George A. (Cotton) Crouch, 86, who retired in 1958 as Washington zone manager for the old Warner Brothers Theater Circuit, died Wednesday at Washington Hospital Center following a stroke.

A native Washingtonian, Mr. Crouch began working in the film industry here at the age of 15. His first job was a $2-a-week messenger and handyman for Washington's first open-air theater, which was operated by entrepreneur Harry M. Crandall. His duties included transporting film, washing the theater's wooden benches, taking tickets and cleaning the stage. During the winter months, he helped Crandall run his film exchange business.

In 1913, when Crandall opened the city's first downtown picture theater, The Joy, at Ninth and E Streets, NW, Mr. Crouch worked as the doorman. As the Crandall organization grew, Mr. Crouch served at various times as purchasing agent, treasurer, secretary and booker of short subjects.

After the Crandall company merged with Warner Theaters, Mr. Crouch was retained as booker. He was named chief booker in 1948 for the Washington territory, which included portions of Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and Pennsylvania.

Mr. Crouch was active in raising funds for Variety Clubs International.

His first wife, Florence C., died in 1936, and his second wife, Mary Davis Crouch, died in 1978.

Survivors include four daughters, Bernadette Lawless of Baltimore, Frances Dapolito of Silver Spring, Mary, of Washington, and Doris Messick of Takoma Park; three sisters, Alice Rodier of Venice, Fla., and Henrietta Boyle and Rose Reed, both of Washington; 11 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.