The 11x Oscar nominee remembered the late distribution boss on Wednesday night at the Will Rogers Pioneers Dinner, the two having worked together during the latter’s time at Weinstein Co. with The Master and at MGM with Licorice Pizza.
Paul Thomas Anderson had the first 70MM made movie in 20 years with 2012’s The Master; a dream made possible by Erik Lomis when he was the head of distribution at Weinstein Co. Later on, Lomis brought specialty audiences back with Anderson’s Licorice Pizza during Covid which earned then an opening weekend per theater average of $35K — enormous when cinemas were making their way back from pandemic in 2021.
Taking the podium at the Beverly Hilton, Anderson, said “I’m hear to represent the filmmakers that worked with Erik” before launching into heartfelt and hysterical speech.
“I first met Erik walking down the street on Montana Avenue outside the Aero,” regaled Anderson.
The filmmaker was holding a secret screening of The Master, “and I wanted to find any possible way to avoid Harvey (Weinstein) through the process.” The Beverly Hilton ballroom erupted in laughter.
“Harvey found out about it, and sent his head of distribution,” the filmmaker continued.
“I was prepared for battle…I saw Lomis, saw his neck walking down the street from a quarter mile away. I knew he was going to be a formidable opponent,” continued Anderson.
“He was gripping my tiny little hand in his bear claw,” added the filmmaker.
Anderson got the message. Weinstein said his distribution boss to set him right. But then Lomis cleared the air: “I don’t work for that piece of shit. I’m here to help you with your movie!”
“He explained how the projectors worked, I was humbled. He mapped out how he would release the 70MM (edition of The Master).”
And for the theaters that didn’t want to play it, Lomis “was going to put projectors in them.”
“‘Will they let you do that?’” asked Anderson.
Responded Lomis, “They don’t have a choice, they’re going to love it.”
“I was completely smitten with him,” said Anderson who continued on his relationship as an amigo with Lomis with lengthy phone conversations in the car long after his films were released, and early 4:30AM advise meetings.
“I never met anyone in distribution who knew how a projector worked, how to fix one or who looked like a bookie, or like a linebacker, or had language that would make Richard Pryor blush” quipped Anderson.
How did Lomis do it with exhibitors? As Anderson quoted him, and joked, “‘I ‘m going to shove it up so so far up their asses, it’s going to pop.”
“But it didn’t take you long to realize he was a softie.”
Speaking on behalf of the rival studio distribution heads who picked his brains, the filmmakers, agents and stars, Anderson expounded, “Everyone called him for hours on end. I don’t how many hours he had in his day.”
Anderson savored Lomis’ insights on the entire business, release strategies, et al (“This is good for the business, except for Netflix. F’ them!”).
“He looked at exit polls and per screens like someone who looks at a new born baby. He absolutely loved it.”
“I wish I could call him now. I wish I could call him at 4:30AM when no one was awake. He was a big hearted man, who loved this this business, who made releasing and making movies — fun..”