PHOTO BY CHERYL GERBER
Rene Brunet, proprietor of the Prytania Theater, photographed in the theater's projection room in 2014.
Rene Brunet Jr., who spent his life running New Orleans movie houses, was a familiar face at the Prytania Theatre, which he bought in 1996
. Brunet died Thursday. He was 95.
Brunet's father, Rene Brunet Sr., built and ran several movie theaters in the early 1900s. Brunet Jr. was born Aug. 25, 1921 and started working with his father at The Imperial Theater at a young age. He took over the business when his father died in 1946.
During his career, Brunet Jr. operated many New Orleans motion picture houses, including the Clabon, Carver and Gallo Theaters, as well as others in the region. For several decades, he owned and ran the Joy Theater on Canal Street, which hosted the first New Orleans Film Festival.
With historian Jack Stewart, Brunet wrote a book about local theaters, There's One in Your Neighborhood: The Lost Movie Theaters of New Orleans
, published by Arthur Hardy Enterprises in 2012. It documented the city's many single-screen neighborhood theaters.
“He was wonderful,” Stewart says. “His research was his life and what he did owning and running theaters and the people he knew.”
Brunet and Stewart met more than 20 years ago and combined to answer movie questions during the intermission of screenings of Gone with the Wind
and Virgil Thomson's Louisiana Story
. They brought reference materials with them, but after answering all the questions without using them, they decided to write a book, Stewart says. That began a 17 year collaboration.
“We’d get together and have lunch and we’d have a great time,” Stewarts says. “We’d give ourselves assignments. … He was fun. He was really nice. He treated me like a son.”
Hardy agreed to publish the book and pushed them to pare down the focus, and the book was published in 2012.
Brunet recently spoke at a New Orleans International Music Colloquium event at Stewart’s invitation.
Brunet is survived by his wife Muriel and five children.
Services will be held Friday, Aug. 25 at Our Lady of Prompt Succor (2701 State St.), and the family plans a memorial at the Prytania.