Los Angeles, California -- For the first time in its 70 year history, the Will Rogers Motion Picture Pioneers Foundation Dinner celebrated record breaking attendance in an evening honoring former Walt Disney Studios Chairman Dick Cook as its 2011 "Pioneer of the Year." The Awards dinner, which brought in over $1 million in donations, was held Wednesday, March 30 at the inaugural edition of CinemaCon - the Official Convention of NATO.
The emotionally charged evening emceed by actor/comedian Tim Allen to a sold out crowd of over 2400 guests made the 70th Pioneer of the Year Dinner the biggest one in its illustrious history.
Dinner Chair and AMPAS President Tom Sherak said, "We are thrilled that this historic event honoring Dick Cook was such an astounding success. He is a dear friend as well as an extraordinary human being and I'm proud to know him." Sherak continued, "The money raised from the Will Rogers Motion Picture Pioneers Foundation Dinner will help many, many movie industry veterans who are encountering an illness, injury or life-changing event."
Award recipient Dick Cook said, "I am extremely honored to be part of an industry where folks genuinely care about each other. The Will Rogers Motion Picture Pioneers Foundation literally changes lives... and donations to this worthy organization are more vital than ever. I am grateful for the outpouring of generosity from those who supported the evening's event."
Paying tribute to honoree Dick Cook were:
Ben Affleck: The fact that I'm able to direct movies now is really because at that one moment in time Dick Cook said I believe in you and I'm going to roll the dice. He is the reason I am directing and I will never forget that.
James Cameron: Dick had the vision and the faith early on to back digital 3D technology. He is a man who does what he says he is going to do.
Jamie Lee Curtis: Dick loves to put on a show and his premieres and the spectacle are bigger and more extraordinary. They are in themselves an event. Dick reinvigorated that idea.
Johnny Depp: Dick will always be a force because he has incredible taste and because he is a risk taker and because he is not afraid.
Michael Eisner: It was because of Dick's quiet persistence that he always got what he wanted. In fact, I can't remember a time that I said no to him.
Jeffrey Katzenberg: I cannot think of anyone more deserving of this award. The nicest guy in Hollywood is also one of its greatest pioneers. He's been a role model for so many of us on how to do our jobs ... and how to live our lives. ..And let's be clear: This is not a Lifetime Achievement award. This is a Lifetime-up-until-now Achievement award. I am certain that we'll all be watching, and learning from, this Hollywood Pioneer for many, many more years to come.
Joe Roth: Dick Cook is one of my closest friends and I'll be the first person on his door step when he starts making movies.
John Travolta: Very few people in the business world treat you like family and doing business with Dick is like doing business with a great father.
Robert Zemeckis: Dick is truly a pioneer, as he saw way before a lot of people how important digital cinema is to our art form and 3D digital exhibition....Dick helped push forward one of the most important evolutions in the history of cinema.