Showesters of the Year: Tony and Dean Kerasotes

Being named ShoWesters of the Year isn’t a bad 100th anniversary present for Kerasotes Showplace Theaters and top execs Tony and Dean Kerasotes.

“It’s a tribute to our ancestors in the business,” chairman and CEO Tony Kerasotes says of the award. “We picked up the ball from my dad and our uncles, who picked it up from our grandfather, who persevered through a lot of difficulties and changes but kept expanding the business.”

Established in Springfield, Ill., in 1909, Kerasotes now operates 95 theaters with 935 screens and is the seventh-largest motion picture exhibitor in the U.S. In addition, Kerasotes is planning three major openings this year in Chicago, Minneapolis and New Jersey.

Further expansion plans have been stymied by the economic slump, according to president and chief operating officer Dean Kerasotes.

“There’s just not that much cash available for expansion as there used to be,” Dean says. “It’s also having a dramatic impact on the deployment of digital equipment. It certainly has brought to a standstill third-party investors purchasing, financing and putting in (digital) — they just can’t raise the capital right now.”

To bring customers the 3-D films headed to theaters in 2009, Dean and Tony decided to purchase and install equipment themselves. They have 49 digital auditoriums that are capable of 3-D.

“That was a challenge,” Dean says. “Rather than wait for a complete digital transition, we just had to add 3-D digital projectors ourselves. The first show that came out, the Jonas Brothers, did modestly, but we’re looking forward to other releases later in the year.”

Dean attributes the success of his company to its employees.

“Many of our managers and supervisory people have grown up with us in this business,” he says, “so they understand the details of running theaters. Because we keep a lot of our functions inhouse, we have expertise in all areas of exhibition.”

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