A Southern Soirée: NATO of Georgia invites exhibs to the Peach State

Cinemas Features

“ShowSouth is the best little show in the South,” says Robin Miller, executive director of NATO of Georgia’s annual show. It’s not just personal bias talking—with the show’s dedication to providing a laid-back, friendly atmosphere, it’s easy to understand why theatre professionals from Southern states return to the show every year.

As in previous years, this year’s show—taking place on Tuesday, August 21 and Wednesday, August 22—makes its home in the Château Élan, a luxury winery and resort located in Braselton, Georgia, a short distance from Atlanta. The resort has all sorts of amenities, a spa, biking trails and wine tastings among them, but for ShowSouth attendees, at least part of their two-day trip will be devoted to business.

But business, per Miller, doesn’t have to be boring. Over the years, NATO of Georgia has cultivated a casual, friendly vibe, absent the hustle-and-bustle of larger shows. It “feels like a big family gathering,” Miller explains. The 400 or so attendees who make the trek to Braselton every year “are one big happy family, coming together in a beautiful Southern setting. Being able to have one-on-one time is so very important, not only for the attendees but for the vendors and exhibitor-relations folks as well.”

Miller estimates that the attendees comprise about a 60/40 split of theatre managers and owners—“which is a very good percentage of decision makers”—with attendees hailing from nationwide chains like Regal to regional outfits, all the way down to independent operators. Around 100 vendors are expected to participate in this year’s tradeshow, showing off  “everything from popcorn to seats to projectors,” Miller explains. “Anything and everything it takes to run a theatre.” A theatre also requires content, of course. On the movie side of things, representatives from Disney, Fox, Paramount, Sony, Universal, Warner Bros. “and several other studios” are expected to be in attendance.

Tuesday’s schedule combines education and entertainment. In the former category, there is a pair of afternoon seminars on sexual harassment in the workplace and cyber-security, presented by representatives from the Equipment Employment Opportunity Commission and the Federal Trade Commission, respectively. “These are two very important issues that theatres face every day, so I hope that we have great turnout for each seminar,” says Miller.

After those two seminars on very serious issues…well, that’s when the fun starts. Tuesday night plays host to a cocktail party and dinner buffet, where “we will be having a Michael Jackson impersonator to entertain us. So be prepared for a blast from the past.” Don’t party too hard, though, or you might miss Wednesday morning’s breakfast, sponsored by longtime ShowSouth supporter Parrot Films. Other event sponsors include Christie Digital, GDC Technology, Before The Movie and National CineMedia. At the Wednesday morning breakfast, NATO representatives Belinda Judson and Esther Baruh will give their State of the Industry NATO presentation, where attendees will be brought up-to-date on a variety of “industry and legislative issues,” according to Miller.

The Wednesday morning breakfast will be followed by the aforementioned tradeshow, which in turn leads into the Exhibitor Relations Forum. And then, the show’s grand finale: the Final Night Dinner and the much-loved Casino Night, the latter augmented by a “performance from Stone Theatres’ own Duane Farmer.” At the Final Night Dinner, sponsored by Coca-Cola, Regal Entertainment Group’s head of film buying Rob Westerling will be officially named the 2018 ShowSouth Statesman of the Year. Explains Miller, “Rob was chosen to be this year’s recipient because of his 17 years in the business, where he is deeply committed to the theatre industry as well as to Variety [the Children’s Charity].” As always, people not quite ready for ShowSouth to be over for another year have the option to stick around for Variety’s Golf Fest, which starts immediately afterwards.

The best little show in the South indeed!