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Richard Michael Del Belso

1939 - 2016
Richard Michael Del Belso Obituary
August 9, 1939 - March 5, 2016 Richard Del Belso, who helped revolutionize movie market research and whose unique ability to explain data often influenced a film's final cut, has died after a year-long battle with lung cancer. He was 76. Del Belso started in the early '70s at NYC advertising agencies and in 1976 was hired by Universal as Research Director for their films, including "Animal House," Oscar Best Picture contender "Coal Miner's Daughter," and Oscar Best Picture winner "The Deer Hunter." In 1978, Del Belso, Joe Farrell and Catherine Paura (of the new National Research Group) developed techniques that changed the face of movie market research and are now standard practice -- test screenings, trailer and TV commercial testing, and weekend tracking studies which included box-office projections. From 1980, eventually as SVP, Del Belso worked on virtually every major Warner Bros. title for 25 years, including four Oscar Best Pictures, "Chariots of Fire," "Driving Miss Daisy," "Unforgiven," and "Million Dollar Baby," and the franchises of "Mad Max," "Harry Potter," and "Batman." In communicating data, Richard was constructive, analytical, and non-judgmental. When situations warranted, though, he was blunt (once telling a producer, "Let's face it. It's a turkey!"). His perspective came from his world travels and extensive knowledge and love of the arts, from classical music to jazz, art, opera, theatre, and classic films. Former Warner Chairman Bob Daly said, "Richard was the best research guy I've ever come across. He was smart and thorough; he spoke his mind, and he was right 90% of the time. He was also just a really good person." Director Richard Donner noted, "Richard was very special. On a personal level, he was just fun to be around; as an executive, his research and insightful interpretations were absolutely invaluable to Lauren [Shuler Donner, wife and a producer] and me during our post-production and marketing phases." An active member of the Motion Picture Academy, Richard served on the Screening Committees for Foreign Films and Animated Features and was board president of the 18th Street Arts Center. He was an avid movie poster fan with a collection of more than 2500. Richard Michael Del Belso was born in Albany, N.Y. He was valedictorian at Vincentian Institute, earned a BA from Fordham and a MA from NYU. He is survived by jazz singer and lyricist Mark Winkler, his husband and partner of 35 years; a sister, Laraine Del Belso; two brothers-in-law, Richard Winkler and Robert Winkler and a nephew Michael Winkler. Parents Angelo and Margaret Del Balso and a sister, Beverly, predeceased him. A celebration of Del Belso's life is set for Wednesday, March 23, 11 a.m. at Hollywood Forever Cemetery, 6000 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, with a reception following at Catalina's Jazz Club. Contributions can be made in his name to the Washington Humane Society (support.washhumane.org), The American Film Institute (afi.com/membership), and The (donate.cancer.org).
Published in the Los Angeles Times from Mar. 17 to Mar. 18, 2016
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