• YMClogo

    NATO Launches Young Members Committee

    News Reel Blog   

    Millennial isn’t a word. It’s a sentence.

    That’s meant as a reference to “Family isn’t a word. It’s a sentence,” the brilliant tagline for writer/director Wes Anderson’s The Royal Tenenbaums, a classic dramedy about family dysfunction. The point is simple: the word family comes with a loaded meaning that’s different for everyone.

    When people say the word millennial these days, it doesn’t feel like just a word.

    Clichés abound when it comes to the way millennials are viewed. We can’t ditch our mobile devices. We are entitled. We don’t take criticism well. The list goes on and on. It’s not all bad, of course. We are viewed as being highly tech-savvy, and we’re a very racially diverse generation. Still, there seems to be an overwhelming emphasis on the negatives. As a proud member of this generation, I don’t feel like I’m different than anybody else who was just starting out in life and wanted to carve out their niche in the world.

    We are certainly guilty of stereotyping as well. I’d bet good money that if you asked 10 millennials whether or not boomers were directly responsible for global warming 9 out of 10 would answer with an emphatic “Yes!”

    In a recent New York Times article titled “Corporate America Chases the Mythical Millennial,” Google’s Laszlo Bock—the tech giant’s head of human resources—states a simple fact that generational divides are nothing new and should not be viewed as an alarming problem to address.

    “What we’ve seen is that every single generation enters the work force and feels like they’re a unique generation, and the generation that’s one or two ahead of them looks back and says, ‘Who are these weird, strange kids coming into the work force with their attitudes of entitlement and not wanting to fit in?’” Mr. Bock said. “It’s a cycle that’s been repeated every 10 to 15 years for the last 50 years.”

    I think Bock limits his statement by saying “…for the last 50 years.” Has there ever been a time in human history when you couldn’t point to some kind of generational divide? I doubt it.

    So what does this mean for our industry? Well, hopefully with an open line of communication the generational divide can become more of a positive than a negative.

    Enter NATO’s launch of the Young Members Committee.

    The goal of the Young Members Committee (YMC) is to encourage young employees—defined for these purposes as being 35 years old & under—in our industry to feel more connected through education initiatives, social events, and surveys. The YMC is open to any employee at our member theatres no matter what position they hold. We want to nurture talented young people who may want to pursue a long-term career in this industry. This openness in membership will help promote the exhibition industry’s diversity within various job titles. Regional chapters can opt to assemble their own individual committees.

    For organizational purposes, we will have a Leadership Board in order to help develop useful initiatives. Dan Harkins has volunteered to serve as the Executive Board liaison to the YMC.

    When it comes to education initiatives, the goal is to have webinars and in-person gatherings at regional and national conventions. With the webinars, we will look to invite industry experts to speak on topics such as box office grosses and technological innovation. There will also be outreach to industry professionals outside of exhibition in order to investigate topics that are becoming increasingly relevant to this business such as the explosion of eSports and the growing power of Snapchat.

    From a research perspective, the YMC will aim to provide valuable insight into what millennials expect from the theatre experience and how their views will impact what our industry will become over the next couple of decades. Once there is a wide enough base of members, surveys would be a very beneficial way to allow members to make their voices heard. Surveys could also lead to official reports released to the membership from the YMC.

    Millennials live and work in a very different industry than the one previous generations started in. I can barely remember using a phone book in the same way that I can barely remember seeing a new movie projected on film in an auditorium that didn’t have stadium seating. I’ve been working in this business for about nine years now, and I would like to continue doing so until I retire. If China’s box office passes North America’s box office in 2017 and doesn’t look back, then 30 years or so of my career will be in a world in which China is the #1 market and only nine with North America being #1. New developments in virtual, augmented, and mixed reality could entirely change the way movies are projected in theatres. I took it to heart when George Lucas said at CinemaCon 2011 that movie theatres would never go away and cinemas would eventually be filled with holograms. (Even if he was a bit ambitious in thinking that Episode VII would be shot that way.)

    It’s a very exciting time to be in the world of exhibition, and yet the media and various Silicon Valley “disruptors”—I apologize on behalf of my entire generation for the word disrupter being used to the point of causing nausea—are obsessed with saying the industry sticks its head in the sand. It’s my hope that the Young Members Committee will do what it can to fight against this misconception.

    Click here to sign up for the YMC. I welcome any questions, suggestions, and other feedback: [email protected].

  • marriotmarina

    NATO to Merge Annual Meetings and Fall Summit in Los Angeles

    News Reel Blog   

    This article originally appeared in Boxoffice magazine. 

    NATO is combining its annual Fall Meetings, traditionally held in late September/early October each year, with the NATO Fall Summit, introduced in 2013, and held in November the past three years. This change was made in response to member feedback, as the new format will allow members to combine their NATO fall travel into just one trip to Los Angeles, and thereby save on travel expenses. In recent years, NATO’s Annual Meetings met every other year in Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles. This schedule allowed members to lobby Congress while they were in session on Capitol Hill, and meet with studios in Hollywood on the off year. The association has switched its strategy to lobby Congress when the need arises rather than wait every two years. That opened the opportunity to keep the Annual Meetings in Los Angeles where studio relations are always a key priority.

    The schedule for NATO’s Annual Meetings will be packed over the two day event. These NATO committees, task forces and other groups will meet on Tuesday, 27 September: NATO’s Past Chairmen; the Membership Committee; Government Relations Committee; Technology Committee; Conventions Committee; International Committee; and the Independent Theatre Owners Committee. That evening, all attendees will gather for a cocktail party and dinner, generously sponsored again this year by The Coca-Cola Company. A dessert buffet and cordial bar will be provided after dinner to enable members to socialize with their industry colleagues and friends. (Sorry, no dance floor. We’ve seen our members dance, and it’s just better to leave it to the professionals.)

    NATO Technology Committee

    The NATO Technology Committee will meet on Tuesday, 27 September at noon. The committee monitors and analyzes the latest cinema technology to ensure that they achieve the highest standards set by the exhibition industry. Long-time NATO members remember that the Technology Committee addressed such issues as digital sound systems, cyan dye tracks, automated kiosk ticket selling, film reel lengths and split reels, TASA sound level limits, many other topics. The reinvigorated Technology Committee moves the conversation into the modern auditorium. Led by AMC’s John McDonald and NATO Consultant Jerry Pierce, the new challenges brought by digital technology take a high priority for the association. New issues such as higher frame rates and DCP formats join ongoing issues such as piracy detection technology and captioning equipment for the deaf.

     NATO International Committee

    During CinemaCon, the NATO International Committee voted to meet this fall during the NATO Annual Meetings and Fall Summit. There will not be a meeting in conjunction with the ShowEast convention. The meeting will take place on Tuesday 27 September at 4:00 PM PST. The combination of NATO’s governance meetings and Fall Summit provides a better venue for more members to attend. Chair Jan Bernhardsson of Nordic Cinema Group (Sweden) and Vice Chair Valmir Fernandes of Cinemark Int’l will welcome exhibitors from territories around the world, as well as some international association leaders.

    The International Committee will continue its discussions on release windows, movie theft, and cinema technology, and include issues such as marketing, regulatory policies, and import issues. Many of the same challenges confronting NATO’s domestic members occur in our international territories as well, so the dialogue generated through the International Committee continues to benefit all NATO members. We encourage all NATO members operating in territories outside the United States to attend.

    Independent Theatre Owners Committee

    NATO’s Independent Theater Owners Committee (ITOC) provides a forum for discussion and information exchange between smaller theater owners and operators with 75 screens or less. Chairman Joe Paletta (Spotlight Theatres, Inc.), along with Vice Chairman John Vincent (Wellfleet Cinemas) presides over the ITOC. In addition to the committee leadership, four elected volunteer members serve on NATO’s Executive Board of Directors, the top decision-making body within the association. The current elected volunteer members are Byron Berkley (Foothills Entertainment, Inc.), Gina DiSanto (Schuykill Mall Theatres), Jeff Logan (Logan Luxury Theatres Corp.), and Mark O’Meara (University Mall Theatres). In tandem with Bill Campbell, the Managing Director of NATO’s Cinema Buying Group, these seven individuals spearhead dialogue and advocacy for independent owners and operators within the exhibition industry.

    The meeting of the ITOC takes place on Tuesday, September 27 at 2:00 PM PST. It serves as an open discussion of key issues affecting independent cinemas.

     Advisory Board Eligibility

    NATO’s General Membership and Advisory Board Meetings will be held on Wednesday, 28 September, and will cover governance matters as well as an overview of key issues and opportunities affecting exhibition. Audience response technology will be used, so the perspectives of all attendees can be expressed and considered. Following the Advisory Board Meeting, NATO’s Executive Board will meet in private session.

    The NATO Advisory Board is comprised of member company personnel most interested in the issues confronting the industry. They provide a key role in the discussions of association policy and future activity. Advisory Board membership is bestowed upon those members who participate in these discussions. Any management personnel from a NATO member company can join the Advisory Board, and any member can attend the meeting. The current threshold to achieve Advisory Board eligibility is attendance at two consecutive Annual Meetings. Once on the Advisory Board, those members can seek election onto the NATO Executive Board. It remains the most direct platform for NATO members to engage in association issues.

    NATO’s Fall Summit

    Initially conceived as a small gathering of marketing executives in Los Angeles, NATO’s Fall Summit has become a valuable member benefit for over 200 attendees. The Fourth Annual Fall Summit will kick off on Wednesday evening with a film event at the Cinemark Playa Vista Theatre, and continue with a full day of educational programming on Thursday, 30 September. NATO’s Fall Summit is a “members only” program designed for cinema owners, CEOs, and senior marketing and operations executives to stay up-to-date on issues and innovations that affect their business.

    The program remains is development, but one key aspect of the schedule is to bring in marketing executives from other industries that face similar challenges as the exhibition industry. Potential guest industries for this year’s Fall Summit are theme parks and sports franchises, both engaged in providing a unique experience for their patrons.

    Another major theme for this year will be reaching millennials. The team at CinemaCon are working closely with NCM, which has new research on this demographic. They will also follow-up the success of the past two years by ending the educational sessions with a live focus group of millennials.

    Social media continues to be a constant topic of conversation amongst marketing personnel, and the Fall Summit plans to do a deeper dive on the role and importance of understanding and utilizing Snapchat to reach younger audiences. The CinemaCon team hopes to bring in an executive from Snapchat, along with a studio executive, to present data and analysis.

    Another potential panel involves the emerging trend of eSports in cinemas. Several exhibition companies have embraced WorldGaming, and the goal is to have a group of cinema executives alongside an eSports executive to discuss the evolution and potential of the business.

    Other potential panels and programs include mobile ticketing services, a filmmaker/studio for a private breakfast and/or lunch program, and NATO will soon be announcing a studio to host the opening evening’s presentation/screening at the Cinemark Playa Vista Theatre.

    NATO is pleased to provide all of these governance meetings, educational events, and social events to NATO-member owners and executives at no charge. Please plan to join us for these important gatherings of NATO leaders. Registration materials have already been sent by email in May, but please contact the NATO offices for more information.


  • bfflogo

    A Journey Toward Diversity and Inclusion

    News Reel Blog   

    I attended the second annual Bentonville Film Festival (BFF), Championing Women and Diverse Voices in Media, held in Arkansas the first week in May. It featured an impressive line-up of films, panel discussions, celebrity involvement, and community events. Founders Geena Davis and Trevor Drinkwater created the festival on the premise that media has the ability to change the future, by proving that women’s and diverse voices are not only valuable, but they lead to commercial success as well.

    That the inclusion of women and diverse voices is a smart business imperative, and not just “the right thing to do,” is a message that NATO has embraced, and one that was underscored at a BFF “Reel vs. Real Diversity” panel presentation. Jo Handelsman from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, talked about the importance of diversity and science to President Obama. She explained that there are currently 500,000 tech jobs open in the U.S., and not nearly enough qualified people to fill them, in part because of how STEM careers have been presented in film and television. Young women and minorities simply have not seen themselves in these roles. As Geena Davis frequently comments, “If they can see it; they can be it.” Regrettably, the inverse is also true.

    Research suggests that gender balance and diversity are directly related to good decision making. Diverse inputs from individuals with different backgrounds result in better outcomes. Inclusiveness is not only the right thing to do; it truly is the smart thing to do.

    The BFF aims to bring together industry leaders and content creators, to inspire action with the goal of ensuring that media represents the world in which we live, which is 51% women and very diverse. It is a commercially-focused and research-based festival. From the outset, rather than cast blame on a male-dominated industry, Geena Davis’ approach at her Institute on Gender in Media has been to gather and present data to her peers and decision makers, and to have fact-based discussions on why it’s important to have accurate portrayals of girls and women in media. This data-driven approach was evident in the programming at the Festival.

    Let’s take a look at some recent data:

      • In 2015, women comprised 22% of the leading roles in the top 110 grossing films and 9% of directors on the top 250 most popular films, according to research by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University, even though women bought half of all movie tickets.
      • The Center examined 23 prominent U.S. film festivals in 2015 and 2016, and found that women are much more likely to work on documentaries than on narrative features. For example, women comprised 35% of directors working on documentaries versus 19% of directors on narrative features. Women remain far from achieving parity with men at festivals. The festivals in the study screened an average of five narrative features directed by at least one woman versus an average of 18 narrative features directed exclusively by men. The 23 festivals screened an average of eight documentaries directed by at least one woman compared with an average of 16 directed exclusively by men. Overall, women accounted for 25% of directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and cinematographers. These numbers represent little change in for women’s employment in the industry since 2008-09 when women accounted for 24% of individuals in these roles.
      • According to the Geena Davis Institute’s global research, there is a direct association between having a female director or a female writer and seeing more girls and women on screen. When there is a female writer attached, the percentage of girls and women on screen jumps 7.5 %. When there is a female director attached, the number of girls and women on screen jumps 6.8 %.

    Important steps are underway to attempt to address the imbalance. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is conducting an investigation into the industry’s hiring practices, and reportedly began interviewing female directors to investigate discriminatory hiring practices. The move came following a push by the American Civil Liberties Union to examine the disparity between male and female filmmakers.

    In an industry that offers few opportunities for women and minorities, a BFF panel presentation, “In Control of Her Destiny,” noted that increasing numbers of talented individuals are taking control of their own interests rather than depending on the commercial studios. The festival showcased women who have started their own production companies and/or made their own films, including Meg Ryan, whose drama, Ithaca, was screened at BFF.

    My time in Bentonville contributed significantly to my continuing education in gender equality and diversity in film. I attended five industry panels and viewed six great films. Thanks to Event Sponsor AMC Independent, the top winning films receive guaranteed theatrical distribution at AMC theaters, and festival organizers work to secure distribution for all of its competition films.  Following last year’s inaugural BFF, the festival was able to help 87 percent of its competition films obtain distribution.

    While I was inspired and encouraged as I participated as one of the 63,000 attendees at this year’s BFF, the discouraging reality is that women and diverse voices remain seriously underrepresented on screen. This past year, though, female voices have captured the public’s attention as they shed new light on the inequity. Jennifer Lawrence called out Hollywood for its gender pay gap in her essay, “Why Do I Make Less than My Co-Stars?” Tina Fey and Amy Poehler entertained the Golden Globes audience with humor infused with feminist perspective. And numerous female-forward and diverse films were recognized during the 2016 awards season including Brooklyn, Carol, The Danish Girl, Joy, Mad Max: Fury Road, Room, Spy and Trainwreck.

    However, as several panellists at BFF pointed out, just when it appears that we’re at a turning point, the momentum fails to take hold. Twenty-five years ago, Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis’ Thelma & Louise was a box office success and received much media attention. There was widespread belief, at that time, that the film represented a watershed moment for women in film and that, going forward, there’d be many more movies made with women in leading roles. It just didn’t happen with any consistency. Similarly, the success of A League of Their Own in 1992, prompted the media to predict, “NOW we’ll see lots of women’s sports movies.” But ten years would pass until the release of Bend it Like Beckham. Since that time, there have been numerous box office successes for films with women in the lead – Mamma Mia!, The Hunger Games, Brave, Gravity, Fifty Shades of Grey – that belie the myth that audiences won’t support women in starring roles. But somehow, lamented several of the Festival presenters, the momentum still has not taken hold.

    Rather than get discouraged, I’d prefer to think about what exhibition can do to positively affect change. It’s not only content creators who have influence. Leaders in all segments of the industry can be advocates for gender equality. Exhibitors can create and maintain inclusive workplaces. There are very few female film buyers in the U.S. Maybe that can change. Celebrate the women in your organizations and industry. Don’t believe the narrative that women don’t help women. Engage your executives and managers in mentorship programs, especially for women and minorities.

    As Julie Ann Crommett of Google stated during the BFF “Reel vs. Real Diversity” panel, “Know your data. Be intentional about everything you do.” Thanks to the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media and other leading organizations (see sidebar), there is a wealth of data available. Study the research findings. Think about the data and incorporate it in your decision-making. Consider gender balance and diversity as factors in your booking decisions. Does the film pass the Bechdel test? (Does it have at least two named women in it, who talk to each other about something other than a man?) Choose to show gender-balanced and diverse films on your screens. If more exhibitors do these things, together we can advance on the journey to a bright and inclusive future.

    Resources for Information on Gender and Diversity in Media:

    The Bechdel Test

    Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, San Diego State University

    Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media

    HeForShe solidarity movement for gender equality

  • fithiancinemacon2016

    CinemaCon 2016 – Five Key Take Aways

    News Reel Blog   

    This article originally appeared in Boxoffice magazine

    The global motion picture industry came together in Las Vegas on 11-14 April for CinemaCon 2016. With admitted bias up front, we believe this was the most successful motion picture industry convention ever. CinemaCon 2016 featured record registration numbers, a sold-out trade floor, more studio presentations than ever before, important educational programming, and, of course, plenty of high-level private meetings and fun!

    CinemaCon 2016 also established some very important themes that merit highlighting here in NATO’s official magazine. Five of those themes follow.

    Major Studio Product Looks Great for the Foreseeable Future

    With a record domestic box office in 2015 of $11.1 billion (up 7.5%), and another global record of $38.3 billion, some prognosticators had predicted a down year in 2016. Yet the industry’s growth continues. Box office in the U.S. and Canada was up a strong 12.7% in the first quarter of 2016, with a trio of summer-type blockbusters early in the year – Deadpool, Zootopia and Batman v. Superman. Now the second quarter is off to a great start with the massive opening of The Jungle Book.

    At CinemaCon, the major studios demonstrated that this strength will continue throughout 2016 and into 2017 and beyond. Delegates thrilled to product presentations by the major studios including Paramount, Warner Bros., Sony, Disney, Universal, Fox and Lionsgate (in their order of appearance at the show.) During the week, distributor and exhibitor stock prices rose, as Wall Street analysts strengthened their forecasts for future box office. And of course the delegates had fun with more stars during the week than ever before at CinemaCon!

    Two New Movie Suppliers Strengthen the Show and the Industry

    Most major studios have focused more and more on tent pole blockbusters. Exhibitors around the world benefitted from five billion-dollar blockbusters in 2015, more than ever before. At the same time, though, the industry needs mid-budget and sophisticated adult fare to appeal to a broad range of audiences. CinemaCon 2016 brought two new suppliers of movies to the stage – STX Entertainment and Amazon Studios. STX’s self-described mid-size movie strategy will bring more than a dozen original new movies to the big screen each year.

    Similarly, Amazon made big news with its appearance at CinemaCon. Some NATO members questioned us about the appearance of an internet company at the convention. But as their presentation progressed, Amazon made it clear they won’t be another Netflix, and that they are committed to a theatrical release window with very interesting movies.

    The Theatrical Window is Important — Third Parties will Not Decide Movie Distribution Models

    At NATO we continue to believe that exclusive theatrical release windows drive success in theatrical markets and in ancillary movie markets as well. Exclusive theatrical windows make new movies into events. Success there establishes brand value and bolsters revenue in downstream markets.

    To be sure, more sophisticated window modeling may be needed for the growing success of a modern movie industry. But those models will be developed by distributors and exhibitors in company-to-company discussions, not by third parties.

    We were pleased to see support for theatrical windows throughout the week at CinemaCon. Before making big news by announcing four upcoming Avatar movies, filmmaker James Cameron stated that “it’s essential for movies to be offered exclusively in theaters on their initial release.” Director Todd Philips added, “Why are we in such a rush to turn movies into television? Movies are special.” Warner Bros. chief Kevin Tsujihara said on the Colosseum stage that “We are not going to let a third party or middleman come between us.”

    Teenagers’ Support for the Cinema is Strong and Growing

    At CinemaCon the Motion Picture Association of America released its annual “Theatrical Market Statistics”. One key finding involves teenagers, who remain the strongest segment of movie-goers. In 2015 per capita ticket sales for Americans aged 12 to 17 was 7.3, with the highest growth rate of any age demographic. That demographic represents only 8% of the U.S. population, but a stellar 16% share of movie tickets purchased. Teenagers constitute not only our most frequent guests, but they are also the highest spenders. Teenagers have the highest rate of support for 3D and premium large format screens too.

    Diversity in Movies Drives Better Business

    A strong youth audience for cinema signals future industry growth as we develop another generation of movie-goers. Another bright sign for the future is that diverse audiences around the globe are making their voices heard. Historically, three of the biggest cinema markets were the United States, Europe, and Australia. And in the old days those territories weren’t nearly as diverse as they are today. Now, the overseas theatrical markets with the fastest growth rates are found in Asia and Latin America. And here in the U.S., Hispanics have the highest rate of cinema visits and Hispanics are the fastest growing part of American demographics.

    No doubt the construction of state-of-the-art cinemas in all cultures and neighborhoods has enabled this growth. And there is another factor as well. The more that movie casting looks like the world, the more the world goes to the movies. Consider the results for Furious 7. In the U.S., a majority Caucasian country, white folks accounted for only 40% of the tickets sold for the movie. And globally the diverse cast of that franchise has helped to drive record sales. At CinemaCon this year we championed the diversity of our industry, not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because diversity matters for business.

    CinemaCon 2016 indeed served to establish some important themes. But it is committed individuals and organizations that make the convention possible, and that establish a platform for those themes. I want to thank the professional CinemaCon team of Mitch Neuhauser, Matt Pollock, Matt Shapiro and Cynthia Schuler who work hard all year to produce a great show. Volunteer member leaders offer essential guidance and support to that professional team. CinemaCon Board members Rob Del Moro of Regal and Steve Zuehlke of Cinemark top the list. And of course, NATO’s Chairman, John Loeks of Celebration! Cinema, and our Vice-Chairwoman, Amy Miles of Regal, contribute significant leadership to the show as well.

    CinemaCon and NATO also deeply appreciate our sponsors throughout the week. The most significant sponsor, and continuously steadfast supporter of CinemaCon and NATO, has been the Coca-Cola Company. Thanks to Stefanie Miller and her team for their tremendous support.

    Finally, the show is about the delegates. We appreciate so much the 5,000-plus industry professionals who come to Vegas each year.

    See you again in Vegas for CinemaCon 2017 on 27 – 30 March!

  • stripesposter

    NATO Volunteers Make A Substantial Impact – You Can Too!

    News Reel Blog   

    This article originally appeared in Boxoffice magazine

    Military life, for the most part, is nothing like civilian life (unless you subscribe to the Bill Murray in Stripes version of the military, then it’s campy and unrealistic). My friend is a former captain in the U.S. Army. He told me the first piece of advice he received in the Army was, “Don’t ever volunteer for anything.” And he didn’t. Luckily the U.S. Army – and almost all branches of the military – maintains a strict chain of command. You do exactly what the person ranked above you says to do, or there will be dire consequences. It generally works for them. Civilian life, on the other hand, enjoys a much more pleasant approach to volunteerism. In the realm of non-profit trade associations, the member volunteer is the strongest and most valuable asset within that organization. The knowledge and perspective of an experienced member volunteer can help focus the direction of the association. They can also inspire others to do the same.

    The National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) effectively represents the motion picture exhibition industry in many different ways. Whether intersecting with public policy makers in Washington, D.C., or with leading movie industry executives and creative community in Los Angeles, NATO advocates for the collective interests of its members. But without the dedicated and passionate service of committed volunteer members, NATO would be a much less successful organization. Other trade bodies in the entertainment, service and retail industries may have bigger budgets and larger staff numbers, but NATO’s volunteer leadership and grass roots base is second to none. With 566 member companies operating 32,884 screens in all fifty states and U.S. Territories, and with 62 additional member companies operating in 82 countries around the world, NATO can call on hundreds and hundreds of talented and passionate volunteer advocates.

    According to a recent, member-driven Strategic Plan for the organization, NATO’s top priorities include:

    • preservation of a robust theatrical release window;
    • enactment and promulgation of fair government policies;
    • development and standardization of cinema presentation technologies;
    • encouragement of a broad and diverse supply of movies appealing to all demographics in all twelve-months of the year;
    • maintenance of a safe and secure moviegoing environment;
    • promotion of the magical moviegoing experience;
    • oversight and preservation of a voluntary movie rating system; and
    • protection against movie theft (“piracy”).

    With a relatively modest budget (i.e. we spread out those holiday candy gifts for a looong time), NATO staff members pursue these priorities from our headquarters in Washington, D.C., and from our second office in North Hollywood, California. In addition to full-time professional staff, NATO also works with consultants, attorneys and other independent contractors to strengthen our reach. Yet we are only as strong as the input from our members. And here’s the beauty of it all: ANY member can volunteer their expertise to the association.

    Three recent examples exemplify the volunteer spirit at NATO. Each of these three leaders has made substantial contributions to enhance an industry they each truly love.

    David Passman – Board Chairman Extraordinaire

    David Passman, President and CEO of Carmike Cinemas, has served on NATO’s Executive Board for six years, where he recently concluded two terms as Chairman. His vision and leadership won him the respect of NATO members – major circuits and independents alike.  David’s governance acumen helped NATO streamline its governance and strengthen the role of Committees and Task Forces. CinemaCon was in its infancy when David was first elected as NATO Chairman.  Throughout his terms, David was actively engaged in convention planning and his insights and guidance helped CinemaCon grow and succeed. David’s unwavering dedication, commitment and service to the motion picture theater industry are extraordinary. It is fitting that David will receive the exhibition industry’s top honor, the NATO Marquee Award, at CinemaCon 2016.

    Bill Campbell – Champion of the Independent Theatre Owner

    Bill Campbell, President & Treasurer of Orpheum Theatre, Inc. in Sheridan, WY, has served as the Managing Director of NATO’s Cinema Buying Group (CBG) since 2009. He has also served as Chair of NATO’s Independent Theatre Owners Committee. Bill has the typical D.N.A. of an independent operator having helped his dad run the operation while growing up in Wyoming. A dedicated family man (and ardent Denver Broncos fan, so please excuse his swagger), Bill focuses his attention on improving moviegoing in small towns across America. Whether it’s leading the CBG through new program development, or advocating the needs of small cinemas to the studios, Bill exudes an independent spirit. As a testament to his significant contributions, he was awarded the NATO Marquee Award at CinemaCon 2015.

    Randy Smith – Consummate Attorney and Negotiator

    Randy Smith, Chief Administrative Office and Counsel of Regal Entertainment Group, joined Regal in 1998. Since that time, Randy has served consistently as NATO’s most active and influential member volunteer. As a lawyer, a lobbyist, a negotiator, a presenter, an editor and most importantly a counselor to staff and fellow members, Randy has given, and continues to give, his time and considerable talents to protect and grow the movie exhibition business. Randy’s leadership has moved the industry forward on such diverse issues as access for patrons with disabilities; appropriate movie ratings and advertising policies; the fight to stop movie theft; proper building codes; and the detection and prevention of security threats against cinemas. All exhibitors, large and small, owe Randy a debt of gratitude for his tireless work on behalf of the industry he loves.

    The three NATO members just described have each had a lasting and highly beneficial impact on the exhibition industry. And they have each contributed literally thousands of hours of their busy professional time to serve their fellow exhibitors.  But any NATO member can have an impact as a volunteer – without spending thousands of hours doing it.  Here are some examples of how YOU can easily get involved.


    • Attend the annual NATO Membership Meeting and Fall Summit – Hey, it’s free for all NATO members, and most sessions are open to everyone.
    • Become a Member of NATO’s Advisory Board of Directors – This is the easiest and most direct way to absorb and discuss the key issues for the association.
    • Run for a Seat on NATO’s Executive Board of Directors – Thanks to the democratic spirit of NATO’s membership, the decision-making body of the association is obtainable for ANY member volunteer.
    • Join a NATO Committee or Task Force – Focus on one or a few key topics to help guide the Advisory Board and the Executive Board.
    • Respond to NATO’s Government Relations Grass Roots Action Alerts – Act as a voice to local policy-makers on behalf of the industry, and even come to Washington D.C. to influence federal lawmakers.
    • Participate in a NATO, Cinema Buying Group, or CinemaCon Member Survey – The NATO staff craves your feedback.
    • Listen in on a NATO or Cinema Buying Group Webinar – These are always free, and provide significant and immediate return on your membership investment.
    • Check out NATO’s Employee Training Materials – The industry’s frontline employees represent the strongest interaction with the public.
    • Display Important Information in your Cinema on Movie Ratings and Movie Theft – Educate patrons on the content of movies with these FREE resources.
    • Renew your NATO Membership Annually – or if you are not a member, JOIN NOW!

    We adore our members and the daily effort they exert to provide a fun and memorable moviegoing experience. By getting involved in the association, any exhibition company owner or executive can give something back to their industry, while learning a great deal, and making very useful contacts at the same time. Let us know how you might want to get involved. Contact me at [email protected] today!