Founder of the legendary distributor Janus Films, Cyrus Harvey, died on Thursday from complications of a stroke he had suffered four days prior. He was 85.
Teaming with actor Bryant Haliday, Harvey founded Janus Films in 1956 after converting the historic Brattle Theater, which Haliday had purchased, into an arthouse theater. Harvey and Haliday would later sell Janus to Saul J. Turell and William Becker, who ultimately turned the company over to Jonathan Turell and Peter Becker, who run The Criterion Collection.
The company is still very much involved in theatrical distribution, but of the classic side of things. With only one first-run release in thirty years (Revanche), the company is now the main backer of the Collection, and also has become quite a staple in the news, particularly after their purchase of the domestic theatrical and home video rights to the entire Charlie Chaplin library.
As a young film fan, many of my earliest arthouse and foreign film experiences came thanks to Harvey and the company that he had created. One of the most influential names in the home video world, while he may not have had much say in the company after selling it, the creation of Janus Films is one of the biggest moments that any cinephile can point to and say that their lives were ultimately changed due to it. Introducing US audiences to names like Fellini, Ozu, Antonioni and various other iconic foreign auteurs, he forever changed the arthouse world, and his legacy will forever be just that. He will be missed.