Durwood, chairman and CEO of the AMC Entertainment chain, died late Wednesday of cancer of the esophagus. He was 78.
More than a mere captain of industry, Durwood profoundly changed the way we watch movies. The multiplex, stadium seating and, yes, the beloved cup holder were but a few of the innovations--for better, for worse--championed by Durwood.
"There was no one who had more impact on film exhibition since the moguls," former Warner Bros. distribution chief Barry Reardon told Daily Variety.
Taking over the family business following his father's death in 1960, Durwood built a modest, 10-theater Kansas-based operation into a 2,729-screen worldwide monolith. His brightest idea (or scariest idea--depending on your tolerance for the multiplex) came in 1962, when he decided his struggling, 600-seat Roxy theater in downtown Kansas City could perk up profits by halving the screen and showing two--two!--movies at once.
With the first flicker of the (extra) projector, the single-screen movie house was doomed.
"Stan was full of ideas," MGM distribution chief Larry Gleason said in Variety. "Some were admittedly oddball, but there were always a couple that were inspired."
The marriage of the multiplex to the suburban mall (another Durwood special, circa 1963) was one of the inspired ones. No concept better capitalized on the new American lifestyle ideale--air-conditioned, comfortable, convenient and, most of all, parking lot-equipped.
In a statement, AMC Entertainment said no ownership changes were expected in the wake of Durwood's death. But Variety already hit the stands today with a story speculating about a takeover bid for the chain.