Nathan Memorial Award

Ron Krueger II grew up in the industry that will honor him today with the National Assn. of Concessionaires’ Bert Nathan Memorial Award.

In 1906, his great grandfather Fred Krueger founded Wehrenberg Theaters, the oldest family-owned circuit in the U.S. He got his start in the business as an usher in one of the chain’s St. Louis-based cinemas. His father and business mentor, Ronald P. Krueger, will be at ShoWest to participate in the happy occasion.

“I’m really honored to receive this award; there’s a lot of great people that received it before me, and the joy of being in their company gives me a good feeling as well,” says Krueger, citing his seven-year involvement as a regional vice president on the NAC board.

National Assn. of Theater Owners president John Fithian had this to say about recognizing Krueger: “Concession sales constitute a fundamental component of the motion picture exhibition business. For many years, Ron Krueger has been an active participant in both NATO and NAC, providing us all with important leadership on the relationship between concessions and the theater business.”

Says Krueger: “A great group of volunteers help run NAC as board members, and there’s a good number of people they can consider year over year. I feel fortunate they are acknowledging me this year. It keeps my engine stoked to continue to give to the organization and to give to the industry.”

Excited to be at the convention rubbing elbows with colleagues and talking such trade issues as advertising, piracy and digital projection, Krueger is more thoughtful when it comes to the delicate state of exhibition in recent times. His general optimism about the product being unveiled by studios for the summer months is coupled with caution when it comes to adding more screens for patrons to see that product.

“It’s a selective growth industry,” he says. “The industry had its problems four or five years ago and I think exhibitors in general have learned from those past mistakes. There needs to be careful expansion and contraction so everyone can stay healthy.”

Wehrenberg operates 15 venues in Missouri and Illinois, and is poised to open locations in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Chesterfield, Mo.

The real fun at ShoWest, says Krueger, will be on the trade show floor. “There’re always wonderful surprises I’ll want to bring back to our theaters, whether a new guest amenity, a new concession item or a new way to deliver better service to our guests through concession stand design or point-of-sale systems.”

Use of the word “guest” is part of the Wehrenberg corporate culture — designed to reflect the company’s emphasis on putting satisfied customers in the seats. “They are invited into our home and we treat them as such, vs. just as patrons walking through the place,” Krueger says.

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more