Celebration in Las Vegas

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In Focus

2015 was a record year at the global box office, with attendance up, and the first three months of 2016 have been terrific with major hits Deadpool, Zootopia and Batman v Superman. As long as certain elements and individuals quit stirring the pot, we feel reasonably secure in saying that the industry is going to be healthy for a long time to come.

April is normally the time of the year the industry meets in Las Vegas to witness and experience new technologies, to meet the major studio players, view upcoming product, and network with peers in this great industry. It’s wonderful that favorable times, good box office and great content all seem to come together when everyone treks to Vegas for CinemaCon.

Exhibition has undergone some major changes at the top that will eventually have an impact on the business:

* Tim Warner has stepped down as CEO of Cinemark and longtime industry veteran Mark Zoradi has taken the CEO title.

* With the vacancy created by Gerry Lopez, there is a new CEO at AMC, Adam Aron, who is also new to the business.

* With the pending acquisition of Carmike Cinemas, AMC will become the largest cinema operator in the world, with the probable exit of Carmike CEO David Passman from the landscape.

CinemaCon continues to receive great support from the Hollywood studios, and as their managing director Mitch Neuhauser states, “The convention is going to be nonstop—it’s our version of Furious 7.” This year, CinemaCon will see two new companies enter the fold—STX Entertainment and Amazon Studios.

The global exhibition association that owns CinemaCon, NATO, has selected John Loeks as chairman of NATO, taking the senior spot from David Passman, who served two terms as chairman. Loeks is the owner and chief executive of Michigan-based Celebration! Cinema. As NATO chairman, Loeks also chairs the advisory board and the membership meeting. He feels that much of the important work of NATO happens at the committee level.

Equally important to Loeks is the strong bond that NATO enjoys with the Motion Picture Association of America. Part of his role is to maintain a good working relationship with the distributors and the studios. But what will take much of his time and be a priority is “how we can grow our business and get people coming into our theatres.”

NATO is in good hands with John Loeks, and this editor wishes him good luck in this position. Please see our interview with him in the May edition of FJI.

Passing of the Torch

Sometimes things just fall into place. FJI decided to do a story on David Passman now that he’s stepped down as chairman of NATO. And then CinemaCon named him the 2016 NATO Marquee Award recipient, followed by the announcement of the pending acquisition of his company, Carmike Cinemas, by AMC. That only made it more plausible to expand our coverage into an article not only about David but the Cinderella story surrounding Carmike and its rise to the fourth-largest exhibition chain in the nation. David Passman was the architect behind this major expansion.

FJI’s extensive profile in our May issue is our way to pay tribute to what David and his team have achieved. David is a relatively new player in the industry, yet he has made his mark not only at Carmike, but with his two-year chairmanship of NATO. David’s philosophy and innovative thinking have been responsible for the successful modernization and expansion of the Carmike circuit. Here’s a brief look at some of David’s views; be sure to read our entire interview.

“My job is to lead the organization, hopefully in the right direction to make it bigger, better, stronger and more liked by our studio partners, our stockholders and our employees. And, most importantly, our guests.”

“The thing I’m proudest of is I believe I helped bridge the gap between the independent, small exhibitors and the very large exhibitors, because I could see both sides.”

“The tale of Carmike Cinemas—its growth, its moment of triumph, the passing of the torch—is a great story.”

David, FJI salutes you as our exhibition icon of the decade.

Seat of Honor

Ninety years is quite a long time, and to be successful for nine decades is quite an accomplishment. José Letayf Sr, the 90-year-old chairman of the board of San Diego-based Seating Concepts, will be honored with the International Cinema Technology Association’s Distinguished Service Award at CinemaCon.

In addition to celebrating his 90th birthday, José, better known to his friends as Pepe, is helping his son Juan celebrate their company’s 90 years in the industry. From a small beginning in Mexico, today’s Seating Concepts has grown tremendously and today employs some 850 people and supplies nearly 50 theatre circuits around the globe.

We salute Pepe and his family on their 90th anniversary and hope you enjoy the May issue’s profile of them.