We’ve Come A Long Way Together
years ago, as I sat down to prepare for my first ShoWest,
the U.S. exhibition industry confronted daunting challenges.
Admissions stagnated. Screen count grew beyond any point
of reason. And several leading theatre companies faced
bankruptcy reorganization in the coming months.
At the same time, the federal government
engaged in a witchhunt against “violent entertainment.” The Federal
Trade Commission sent “mystery shoppers” into
theatres and Congress considered legislation that would
codify the rating system and send theatre operators to
jail for violations. Adding insult to injury, the Department
of Justice launched a series of litigation against cinema
operators under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
On the technical front, the buzz on digital cinema was
heating up, but the industry had little in the way of plans
for the coming conversion. What had I gotten myself into?
In three short years, much has
changed. As the industry gathers for ShoWest 2003,
let’s take stock of how
far we’ve come and be proud.
For the second year in a row, box office revenues set an
all-time high in 2002. Perhaps more important for our association’s
members, admissions rose approximately 10 percent to a
level not seen since 1957. Despite these impressive gains,
our members have properly resisted the temptation to return
to the screen-building frenzy of the late 1990s. U.S. screen
count has remained stable for the past year at slightly
more than 35,000. With admissions strong and screen count
stable, I believe that the days of bankruptcy are over.
In addition to their remarkable
economic recovery, NATO members have also tackled
the challenging political,
and technological issues of the day. By adopting a historic “12-point
initiative” on ratings enforcement and education,
and then by dedicating two years to implementation of those
points, cinema operators have upheld their commitment to
America’s parents. And working through their trade
association, exhibitors have reported on their progress
to their representatives in Congress.
On the legal front, NATO members,
aided by NATO’s
own legal counsel, have won every ADA case to date.
by a non-NATO member, is likely to be reversed on appeal.)
NATO and its members continue to seek a reasonable political
settlement of these issues, balancing the access needs
of our disabled patrons with the economic realities
design and construction.
It is the technological question of digital cinema,
however, where I am perhaps most proud of our industry.
its members established certain principles early in the
The quality of digital cinema must exceed that of film.
The technology must be standardized to promote compatibility
and interoperability. The costs must be proportioned to
benefits. And the transition should occur only in accord
with proper planning.
Despite immense pressure from some leading filmmakers,
technology providers and others to implement digital cinema
exhibitors stayed together and followed those important
principles. Now with our partners at the studios, the proper
for digital cinema is taking place. The quality levels
of the technology have improved tremendously, and will
to do so. And the standards are coming together.
Current challenges remain, and
new challenges will come. Together, NATO and its
members will work together
them all. So let’s enjoy this wonderful ShoWest 2003.
Once again, the Sunshine Group has organized a terrific
week of movies, educational seminars, trade show exhibits
fun. I look forward to seeing you at the events and in
the hallways! And thank you for making the past three years
productive and enjoyable.