Eon Executive, James Higgins, U.K. Distributor of ‘Indiana Jones,’ ‘Top Gun,’ Dies at 98

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Eon executive James Higgins, who spent over thirty years at the James Bond production company, has died, his family have confirmed. He was 98.

Higgins began his career as a student salesman at MGM in 1951. His fist job posting was to Wales, where he sold films to workmen’s halls (leisure facilities for miners and their families.)

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In the 1970s he worked for Paramount/Cinema International Corporation before becoming the head of distributor United International Pictures in the 1980s. During the 1990s he was president of what is now called the Film Distributors Association.

During the course of his distribution career Higgins was responsible for overseeing the U.K. releases of blockbusters including the “Indiana Jones” films, “Top Gun,” “Back to the Future,” “Jaws” and “Grease.”

“With the experience that I’ve had I can tell fairly well whether a film was going to be a big success or not and one tailored the advertising budgets and the number of prints that one had to one’s expectation,” he said of his successes.

Higgins then joined Eon, the production company behind the James Bond franchise, as well as Astoria Productions, Barbara Broccoli’s independent production company. He remained a director of both companies until his death, acting primarily in an executive and advisory capacity.

Over his lifetime, Higgins watched the film industry assaulted first by television (he described the launch of the BBC, followed by ITV in 1955, as having “a cumulatively disastrous effect on admissions for cinemas in this country) and then by the Internet.

In a 2012 interview he said he’d heard about “the end of cinema” numerous times over the course of his career but suggested it was unlikely. “It always remains that people enjoy seeing a film in the company of an audience and the reaction that you get from an audience,” Higgins said. “It’s a different sensation from just watching it on the television. That’s what keeps it going. And people want to go out.”

Higgins died at home on Oct. 1, leaving behind three children, seven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

“He will be greatly missed by us all and his many friends,” his family said in a statement.

A funeral will be held in Higgins’ hometown of Wokingham at the end of the month.

The family have requested that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Film and TV Charity (formerly the Cinema & Television Benevolent Fund).

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