Exhibitor's chief exec leads digital devotees

The prexy and CEO of R/C Theatres is in exhibition to give moviegoers what they want.

“I don’t believe that a $100,000 or a $10 million chandelier or towel from Italy will bring the first true movie patron in,” says J. Wayne Anderson. “A movie patron comes to a theater to be entertained. And what we want to do is entertain them.”

How the Maryland-based chain meets that goal is what has earned Anderson the Ken Mason InterSociety Award, to be presented Tuesday morning at the 29th ShoWest confab.

Since its inception in 1971, the InterSociety for the Enhancement of Theatrical Presentation has been a place for trade organizations to discuss issues and tackle problems confronting the industry. It was founded by Mason, who was a Kodak VP at the time.

One of the topics on the group’s agenda is digital presentation. For Anderson, it’s not a question of if exhibitors will make the transition, but when — and at what cost.

“It’s very important for us — to have compatible systems with one standard,” he says. “You can take a piece of 35mm film with an analog soundtrack anywhere in the world, even the worst of the third-world countries. And guess what, if there’s a projector, it will run and give you a presentation.”

Anderson has seen digital at work first-hand and liked what he saw when “Star Wars: Episode II — Attack of the Clones” played at R/C’s 16-screen location in Pinellas Park, Fla. A digital version occupied two auditoriums, with 30% of the theater’s seats devoted to the title and it brought in 80% of the “Clones” revenue at that site.

Committed volunteer

Dan Klusmann, publisher of the industry tip sheet Independent Marketing Edge, is not surprised at Anderson’s digital devotion. “Wayne has always been very knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the technical end of our business,” he says. “It’s people like him who volunteer their time that make the industry better for not only the theater owners but the customers in his own theaters and around the country.”

John Fithian, National Assn. of Theater Owners prexy, is equally impressed. “Through his work Wayne Anderson has done more than any other individual to improve the quality of the movie-going experience,” he says.

Still, while the big issues keep Anderson going, it’s the details he believes are most important at each of R/C’s 21 locations in five East Coast states: details like signs in the lobby that display what movies are about to start, comfortable seats and more-than-adequate staffing.

“Don’t get me wrong,” he says. “We have some theaters with chandeliers, and we have fancy towels in some. But that’s not what brings people to theaters.”

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