Following a lengthy executive search among both film and retail industry honchos, the Sundance Film Centers has tapped former theme-restaurant exec William T. Freeman as president and CEO.
Sundance Film Centers is building the Sundance Cinemas arthouse chain in a joint venture with General Cinema Theaters.
Based in L.A., Freeman will manage all aspects of the cinema center startup, including site selection and acquisition, architecture and design, community relations, sponsorship, local business partnering and programming.
Freeman, who is virtually unknown in theatrical distribution and exhibition circles, was VP and general manager of the Walt Disney Co.’s regional entertainment division for the past year and a half. While there, he directed the development and rollout of several new concept eateries including the successful ESPN Zone location-based entertainment sites.
Sundance founder Robert Redford said Freeman “has the right combination of creative, entrepreneurial skills and experiences to lead the development of a business which is for me equal parts art and commerce.”
Prior to joining Disney, Freeman was chief financial officer and chief operating officer of Daka Intl., a $500 million Massachusetts-based food service operation that includes the Fuddruckers and Champs restaurant chains.
Sundance Cinemas got off to a slow start after the Redford-General Cinemas joint venture was announced in August 1997. But starting late last year, the circuit announced plans for locations in Portland, Ore., Philadelphia and Boston.
The company has also been named the theater operator at a planned Los Angeles development on La Brea Boulevard near Santa Monica Boulevard, although no deal has been signed, according to a Sundance spokesman.