Bingham Ray passes away at 57

The executive director of the San Francisco Film Society had suffered a series of strokes on Friday while attending the Sundance Film Festival.
January 23, 2012

(Photo by Michael Rauner)

Bingham Ray, executive director of the San Francisco Film Society, has passed away at the age of 57 following complications from a series of strokes suffered on Friday while attending the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah.

The San Francisco Film Society (SFFS) announced Ray’s passing with a statement in which SFFS board president Pat McBaine said the organization was “stunned and deeply saddened” by Ray’s death.

“We at the Film Society and the entire film community have lost far too early an energetic and visionary impact player who has helped shape the independent film industry for decades in so many important and valuable ways,” said McBaine. “He shall be dearly missed. Our deepest sympathies and condolences go out to Bingham’s family and his legions of friends and colleagues all over the world who loved and respected him.”

Ray was the co-founder of October Films and remained as co-president of the prodco until its sale to USA Networks in 1999. In September of 2001, he was named president of United Artists, where, during his tenure, the company acquired and/or produced numerous highly acclaimed films including Michael Moore’s Bowling for Columbine.

In 2007 he joined LA-based Sidney Kimmel Entertainment and held two posts there over three years – president of Kimmel Distribution and president of creative affairs.

Ray came to the SFFS from New York City, where he had served as the first run programming consultant to the Film Society of Lincoln Center, executive consultant to SnagFilms and adjunct professor at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. He took the executive director position at the SFFS in November of 2011.

“Bingham was one of those rare few who everyone knew on a first name only basis,” said SFFS board co-vice president and film producer Jen Chaiken. “He was one of a kind and will be deeply, deeply missed.”

Sundance issued a statement shortly after news of Ray’s passing was released: “It is with great sadness that the Sundance Institute acknowledges the passing of Bingham Ray, cherished independent film executive and most recently executive director of the San Francisco Film Society. On behalf of the independent film community here in Park City for the 2012 Sundance Film Festival and elsewhere, we offer our support and condolences to his family. Bingham’s many contributions to this community and business are indelible, and his legacy will not be soon forgotten.”

Ray is survived by his wife Nancy King, their children Nick, Annabel and Becca, and his sisters Susan Clair and Deb Pope.

About The Author
Daniele Alcinii is a news reporter at realscreen, the leading international publisher of non-fiction film and television industry news and content. He joins the rs team with journalism experience following a stint out west with Sun Media in Edmonton's Capital Region, and communications work in Melbourne, Australia and Toronto. You can follow him on Twitter at @danielealcinii.