Fourth Generation: B&B's Brock Bagby carries on a family tradition
This month, Film Journal International shines its spotlight on Brock Bagby, executive VP at B&B Theatres. Brock represents the fourth generation of the eighth-largest cinema circuit in the U.S., representing 391 screens. He has strong roots in the Midwest, adopting traits from both of his grandfathers, Elmer Bills and Sterling Bagby, while following in the footsteps of his father, Robert Bagby, who leads the way at the family-operated enterprise.
Like so many legends of privately held family exhibition companies, Brock earned his stripes by starting at an early age cleaning auditoriums and eventually working his way up to the concession stand. He is now regarded by his peers as one of the luminaries in the exhibition industry, named to Box Office magazine’s “Top 40 Under 40.” He is frequently mentioned in periodicals such as Variety, Deadline, St. Louis Post andKansas City Star and serves on NATO’s Government Relations Committee, Young NATO Board, Technology Committee and Vision/Mission Task Force. His presence and opinions are constantly sought at conventions and conferences around the U.S.
Brock Bagby was born in Columbia, Missouri, and spent his early years in Salisbury, Missouri. He attended Missouri State University and in 2012 earned a degree in General Business. He cites his grandfathers as genial influences in his life. “Elmer Bills was a bit more conservative and offered a dry sense of humor, while Sterling Bagby had a great attitude toward life and wanted to grow the company quickly.”
Brock says he gained knowledge from them equally. However, he compliments his father as being the buffer, somewhere in the middle, that steadied the ship. “My father had the greatest influence on me growing up. All three had strong personalities and amazing traits,” he proudly attests.
Bagby’s decision to stay in the family business was an easy one. “What’s more fun than the movie business? Ours is the only business that changes product every week and creates an escape for our guests all year long.” He adds, “My family never pushed me to work in the business, but at an early age I grew fond of the business and the glamour of Hollywood. Now I am in love with the numbers, grosses, demographics, theatre designs and programming.” He appreciates the fact that he and his sisters work as one to present the highest-quality entertainment package in their sector.
Bagby believes the biggest challenge for B&B Theatres is keeping pace with all the innovations in the cinema world and managing the costs that accompany those advances. “We aren’t publicly traded, so it can be difficult to quickly expand without the available capital.” He is proud to mention that under his direction 50% of the circuit will be outfitted with recliners by June 1, 2018.
Brock sees himself more as a sculptor and developer rather than an administrator—probably because his duties require him to oversee development and construction of the theatres. “I feel like I am a member of a well-oiled machine. I am working with industry professionals who know what they are doing.” While he does have administrative responsibilities as a senior executive at B&B, everyone knows he loves the development side. “Sculpting the theatre from beginning to end is very exciting. We are very hands-on and we are always trying to improve plans to create both the best moviegoing experience for guests and the best operational experience for our team.” In addition to his duties in construction and operations, Brock directs the booking department and supervises the placement of film in each cinema.
Bagby has excelled in this competitive channel by testing the limits: “I have been pushing my family to innovate and create bigger screens.” He has engineered and initiated substantial changes in the design of B&B theatres. “We used to design the screens around the box that was given to us. We now design the boxes around the screens,” he testifies. “Every room is custom-designed to fit the biggest screen possible. I have tried to push the limits on new theatre designs, from our PLF Grand Screens to MX4D, Marquee Suites [deluxe 21-and-older rooms], screenPLAY [theatres for families with small children] and other concepts.” He makes every effort to be at the forefront of technology and innovation without compromising the ROI.
On the personal side, Brock Bagby loves basketball. At six feet tall, he confides he was never tall enough to play in the big leagues, yet even today he still can be found on the courts Sunday afternoons in adult leagues. Most people do not know he is an accomplished singer and entertains Kansas City audiences regularly in local live performances. He and his family even have choral groups that croon for Sunday services.
True to his exhibition foundation, he does have a favorite movie: The Dark Knight. “That movie had it all, it was nearly a real-life believable villain.” His favorite actor: Tom Hanks. His favorite book: Shoe Dog, the story of Phil Knight and his creation of Nike (in line with his love of basketball). When visiting his theatres for a movie, he enjoys funnel cake fries, popcorn and a B&B breaded chicken sandwich.
Brock and his wife of four years, Jennifer, are expecting a new baby boy on May 8, 2018.