brother Allen Alsobrook and her niece Isabella and nephew Forrest.