Donald Krim (1945-2011)

Donald KrimWe at Fandor are deeply saddened by the news of Donald Krim’s passing yesterday. Donald was an early supporter of our efforts to make the best of independent, international and classic film available online. He had dedicated a 40-year career to helping people discover great films they might otherwise never see. As a pioneer in art-house film distribution, he gave small-budget movies a chance to thrive in theatrical and home video at a time when blockbusters were threatening to take over. His celebrated work in film preservation enabled classic films to be enjoyed for generations to come.

Donald Krim’s life and work are a lasting inspiration to us at Fandor. We express our sincere condolences to Donald’s family as well as his colleagues at Kino Lorber.

Kino Lorber published the following tribute on their website.


Donald B. Krim (b. October 5, 1945), the President of Kino International and co-President of Kino Lorber Inc., one of the most prestigious independent film distribution companies in the United States, died at his New York home on May 20, 2011, after a one-year battle with cancer. He was 65.

A funeral service is planned for Monday, May 23 (11:45AM) at Riverside Memorial Chapel, located on 180 West 76th Street. The service is open to the public. fA memorial service is planned for late June.

As the President of Kino International, Don helped introduce some of the world’s most revered film directors to American audiences; among many others, Wong Kar-Wai (Happy TogetherFallen Angels); Michael Haneke (The Piano Teacher); Amos Gitai (KippurKadosh); Aki Kaurismäki (The Match Factory GirlAriel); Julie Dash (Daughters of the Dust); and Andrei Zvyagintsev (The Return).

One of Mr. Krim’s favorite quotes about his company was printed on the pages of The New York Times (August 6, 2006):

“Movies without Kino International would be like parks without trees, museums without paintings … Founded in 1977 and as relevant as ever, this irreplaceable distribution company keeps one eye on the past, maintaining a rich catalog of cinematic touchstones, and one on the future, acquiring and releasing the classics of tomorrow.”
– Nathan Lee, The New York Times

In 2000, Krim received the Mel Novikoff Award from the San Francisco Film Festival, for his work to “enhance the filmgoing public’s knowledge and appreciation of world cinema;” and in 2006, he was the recipient of the prestigious William K. Everson Award for Film History, given by the National Board of Review. On that same year, the Anthology Film Archives bestowed Mr. Krim with a Film Preservation Honors Award. In 2009, he received “The Visionary Award” at the 24th Annual Israel Film Festival.

Donald Krim, a Newton Mass. native, is the second of three sons of retired distinguished Raytheon engineer and executive Norman Krim and Beatrice Baron (deceased). He has been married to Susan Benjamin, a native of South Africa, since 1979.

Susan currently serves as the Admissions Associate and CSE Coordinator at the Mary McDowell Friends School, one of New York City’s leading schools for students with learning disabilities. Together, they raised their children, Miriam and Simon, in New York City. Miriam currently lives in London and Simon attends college in New York. His brothers are Arthur J. Krim and Robert Krim of Boston, Massachusetts.

Donald Krim’s parents, Norman and Beatrice, met in Cambridge and raised their sons in Newton, a suburb of Boston. Don attended Buckingham Browne & Nichols School in Cambridge and was active in the high school drama club, producing several plays.

The story of the summer day when Don first fell for the magic of the movies is a treasured family memory. The film was the 1950 Disney animated feature Cinderella. Arthur Krim had taken his little brother to the one o’clock show at the Surf Theater on Boston’s North Shore. That evening Arthur came home, alone, to a surprised Norman and Beatrice. Back at the theater, Don, then a five-year-old, was well into the third viewing of Cinderella, smitten for life. Future favorites were to include Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and all the grand Technicolor films.

In New York City, Donald Krim received his Bachelor’s degree in American History from Columbia University in 1967 and obtained his law degree, also from Columbia, in 1971. After law school, Krim began his career at United Artists, first becoming head of the 16mm nontheatrical film rental division, then working on the formation of United Artists Classics, the first major studio-owned, art house division – and the model for today’s Fox Searchlight and Sony Pictures Classics.

Eventually, UA Classics also began to handle distribution rights to the MGM library, including films like The Wizard of Oz, and pre-1948 Warner Brothers titles, including Casablanca and The Adventures of Robin Hood. The company started distributing new foreign films shortly after.

While Krim was at United Artists, his colleague Bill Pence was working at Janus Films, a company that held the rights to classic films like Fritz Lang’s M, Fellini’s La Strada, Kurosawa’s Rashomon and Beauty and the Beast. While working for Janus Films, Pence founded Kino International, and in 1977, Krim purchased the one-year-old company and immediately started to expand.

“Within a few months of taking over Kino, we made a deal to handle the Chaplin films, like Modern Timesand The Great Dictator. [Our rights were for] theatrical. We weren’t getting home video, which was just in its beginning, and television. Then we took on the Selznick films, including [Alfred Hitchcock’s Rebeccaand Notorious,” says Mr. Krim. “The next year we took over the Alexander Korda library, including Thief of Bagdad.” (DVDTalk; July 29, 2002)

The next step for the still-young company was to start releasing new films.

“Around 1979, we started being offered new foreign films,” Krim recalled. “I took a flyer for a Japanese film from a director named Masahiro Shinoda… My wife [Susan Krim] liked it and we decided to do that… The film was [renamed] The Battle of Orin. We opened it at the predecessor to the Lincoln Plaza, which was the Cinema Studio theater. It got some decent reviews, but didn’t do any business. But it was a nice film and we weren’t discouraged.  Also, around that time I started going to the Berlin Film Festival looking for new films and we began acquiring one or two films a year.” (DVDTalk; July 29, 2002)

In 1987, Kino International opened its own Home Entertainment section, called Kino on Video, which became one of the most active and respected independent labels in the field, eventually winning three consecutive “Heritage” awards from the National Society of Film Critics. Entertainment Weekly named Kino’s The Art of Buster Keaton box set the best home video release of 1995. And releases such as The Movies Begin, a collection of early films, Edison: The Invention of the MoviesThe Krzysztof Kieslowski CollectionThe Wong Kar-Wai Collection, and the 14 films from The American Film Theatre Collection, among many others, were also celebrated by critics.

Throughout the years, Kino International released some of the most influential films from around the world, including Shôhei Imamura’s Vengeance is Mine and The Ballad of Narayama; Percy Adlon’sSugarbaby; André Techiné’s Scene of the Crime; Michel Khleifi’s Wedding in Galilee; Volker Schlöndorff’sThe Legend of Rita; Amos Gitai’s Alila and Kedma; Wong Kar-Wai’s, Days of Being Wild; Kelly Reichardt’s Old Joy; Scandar Copti and Yaron Shani’s Ajami; and Yorgos Lanthimos‘ Dogtooth.

In addition, Donald Krim was personally responsible for all aspects of two nationwide re-releases of two different restorations of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis – one in 2002, marking the film’s 75th anniversary, and the other in 2010, triggered by a major archival discovery. Other classic reissues made viable by Kino International include Alexander Korda’s The Thief of Bagdad, the first reissue of Pandora’s Box and Diary of a Lost Girl, Von Stroheim’s Queen KellyWages of Fear, the 50th anniversary restoration of The Bicycle Thief, and recent high-def restorations of Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin and Douglas Fairbank’sThe Black Pirate.

In the last four years, Kino International titles have earned three Academy Award nominations in the Best Foreign Language Film category. The nominated titles are: Beaufort (2007), Ajami (2009) and Dogtooth (2010). In December of 2009, Kino International merged with Lorber Films, and formed Kino Lorber Inc.

In place of flowers, the family is asking that donations be made to the Fresh Air Fund, the Leukemia Lymphoma Society, and Red Hook Rise. Donations to Red Hook Rise should be sent to 481 Van Brunt St. 2nd Floor, Brooklyn, NY 11231.

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