Southern hospitality: ShowSouth returns to Atlanta for NATO-Georgia gathering
This year’s ShowSouth features a trio of highlights to which attendees of the intimate Atlanta, Georgia convention—those whom executive director Robin Miller calls “a big family”—can look forward. A seminar led by startup Dealflicks, a novel take on the annual Exhibitor Relations event, and the bestowal of the Statesman Award on industry veteran Dennis Merton are three offerings that suggest the 2014 conference will be among the more memorable in the event’s 22-year history.
The two-day ShowSouth opens on Tuesday, August 19, at the Chateau Elan Winery & Resort. Registration begins at 10 a.m. and runs throughout the day, although participants will want to arrive prior to the first seminar at 2 p.m., and certainly by 3:15 p.m., when DealFlicks is slated to hold forth on social media. The marketing startup launched in July 2012 partners with cinemas to help fill the “88% percent of movie theatre seats” that are, per the company’s website, routinely left empty. Among the chains with which DealFlicks associates are Bow Tie Cinemas, B&B Theatres and State Theatres, to name just a few of the organization’s over 250 exhibitor connections. (DealFlicks also works with Film Journal International.)
“They did a seminar for us a couple years ago on Facebook, and they did a great job with it and really helped us with their demonstration,” says Miller. “We have seen results because of it.” However, although Miller, who is also the VP of operations at Village Theatres Inc., says she and her colleagues use “Facebook a lot in our company,” she recently realized that “we as a company need to spread out” into other forms of online marketing. “I think that’s the way social media is going, towards Twitter and Instagram,” she observes. Her desire to expand her social-media knowledge base led Miller to once again seek the advice of those at DealFlicks, who have agreed to discuss “how to incorporate Twitter and Instagram into your theatres as a marketing tool.” She adds, “I know my managers are real excited about attending that seminar.”
Wednesday’s revamped Exhibitor Relations offering should elicit similar enthusiasm. ShowSouth prides itself on its relaxed and friendly atmosphere, says Miller. “That’s one of the main things that we have heard from people who have come, is how they like that atmosphere where it’s not just a convention-type basis. They can network more.” Thus, when studio reps arrive to liaise with exhibitors this year, they’ll find themselves on more intimate footing. “We’re doing tabletop demonstrations instead of doing trailer reels,” Miller explains. “We have the trailer reels that we’ll be showing 24/7 in-room, in all the hotel rooms, and all of the monitors throughout the hotel. [But] we’re doing tabletop demonstrations…so people will have more one-on-one time.” The layout, Miller says, will be optimized for personal interaction. Participants will “set up at the same time and people will just mingle through their setups.”
For Miller, this notion of the personal extends to the 2014 Statesman of the Year, Dennis Merton, as well. “He has been a great mentor for me,” she says. “The theatre industry has just been his life since he graduated from Georgia Tech.”
It was summer 1957 when Merton, co-oping at the Georgia Institute of Technology, landed his first industry job at National Theatre Supply Company. He continued to work for National Theatre through 1968, when he secured a position in the accounting department of Georgia Theatre Company, within which he would eventually work his way to assistant secretary-treasurer. Merton left exhibition to pursue other opportunities in 1973, but was back with Georgia five years later, assisting with the development of a new computerized box-office, booking and accounting system. He would go on to succeed Tom Eubanks as treasurer, to be followed by roles as assistant comptroller, after United Artists bought the company in 1986; manager of UA’s film statistics department, Southeastern region; treasurer of Georgia Theatre Company II; and VP of finance. His many professional endeavors have been supplemented by philanthropic involvement as well: Merton was an original member of the Marietta Metro Rotary Club and has served as treasurer of children’s charity Variety, Tent 21, as well as treasurer of NATO of Georgia, a position he continues to enjoy.
“Dennis has been a great asset to the theatre industry,” says Miller. “It is with great honor [we] have him as the 2014 Statesman of the Year.”
With film screenings, cocktail parties, a silent auction for Variety, and several other educative offerings on the docket for this year’s convention, “the challenging part is just trying to fit everything into what limited amount of time we do have,” admits Miller. And yet it seems the executive director and, given the feedback she has received, her conference attendees wouldn’t have it any other, larger, way. “We’re just always smaller in size,” Miller says of ShowSouth and its relation to other conferences around the country. “That’s what I think makes the difference. Even though we do represent all of the major chain companies in the South, it just gives everyone more time to actually be like a big family."