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Head of Theater Owner Organization Applauds 2001 and Calls For Careful Growth

6 Mar, 2002 By: Nicole Sperling

LAS VEGAS — Commending the crowd of theater operators and distributors for a record 2001, National Association of Theatre Owners president John Fithian issued a call to remain focused on bringing down screen counts, maintaining ratings monitoring and building only after faithful consideration of competitive properties.

Fithian began his remarks Tuesday on the opening day of ShoWest 2002 with a plea to NATO members to not grant the free concession pass that Ocean's Eleven producer Jerry Weintraub begged for a second year in a row. "Let the man pay for his own popcorn," Fithian joked as Weintraub escaped his remarks to hit the golf course.

After touting a successful 2001 that saw $1.49 billion in admissions, a 30 percent increase since 2000, and a reversal in screen-count growth, Fithian warned exhibitors not to let the past 18 months — during which a dozen bankruptcies plagued the theater industry — become a distant memory. "We will always need to build new theaters," he said. "Let's make sure we do it carefully, and let's not build them on top of one another."

Fithian then explained that the industry had a successful year only because there were good movies in good movie houses. He informed the audience that of the 20 movies of 2001 that grossed more than $100 million, only three were rated R, and none of the top five received the Restricted rating.

"R-rated pictures don't sell as well as family pictures do," Fithian said. "Keep giving us family fare, and we'll keep selling tickets."

He warned the exhibition audience that the FTC will be back out with its secret shoppers to monitor whether the theaters are checking IDs of teenage moviegoers.

Fithian thanked NATO's chairman of the board, Regal CEO Mike Campbell, and vice chairman Steve Marcus, president of Marcus Theaters in Wisconsin. He also commended MPAA president and CEO Jack Valenti for his tireless efforts organizing theater owners and distribution heads to screen patriotic trailers following Sept. 11 and other efforts to send product to soldiers abroad.

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