Hatfield's harvest: Regal marketing veteran saluted with Marvin Levy Award


Luck alone most certainly doesn’t explain the long, rich and successful career of Ted Hatfield, who is receiving the Marvin Levy Career Achievement in Film Marketing Award at ShoWest in Las Vegas. But luck had a little hand in it.

After all, as Regal Entertainment Group’s director of film marketing, Hatfield is in the upper echelons of the country’s largest theatre chain. And he’s there at a time when going to the movies is at an all-time high. Not bad for a man who started out as a kid usher one summer in the late 1940s in very hot Arkansas. Luckily, the job was cool, in more ways than one.
“I thought that’s not such a bad job to take, since the theatre was air-conditioned,” muses Hatfield about his first gig at age 11. He even concedes that it was more aversion to heat than love of movies that got him started in the business. Besides offering a rare break from oppressive temperatures, the theatre, part of the New York-based ABC Paramount chain, also provided its ushers with different uniforms for summer and winter. Well, those were the days.

Today, Hatfield, working mainly with exhibitor-relations personnel at the studios, helps coordinate studio marketing with the Regal Group, which now has about 550 locations in 39 states and 6,782 screens. These include the chain’s Cinema Art Theatres group, either standalones or screens within multiplexes that exclusively show art-house fare.

While the studios are on their own orchestrating the expensive national marketing campaigns, their joint effort with Regal is focused largely on local promotions. These latter include advance screenings and media promotions with radio, TV or newspapers, with the theatres moving giveaways like t-shirts that the studios provide. “Our day-to-day is done [interfacing] with exhibitor relations or publicity,” says Hatfield, adding that his many years working on the studio side (at MGM and Sony) also allows him a close rapport with studio marketing people. More about the many stars later.

“The studios, of course, do tremendous work and spend significantly on marketing nationally when they are opening their films on 3,000 or 4,000 screens,” Hatfield reminds. But with the limited releases of smaller films, chores fall more heavily to theatres because the local push becomes so important. Notes Hatfield, “Our managers where those films are playing are very good in getting the word out to colleges and special-interest groups. We get posters to coffee houses and promote in places appropriate for our foreign-language films.”
Additionally, Hatfield, who is based in Regal’s hometown of Knoxville, Tennessee, handles marketing for Regal’s more than 30 IMAX theatres. “We started out with a few IMAX theatres and now have 30. As the studios keep remastering their big films for IMAX, the audiences keep growing for this big-screen experience and we meet the demand.”

Over the years, Hatfield has seen big changes in marketing. “We’ve had to adapt to the fact that as the studios have cut back on their regional staffs around the country for marketing and promotions—their field guys—we’ve had to fill in. So Regal has a great field staff of promotion people in our markets who sell the movies, do the advance screenings, work the other local promotions and tie-ins with the community groups. We reach out to the niches. I’m really proud of our free summer festivals for kids in the mornings.”

Hatfield also cites the changes in media—newspapers down, Web use way up—and the change in the medium, specifically 3D, that calls for special marketing. But “TV ads remain as important as ever” in spite of the new media.

“It’s still the TV network and cable ads that are the most efficient to reach mass audiences. “I don’t want to be down on newspapers because they are how we communicate what is playing where and when, but TV remains the biggest reach and frequency.”

Hatfield has observed subtle changes in audiences. He points to the specific groups, niche and not so, that have more clearly emerged over the years that help the targeting. “More recently, we’ve seen the importance of family audiences, seniors, the college kids and the like. It’s those PG and G pictures that appeal to mass audiences that work so well. We are just so lucky to have such a variety of so many avid moviegoers.”

Beyond promoting the pictures, Hatfield is also involved in the opening of new Regal theatres and remains mindful that “everything has to be great at the theatres because our customers are our number-one concern.”

Sprinkled with a little luck and lots of outstanding work, Hatfield’s career has also traversed latitudes across both the industry and the country. “I guess you could say I spent about 50% of my time on the studio side and the other 50% with theatres,” he assesses. “On both sides, I have been so fortunate to work with so many outstanding people. Not only the executives, but the many managers and lower-echelon people I’ve known who have all been so dedicated.”

From his “cool” job as theatre usher at the single screen in Hot Springs, Arkansas, the young Hatfield was promoted to doorman, becoming “the guy who takes the tickets.” Well, more “kid” than “guy.”

As soon as he finished high school, ABC Paramount transferred him to Florida, where he began working in theatre management. Because he was so young, Hatfield worked first as assistant manager.

Then, at age 21, he got a lucky break. He advanced to manager of three theatres in Shreveport, Louisiana. Soon after, the chain promoted him to district manager, putting him in charge of locations in Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee and Mississippi.

As Hatfield moved up the ladder, he got a better, rosier view of the studio side. “I liked the publicity and marketing part of my job and thought that working for a studio would be a lot of fun. There were nibbles out for people to get jobs as field press reps. I was lucky at the time and was able to talk to three studios. But the best offer came from MGM. I was hired and relocated to New York City where I worked for several years till 1970 as assistant exploitation manager.”

When MGM moved its headquarters to the Culver City, Calif. studio in 1970, Hatfield moved too and became VP of field operations, supervising a staff of 32 publicity representatives in the U.S. and Canada and coordinating co-op advertising.

Galaxies away from a dark (but cool) little Arkansas theatre, Hatfield was now involved in setting up MGM premieres in both the U.S. and Canada and running promotions and events in places like the Cannes Film Festival and South America. While agents can be heard grumbling about working with stars, Hatfield would have the time of his life.

Asked what have been some of his most memorable campaigns and proudest achievements, Hatfield doesn’t miss a beat in naming his time spent promoting MGM’s That’s Entertainment!—the press junkets, premieres worldwide and so much travel—and working closely with stars like Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, Jimmy Stewart, Frank Sinatra and dozens of other “big names,” including directors and producers. With help from Hatfield, even Lassie put in a doggone appearance! Says Hatfield about the many legends he worked with, “I was young then and it meant that much more.”

And as coincidence would have it, this current Marvin Levy Career Achievement honoree, who also supervised MGM’s exhibitor relations, helped guide the studio’s participation in ShoWest and ShowEast convention activities. Furthermore, Hatfield had the pleasure to work with both Marvin Levy and his son Don, who often served as unit publicist on films.
Hatfield’s move to MGM was a lucky one in a more personal way: He met wife Carla there when she was working as a marketing executive secretary.

In 1990 and staying in Culver City, Hatfield moved over to Sony Pictures as VP, exhibitor relations, first at TriStar and later at Sony Pictures Distribution, again handling theatre marketing and convention activities. In 1997, Regal came calling, so Hatfield and family moved back east to Tennessee.

It is impossible to mention all the honors Hatfield has received over the years, but highlights include the IATSE Publicist Guild Distinguished Service Award for 1985, the ShowEast 1993 Studio Exhibitor Award, the ShoWest 2000 Pioneer Award for Marketing, and the Show South 2007 Statesman of the Year award.

The Marvin Levy Career Achievement Award obviously delights Hatfield. “I’m very, very honored to have this and was so surprised. For someone like me in marketing, this award makes me feels like I’m winning an Academy Award.”

As a longtime member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences (Public Relations Branch), Hatfield knows that rarified turf. But those prone to envy can take heart. As he says, “I’ve never been able to join the audience in the theatre [for the Awards] to watch, because I’ve always been too busy backstage.”

On the civic front, Hatfield is especially proud of the work he has done in the communities where he has lived, especially for Boy Scouts of America and Chambers of Commerce. He has received top honors for his activities from the Jaycees, Boy Scouts and the municipalities themselves. Hatfield continues actively with groups like the Variety Club of East Tennessee and the Tennessee Film Production Committee.

He is also an avid hockey and college football fan and, with six dogs in the household, he’s also a kind of manager of his own “hotel for dogs.” He and wife Carla also have six children and six grandchildren. Asked if six is some kind of lucky number for him, Ted quickly retorts, “Must be!”

What is certain is that Ted Hatfield is lucky to be at Regal, and Regal and the films he helps market are lucky to have him.

Homages to Hatfield

“Ted Hatfield is a born promoter. After years of successful service in Hollywood, we were certainly fortunate when Ted came to work with us. We at Regal greatly appreciate and value Ted’s wealth of industry experience and believe that he is the perfect recipient for this year’s Marvin Levy Career Achievement in Marketing Award.”
—Mike Campbell, Chairman & CEO, Regal Entertainment Group

“I have known Ted Hatfield for many years, and I was very pleased when our paths crossed again as colleagues at Regal Entertainment Group. This career achievement award is certainly well-deserved. Ted has been an integral part of our very successful IMAX partnership. He helped us build successful promotional programs at our IMAX locations all across the country.”
—Neal Pinsker, Senior VP, Regal Entertainment Group

“It has always been a pleasure to work with Ted. Throughout his career, Ted has been the consummate professional and gentleman. Ted can relate to and interact with anyone in the industry, from theatre-level personnel to studio executives and celebrities. I do not know of anyone more deserving of this award and I congratulate Ted on this well-deserved honor.”
—Dick Westerling, Senior VP, Regal Entertainment Group

“The thing that stands out about Ted is his endless enthusiasm and positive energy. He has always been able to roll with the punches that this business gives you and come back strong.”
—Jeff Blake, Chairman, Worldwide Marketing & Distribution, Sony Pictures

“Ted Hatfield always tries to find new and innovative ways of marketing in his theatres. He also happens to be one of the nicest guys in our industry. I can't ever remember seeing him without a smile on his face or expressing kind words about someone. He loves this industry and embraces being a part of it. Ted is someone who wears many hats. He is a very charitable man who has given of himself for many, many, years. He is a great friend. Congratulations, Ted, on this award that you truly are deserving of.”
—Rory Bruer, President, Worldwide Distribution, Sony Pictures

“Ted embodies passion and commitment in this business. At the core of it all…he LOVES movies and the people who make them, market them, present them and so on! I’ve know Ted for many, many years. He exudes positive energy and there’s a constant willingness to contribute and help on every level. I have such fond memories of Ted from my early days when I was a theatre manager in the ’80s. Those were his studio days…always available and there for us to help promote at the grassroots levels. No order too tall. He always delivered…then and he still does today.”
—Patricia Gonzalez, Senior VP, In-Theatre Marketing, Paramount Pictures

“I met Ted Hatfield the day I started at MGM in 1984. I was 21 years old. He took me out to lunch that first day and has been showing me the ropes ever since. Ted understands that there’s no Show without Business and no Business without Show. He’s a loyal friend and a constant source of inspiration and laughter.”
—Greg Foster, Chairman and President, Filmed Entertainment, IMAX Corporation

“Ted is the consummate Showman. He taps into Regal’s appreciation for their customers and uses his signature talents to motivate the customer to respond in kind.”
—Phil Groves, Senior VP, Film Distribution & Development, IMAX Corporation

“Ted was one of the first people I met when I moved to Los Angeles and I am blessed to call him friend. Ted taught me about grassroots promotions and introduced me to just about everyone in the business. Ted is not only an officer and a gentleman, he is a legendary Showman. Ted, this recognition is much deserved and long overdue. Congratulations!”
—Nancy Klueter, VP, Exhibitor Relations, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

“In addition to being an outstanding professional, Ted has also been an outstanding corporate citizen. His involvement in a wide variety of civic and charitable endeavors has made our community a much better place. Ted is one of those who gives his time and resources to help others without ever seeking to promote himself. He is a community treasure and one of my favorite people.”
—Mike Ragsdale, Mayor, Knox County, Tennessee