In most circles, a National Assn. of Theater Owners meeting wouldn’t be considered an ideal spot for a first date. Nor would serving in Vietnam seem ideal training for a career in film exhibition.
Evidently, ShoWesters of the Year MaryAnn Anderson and J. Wayne Anderson don’t run in these circles.
The two met in 1988 at a NATO conference, during MaryAnn’s first year as exec director of the org. At the time, Wayne was president of company operations for R/C Theaters. They became friends and eventually married in 2004. Yet their paths to careers in film exhibition couldn’t be more different.
Wayne’s started while he was a Marine, overseeing theater (cinematic, not military) operations at Camp Pendleton, Calif. After shipping off to Vietnam and serving a tour in the DMZ in 1967, he was sent to Da Nang to become the operator and manager of the first military cinema in the country.
“We had good-quality movies for the troops, but we only had one screen, so you could only run one movie,” he says, adding without a trace of hyperbole, “We ran ‘The Sound of Music’ 963 times.”
He began working for R/C upon his return to civilian life in 1970 and became chairman in 2005. MaryAnn worked for Warner Bros. and CBS before joining NATO, where she became vice president in 1996. In her 19 years with the org, she’s watched it evolve into the industry force it is today.
“I think it was always the redheaded stepchild before,” she says. “But with new leadership and a reinvigorated membership, I think we’ve seen NATO find its voice, and it’s become a very effective and very powerful trade association.”
The two share a belief that digital projection will dictate the future of exhibition (Wayne has been speaking on the subject at NATO conferences since the ’90s), as well as a concern for the environment (they both received an Academy award of commendation this year for their work on conversion to eco-friendly cyan dye for analog soundtracks). Yet, like any couple, they do have differences in perspective.
“I just love the movies,” MaryAnn says. “I love big, lush, historical-fiction films that you get lost in. I get especially caught up in costume and set design.”
Wayne is more pragmatic. “My favorite film is any one that grosses over a hundred million dollars,” he says. “We’re in the movie business, after all.”