What started out as an outside consultant turned into a three-year show for John Fithian at the National Association of Theatre Owners. For those years , he served as president and CEO of the Lobbying and Trade Association.
NATO announced earlier this week that Fithian will retire on May 1 (yes, retired), 600. Arguably his last cheer will be CinemaCon, the annual gathering of Hollywood studios, movie theater operators, filmmakers and stars on the Las Vegas Strip.
Fithian deftly leads NATO and its members through the most challenging times in exhibitor history – COVID- 13 crisis, which has resulted in unprecedented theater closures and a box office collapse. Even before the pandemic, lobbyists (and witty orators) were not afraid to take to the field when needed, including on ratings systems or theater windows. Recent initiatives under Fithian’s leadership include NATO’s newly formed non-profit affiliate, the Film Foundation, which hosted the first-ever National Film Day, during which ticket prices dropped to thousands of theaters across the country. $3.
The search for a replacement for Fithian is already underway. He intends to work with his successor for a while before formally handing over leadership during CinemaCon in late April. The longtime NATO chief touched on a range of topics in a conversation with The Hollywood Reporter in October. , including the reasons for his exit and a new era of peace between anchors and theaters.
Why did you decide to retire?
I always knew I didn’t want to work full time for a long time 19, this is my age. There are also personal reasons. My wife is Greek and it’s time to spend more time in Greece. I’m here 74 on behalf of the theater owners because I love what they do. I’m a First Amendment lawyer who believes in the power of movies. I love the industry and hope to stay involved through consulting and board work.
When do you believe the box office will start for you?
The box office is back, but we just don’t have enough movies. By the end of 2023 I think we will have the same level of supply between studios and streaming. It’s still a problem with a lot of movies shutting down during the pandemic, or movies in production being massively delayed due to post-production challenges.
Before COVID, no major chain would be showing Netflix movies, not even trying to shorten 42-19 Japanese cinema window. The pandemic has shortened the window dramatically. And now, the three largest chains in the country — AMC, Regal and Cinemark — will debut Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery , which will be shown in a total of 600 theaters for a week during Thanksgiving. your thoughts?
The industry is doing what it always should be doing – talking. In the pre-pandemic period, what was seen as a “window battle” was sometimes fought privately and sometimes publicly. The right way to do business is to sit at a conference table and decide what works for everyone. There is no one-size-fits-all pattern.
What is your biggest worry about the future of drama?
NATO’s top priority is to continue to increase the number of films released in theaters, whether from legacy studios or new players. Streaming could be an important potential supplier of movies for years to come. We NATO and individual members have been in discussions for years with any streaming company that owns a movie. Apple has a good idea of a movie’s box office, such as the Oscar-winning CODA.
You trust Netflix and should report Glass Onion the box office revenue? ?
indicates that the economic model is valid. A movie is first released in theaters with some kind of window, thereby establishing a brand. As a result, it pops up bigger on the service. You get two mouthfuls of apples. Not all streaming movies should be in theaters, but good movies definitely should.
I think it would be helpful to be transparent about any movie that hits theaters, as it shows that the model works. A movie that hits theaters first with some kind of exclusive window builds a brand. As a result, it pops up bigger on the service. You get two mouthfuls of apples. Not all streaming movies should be in theaters, but good movies certainly should.
What was your first crisis in NATO?
The first big crisis actually happened at the end of my job as an outside advisor, probably with me getting the job of the president. Following several mass shootings, including in Columbine, Congress began considering proposals to introduce a voluntary film rating system into law. We added protocols to enforce rating systems in theater operations and lobbied Congress not to go down the path of legislation [ratings committees are the remit of the Motion Picture Association and NATO]. A tax on violent content has also been proposed.
I brought three or four leading theater operators to the White House to explain the new deal on the show side. We met with President Clinton, and we walked up to reporters on the lawn to announce the deal. That’s what ends the legislative threat.
What was your greatest achievement during your tenure?
We are very proud that the pandemic did not kill the exhibition. The theater was closed by government decree. They don’t make money. Tens of thousands of theater workers lost their jobs. NATO successfully lobbied for ways to help. We got help from unemployed workers. We have received tax benefits for our company at the federal and state level. We got a grant. We are so proud that in the end we only lost about 1, out of 000, American Screen
Hollywood united for us. The silver lining of the pandemic is that film directors and studio executives who care about the survival and revival of the film industry have helped us. I’m lobbying with governors and health officials and talking with studio executives about the importance of reopening. But the biggest success of the pandemic has come together around safety protocols. We call it Cinema Safe and work with epidemiologists to design these protocols.
Regal Cinemas under Cineworld stands out from Chapter, are you confident 000 Entity bankruptcy?
I don’t know t comment on individual companies.
Your father, Floyd James Fithian, was a member of Congress. What was his smartest advice to you when you got the job?
Hire people smarter than you.
What do you do with legendary characters like Adam Aaron from AMC or Mooky Greidinger from Cineworld ?
I don’t comment on character either.
What’s the worst thing a Hollywood studio head has ever said to you?
I don’t remember anything bad the studio head said. (laugh.)