A Salute to Anita Watts: Longtime ‘FJI’ concessions editor is moving on

Cinemas Features

Anita Watts has been the author of Film Journal International’s concession executive profiles, and it is only fitting that we highlight Anita and her accomplishments this month. Sadly, this month’s “Snack Corner” column is the last she will be writing for FJI. As she puts it, she is “retiring” from writing her monthly columns and her position as Concessions Editor of this magazine.

Anita has been in the theatre industry for more than 22 years, as a supplier with Ricos, as an international consultant with World Around Trade Services, and as the co-founder and principal of Cinema Solutions and ReactorNet. I think it is safe to say that with all that on her plate, she deserves at least a hiatus from her writing duties.

Anita grew up on a family cattle farm in southwestern Virginia, but she was destined for better things. She graduated from Virginia Tech and then received a Master’s degree from the University of South Carolina. She earned degrees in international relations from both schools.

While at Virginia Tech, Anita met James Watts and moved to San Antonio, Texas with him in 1992. In 1993, she went to work for Ricos Products, where she was to develop an international business. Anita proved her value quickly, and was soon involved with all facets of Ricos’ business, internationally and on the domestic side. She remains grateful to this day to the Liberto family for the opportunity to launch her career, and to Robert Scribner for teaching her the art of customer service and loyalty.

Working at Ricos was a great learning experience for Anita. The responsibilities and the confidence they instilled helped her create her own destiny, and to start her own consulting company in 1998, World Around Trade Services. Two years later, Anita and her partners (husband James, Phillip Day, Tony Kylitis and Nathan Waltrip) started Cinema Solutions.

Cinema Solutions and sister company ReactorNet are procure-to-pay software solutions. As Anita bemoans, “If you don’t know what that is, I am tired of trying to tell you!” I am not sure if that statement is directed at me or the industry as a whole, but after 15 years of working with Anita, I am still not sure what it means. I do know Cinema Solutions has been a great help to many in the cinema industry, and that the company has done an extraordinary job of evolving its software package to fit the needs of its exhibitor, distributor and vendor partners. Cinema Solutions helps manage the purchase process across every category of spend in the cinema, from food and beverage to facilities maintenance.

“The early days of getting people to give up their paper were equivalent to squeezing blood out of a rock,” Anita recalls. “But today we have very loyal clients and we process orders, invoices and payments for over 2,000 cinemas on a daily basis.” Her other company, ReactorNet, is helping to do the same for hotels, restaurants, pet stores and auto dealerships. Working closely with her team, she is enjoying learning about new industries and growing her company. “We have launched our software into other industries and we have added inventory management, scan and capture, electronic payment, and many other modules,” she says.

It is truly a testament to Anita’s character and upbringing that she is able to help run three very successful companies while raising three exceptional young girls, Olivia, Sophie and Abby, with her husband and business partner, James.

Anita has accomplished much in the business world while making sure her home life and the happiness of her family never take a back seat. “I am dedicated to raising three strong, independent women to give to the world. I have tried to put my professional life and my personal life in balance so that I can show them through my actions what they are capable of themselves. We travel and stay active with sports and adventures. We work hard and play hard,” she says.

Anita is active on the board of the National Association of Concessionaires, and was awarded the Bert Nathan Memorial award in 2009. She is also on the board of her daughters’ PTA.

“My greatest takeaway from working in the cinema industry for 22 years is the depth of commitment to our industry and to our friends we have made,” Anita declares. “We all have our highs and lows, and people who haven’t treated us right. But for the most part, we have made careers working with people we can also have a drink with and share our troubles and triumphs. That is a gift, and I am grateful for my journey.”

I can tell you that my greatest takeaway from almost 15 years of working with Anita and reading her columns in Film Journal International is that we will miss reading what she has to say each month. Moreover, as an industry, we need Anita, and we hope she is around for at least another 22 years.

Adam Gottlieb is executive VP, sales, at Continental Concession Supplies.