Pilot of the Caribbean: Robert Carrady oversees cinemas in Puerto Rico and nearby islands
Robert Carrady serves as the principal and president of Caribbean Cinemas, headquartered in San Juan, Puerto Rico. He directs a cinema circuit with over 470 screens and 57 locations throughout the Caribbean Islands, with 266 in Puerto Rico, 116 in the Dominican Republic and nearly 90 in the neighboring English-speaking islands.
Reared in the industry by his father, Robert has never veered from his energetic efforts dedicated to excellence in exhibition. He has witnessed the challenges of change from his early career beginnings, when he was responsible for the vending machines in the theatre lobby at age 14. As his father began to grow the circuit outside the San Juan domain, Robert was placed in control of the existing circuit. He now manages theatres with ten private Premium Luxury formats, one IMAX location, two 4DX screens and his own private CXC brand.
Robert was introduced to the cinema channel at a very early age, as his father saw a terrific opportunity in Puerto Rico. He was born in New York and spent his elementary years in the Northeast U.S. Victor Carrady started the business in 1969 and had designs for Robert immediately. His father had a true international background, migrating from the Middle East to Hong Kong and relocating to Puerto Rico to assist his brother-in-law, who worked for United Artists Distribution. This association led to the family opening their first theatre.
Robert received his formal education at Tufts University in Boston, earning a degree in economics in 1977. His appreciation of cinema presentations led him back to San Juan, where his father gradually gave him more and more responsibility in running the business. “In 1976, my dad wanted to open a new six-screen theatre in the Dominican Republic and left me to run the theatres in San Juan. He was the creative mind and I was the detail guy. He was never in a hurry to return home,” Robert laughs. Robert and his father worked together for over 30 years, growing the circuit to over 55 locations spread all across the islands including the U.S. Virgin Islands, St Maarten, Trinidad, St. Lucia, Antigua, St. Kitts, Aruba and Guyana.
“I remember when I was in high school while working at the company office in the summer, and all we had were a handful of single-screen theatres and a twin. Dad asked me to go to the screening of True Grit with John Wayne, and coming back from the screening I sweared it was going to be a hit. Well, guess what, that summer westerns no longer worked in Puerto Rico and it was a big flop in our two best theatres and Dad needled me a few times after that in front of others, saying: Robert booked that one!” That experience is one that every cinema owner can recall at least once in their careers, showing that he is as humble in his beginnings as anyone in the industry.
The challenges that Robert sees in the islands are those of fossil fuels. He notes that utility costs are extreme and difficult to manage, as the temperatures in the Caribbean are consistently high and require enormous amount of energy to cool the theatres. The other challenge is the economic recession in Puerto Rico, which limits the discretionary income of the residents. Making movies available at a reasonable cost and still turning a profit is the objective for Caribbean Cinemas—a challenge Robert has met head-on with success. Even with the heavy exodus of Puerto Rican residents, Caribbean Cinemas continues to improve its presentations with renovations and implementation of the highest technology, including digital presentations, 3D, Premium Large Format auditoriums, and the Caribbean Cinema Extreme with outstanding standards in the movie experience.
Robert Carrady envisions a complete renewal in the food and beverage experience as well. While he believes soda and popcorn will continue to be a valued snack at the movies, the real transformation will be with the integration with what he calls “Front and Center” foods. “We have initiated creative foods such as sushi, and deli counters where patrons can actually see the food they will be eating,” he explains. Items such as pastrami sandwiches, burritos and other fast-casual items will be a prominent part of Caribbean Cinemas’ food and beverage offerings.
Shorter release windows will be a never-ending problem for cinema owners, in Carrady’s opinion. “With the increase in technology, and features such as Netflix, we will be constantly faced with impending competition that is growing outside the four walls of the cinema,” he contends. A big concern for him is the shrinking window for all theatre owners.
When Robert finds time to escape the hectic work pace at Caribbean, he enjoys a quiet round of golf, international travel, or a date with his camera for his love of photography. He fears that by noting his favorite movie, The Graduate, it dates him. He does note that The Godfather is high on his list, as is Slumdog Millionaire, yet as a true cinema exec, he declares that “any movie that makes money is a favorite these days.” This year his favorite is Tarzan, where he might be seen enjoying a few M&M Peanuts. His favorite book to date is Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson. His favorite actor is an Italian: Leonardo DiCaprio. The most likely spot for him to travel if possible is the South Pacific: “Bali, Fiji, nearly anywhere in the South Pacific Islands would be nice.” Spoken like a true islander. Robert Carrady finds a lot of satisfaction from seeing the next generation of his sister’s kids continuing the family’s passion for the business. Three of the children are working in New York City in the global television content and broadcasting markets. Meanwhile, Robert enjoys his privacy and is happily married while serving as dad to three beautiful children.