Spyros P. Skouras Lifetime Achievement Award
On closing night on Saturday, Oct. 20 at Dolby Cinema, the festival is pleased to present the first-ever Spyros P. Skouras Lifetime Achievement Award to Paramount CEO Jim Gianopulos. The award was created and sponsored by Tom Skouras, festival Advisory Board member and nephew of the late Skouras, to honor outstanding film industry professionals of Greek descent.
About Spyros P. Skouras
Spyros Skouras was a giant in the movie industry, an international cultural ambassador, and a humanitarian.
Mr. Skouras was born in 1893 in the village of Skourochori in the Peloponnese. He came from a family of farmers and herders, and life was harsh. When the family’s crops were destroyed in 1907, the young Skouras and two brothers left for better opportunities elsewhere. They ended up in St. Louis, where they worked long hours at several hotels. The Skouras brothers eventually saved up enough money to buy their first movie theater, which they called “Olympia.” Their empire expanded as they bought up more theaters, becoming the top theater operator in St. Louis by 1923. Mr. Skouras continued to move up in the ranks, becoming the general manager of Warner Brother’s 500+ theaters, and later National Theatres.
In 1935, he was a major force in the merger of Fox Film Corporation and Twentieth Century. He would eventually be elected president of the new Twentieth Century Fox (1942-1962) turning into a global film leader. At the helm of TCF, he introduced widescreen movies with the CinemaScope lens, reinvigorating the movie-going experience in the advent of television. “Don’t Bother to Knock,” “The Seven Year Itch,” “The Hustler,” “The King and I,” “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” and “The Robe” are some of the classics he oversaw during his two-decade reign. Films like “It Happened in Athens” and “The 300 Spartans” were instrumental in positioning Greece as a tourist destination. Mr. Skouras is famous for signing an unknown model to Twentieth Century Fox making Marilyn Monroe a household name as well as the creation of Century City in Los Angeles.
He also led the Greek War Relief Association during WWII, aimed at supporting Axis-occupied Greece. Mr. Skouras successfully lobbied to lift the British naval blockade so that food and medicine could make it to the starving, war-torn nation. Under his leadership, the GWRA was one of the largest humanitarian relief efforts in American history.
As a respected businessmen, Mr. Skouras served on several presidential committees and had relations with the White House under six different administrations. He was a personal friend of President Eisenhower. With his presidential connections, he lobbied for Greece’s interests, solving the Cyprus problem, and keeping stability in the region.
After retiring from Twentieth Century Fox he concentrated his efforts on his long-term shipping interests (Prudential Lines) and in 1969 completed the acquisition of The Grace Lines, establishing Prudential-Grace as a major U.S. flag carrier.
Mr. Skouras passed away from a heart attack in 1971, leaving a magnificent legacy as one of the most prominent Americans of Greek descent.