A True Statesman: Regal's Rob Westerling is honored at ShowSouth

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If you’re one of those people enjoying ShowSouth’s mellow, unhurried atmosphere, be sure to take a second away from sipping cocktails and admiring the grounds of the Château Élan to congratulate Regal Entertainment Group’s Rob Westerling, ShowSouth’s 2018 Statesman of the Year. 

“I was very flattered and humbled” to be named Statesman of the Year, Westerling says. “I realize this award is a reflection of our entire Regal organization, and I am honored to accept on behalf of our entire company. Regal has always been a very philanthropic organization, and I am pleased to be a part of Variety Club of Georgia’s ongoing efforts to raise funds to help children in need.”

Currently Regal’s VP of film and head film buyer, Westerling has been with the chain since 2005, but his love of movies extends all the way back to his childhood. “My father was an industry marketing executive working with AMC and Regal,” he explains, which afforded him the opportunity to attend movie premieres and other insider events. “Many of my favorite childhood memories involve going to movies and theatres… I can remember seeing Steven Spielberg at the premiere of Jurassic Park and walking the red carpet when I was very young.”

That love of movies didn’t stop at just being a consumer. “Being exposed to this exciting and glamorous industry certainly influenced my love of this business and desire to make it a career path,” he explains. As a young adult, he worked at a Regal theatre in Knoxville, Tennessee, where he also attended college. It was during that time period that he also joined Regal’s corporate office.

At numerous seminars and panels at various tradeshows over the past several years, there’s one topic that keeps coming up: Millennials, specifically how they can be drawn into the career ranks of the exhibition industry. Westerling, as a Millennial who’s done just that, recommends his generation’s enthusiasm for the movies.

“Going to the movies has always been a wonderful part of our social experiences,” Westerling notes. No matter the age group, moviegoing “influences people’s lives in many ways… Technology has greatly impacted our industry, just like so many others. Our modern theatres are dramatically different than in the past, in regards to technology and the variety of ways to view movies. Much of this is targeted at Millennials. I have the opportunity to visit with our theatre managers and staffs across the country, and the enthusiasm and love of moviegoing is still one of the main reasons they choose to work in this industry. In fact, many of the people working in our corporate office have experience working in theatres, myself included. Nothing like first-hand experience.”

Westerling’s particular experience led him to serve on the leadership board for NATO’s Young Members Committee. The committee, he explains, aims to “connect young employees in the industry together in the hopes of cultivating the next generation of industry leaders. We do this by providing education and social events that are targeted at these young employees, to help them develop and grow.”

Westerling, then, views the sharing of knowledge as of paramount importance in the exhibition industry. So what does he wish people knew about being a film buyer? “It is much more complicated than people realize,” Westerling observes. People assume the job is just sitting around and watching movies, “which is not true. We work hard day in and day out. It takes a unique set of skills to be a truly good film buyer. You work closely with all the departments within your own organization as well as [with] numerous executives within the industry, such as our studio partners, Vista, Fathom, IMAX, 4DX, NATO, Fandango, etc. You need a good working knowledge and background regarding the various background organizations and their needs.

“Strategizing with the film team and determining the best plan and executing that plan is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle,” he adds. “It’s a team effort, and we have a terrific team. The rewarding part is when you see the plan executed by film, operations, marketing and the entire Regal team to deliver outstanding results.” As far as “outstanding results” are concerned, Westerling is a particular fan of the horror sleeper hit A Quiet Place, which did its part to get the industry to a record-breaking $3.3 billion second quarter.

Westerling has decades more in which to contribute to our business. What does he want to do with them? “My goal is to continue to grow my knowledge of all aspects of the industry,” he says. “Regal is a terrific company to work for. During my tenure at Regal I have seen so many changes, not only to our company but to the entire industry. I have been very fortunate to watch and be a part of Regal’s tremendous growth. Numerous mergers and acquisitions have all been very exciting… Our new ownership has some exciting plans for Regal in the years ahead, and I look forward to being an integral part of our bright future.”