THIS IS A PIECE OF FICTION THAT MICHAEL KERASOTES COMPLAINED TO MISS ELENA SALVATORE OF WIKI LONDON ABOUT THAT GOT ALL THE KERASOTES’S EXCEPT HIM BANNED FROM WIKI AND THE INTERNET AND FACEBOOK!!!!! (c) 2015 kerasotes

THIS IS A PIECE OF FICTION THAT MICHAEL KERASOTES COMPLAINED TO MISS ELENA SALVATORE OF WIKI LONDON ABOUT THAT GOT ALL THE KERASOTES’S EXCEPT HIM BANNED FROM WIKI wikipedia.org AND THE INTERNET AND Facebook.com !!!!!  

HE ALSO CAUGHT THEM AND HIS ADOPTED SISTER BETH KERASOTES POSTING THIS ON ANSWERS.COM AND ELENA REPORTED THEM TO THOSE PEOPLE AND ALL BANNED THEM SHE SAID.  WHAT WAS WRITTEN WAS FROZEN LIKE ON FACEBOOK UNTIL SHE OR MICHAEL COULD REMOVE IT.  THEY BOTH DID.  MIKE AND I DID THE REST.  THEN MICHAEL TOLD HIS FRIEND MISTER ROBERT SUNSHINE OF THE INTERNATIONAL FILM JOURNAL NEW YORK AND HIS DAD MORT SUNSHINE ABOUT IT.  THEY GAVE MICHAEL THE PHOTOGRAPH TO USE ON FACEBOOK AND ANYWHERE ELSE HE WANTED AND ANY PHOTO ABOUT HIM HIS FAMILY OR THEIR BUSINESS ROBERT GAVE MICHAEL PERMISSION TO USE THEM.  MICHAEL ALSO ASKED ROBERT IF ELENA COULD USE THEM ON HER WIKIPEDIA.ORG ENCYCLOPEDIA AND HE OF COURSE SAID SURE.  ELENA WAS DELIGHTED.  MICHAEL WAS THRILLED.  ROBERT {{MISTER ROBERT SUNSHINE}} WAS PLEASED FOR FINALLY HIS PHOTOGRAPHS WERE GOING TO BE USED WORLDWIDE AND FOR THE EXPLICIT PURPOSE HE AND MICHAEL HAD ONCE WANTED – – IN AN ONLINE FREE ENCYCLOPEDIA.  SO THERE YOU ARE WORDPRESS.COM, THERE YOU ARE FACEBOOK, THERE YOU ARE GOOGLE AND GOOGLE+, AND THERE YOU ARE WIKIPEDIA, AND THERE YOU ARE INTERNATIONAL FILM JOURNAL AND THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER AND SANGAMONLINK.ORG !!!!!!!!!!!!!

ONE MORE NOTE:          BELOW IS MY ARGUMENT AGAINST THE ARTICLE, MICHAEL’S, AND ALTHOUGH MISTER SUNSHINE HAD MICHAEL REWRITE THE WHOLE THING AND HE DID ROBERT SAID HE WOULD PUBLISH THAT IN HIS TRADE PAPER, MICHAEL NEVER REALLY SAW THE ARTICLE BUT HIS DEAR AND CHILDHOOD FRIEND ADDIE LEE PICKUS-CHASE OF CONNECTICUT SAID SHE READ IT AND LIKED IT.  I KNOW THAT ELENA AND MISTER SUNSHINE TALKED AFTER THAT FOR MICHAEL HAD CONNECTED THEM ALL ON HIS LANDLINE PHONE IN LYNNWOOD WASHINGTON.  AND I KNOW THAT MICHAEL TOLD THEM THANK YOU AND THEY THE SAME, AND SAID THAT YOU TWO DIDN’T NEED HIM ON THE LINE AND GAVE EACH OF THEM THE OTHER’S PHONE NUMBERS FOR HE HAD THEM WRITTEN DOWN AND THEN HE SAID HIS GOODBYE’S AND HUNG UP AND THAT IS HOW YOU ALL GOT PHOTOS OF THE MOTION PICTURE INDUSTRY ON WIKIPEDIA AND FACEBOOK ALRIGHT FOLKS?  I HOPE SO.  THANK YOU.  

THE ARGUMENT:             A. THE GAIETY WAS THE ORPHEUM THEATRE IN SPRINGFIELD.  B.  DEAN NEVER WENT TO COLLEGE HE WAS NEVER GRADUATED FROM FRANKLIN HIGH SCHOOL.  C.  TONY NEVER DID ANYTHING BUT WORK FOR KERASOTES THEATRES AS MICHAEL’S ASSISTANT BOOKER AND HIS DAD’S ASSISTANT BOOKER AND BY THAT I MEAN MICHAEL’S UNCLE LOUIS ANTHONY OR TONY’S DAD.  OK.  D.  BETH LEFT AFTER LOSING ALL THE PROPERTY AND MONEY TONY AND DEAN GAVE HER FOR A PENNY MICHAEL’S UNCLE JOHNNY SAID.  SHE HAD BOUGHT 800 WORTHLESS HILL ACRES IN TENNESSEE AND COULDN’T PAY THE BILL FOR THE ELECTRIC OR THE PROPERTY TAXES.  HIS UNCLE SAID HE WOULD TAKE CARE TO MAKE SURE THE KERASOTES BUILDING WAS STILL UNDER THE GUS AND FLORA ESTATE PLAN AND HE DID AND IT WAS FOR TONY DEAN AND BETH WERE TRYING TO SELL IT FOR A PENNY.  MICHAEL CAUGHT THEM AT IT. E. MICHAEL CALLED THE SANGAMON HISTORICAL LANDMARKING COMMITTEE OR SOCIETY {{{FOR IT HAD A DIFFERENT NAME THEN I THINK}}} AND ASKED THEM TO CALL HIS UNCLE JOHNNY TO SEE IF THEY COULD MAKE THE KERASOTES BUILDING A LANDMARK BUILDING AND I GUESS THEY DID THAT FOR MICHAEL BECAUSE EVEN THE SANGAMON HISTORIC SOCIETY AND LANDMARKING ASSOCIATION AGREED.  I ASKED THEIR EDITOR BUT HE DID NOT KNOW.  I WILL TRY FOR A NATIONAL REGISTRY LANDMARK FOR OR ON IT AND ASK THE KIND EDITOR OF SANGAMONLINK.ORG TO DO THE REST.  I CAN NOMINATE IT.  HE CAN VOTE AND THE REST IS ON WIKI.  GO LOOK PLEASE.  

READ AND COMPARE TO MY NOTES ON HERE AND MIKE’S ON HERE AND THE EDITOR’S ON HERE AND SANGAMONLINK.ORG OKAY?  OKAY.  THANK YOU:            

 “A hundred-year anniversary is a triumph for any business, but the centennial of family-owned, Chicago-based Kerasotes ShowPlace Theatres is particularly sweet. After all, it all began modestly in a candy shop.

The sixth-largest theatre circuit in the U.S., with 933 screens in 94 locations, Kerasotes was founded in 1909 when confectionery proprietor Gus Kerasotes decided to capitalize on the popularity of the new medium of motion pictures and convert his storefront business in Springfield, Illinois, into a nickelodeon showing short films. The Greek immigrant’s venture, named the Royal, was so successful, he opened another theatre, the Savoy, just three years later.

Gus Kerasotes took a bold step in 1921 when he bought the First National Bank building adjoining the Savoy and turned it into a 900-seat theatre called the Strand, featuring Springfield’s first organ to accompany silent films, plus live vaudeville performances. In 1926, he built a three-story headquarters on the town square, and three years later acquired Springfield’s Gaiety Theatre, renaming it the Senate.

Oldest son George helped Gus transition into the talkie era and became general manager of the company in 1933. Soon, Kerasotes was expanding to Illinois towns like Havana and Highland, and by the mid-1940s ran 11 theatres, including the 900-seat Beverly in Peoria and the Varsity near that city’s Bradley University. By that time, Gus’ sons John, Nicholas and Louis had all joined the family business.

By 1953, the circuit employed more than 600 people and had doubled to 22 theatres, including six “open air” drive-ins, and expanded to such Illinois towns as Decatur, Rockford, LaSalle and Champaign-Urbana.

When family patriarch Gus died in 1960, George Kerasotes, recently named president of the National Association of Theatre Owners, took over as president of the circuit, with Nicholas as VP, Louis as secretary and John as treasurer. Under George’s leadership, the company grew to 50 locations by 1967.

During the 1970s, Kerasotes began converting many of its theatres to twins, three-plexes and four-plexes, while opening brand-new multiplexes like the four-screen Esquire in Springfield. By the early 1980s, Kerasotes was the ninth-largest cinema chain in the U.S., with 220 screens in small and mid-sized markets across Illinois, Indiana and Missouri.
The year 1985 was a turbulent one for the Kerasotes family, as George left the company to form his own circuit, GKC Theatres (including 75 former Kerasotes Theatres screens). George’s three brothers, led by Louis as president, continued to run the original family business, and in the next four years added 86 screens, including 22 acquired from General Cinema.

Louis Kerasotes died in 1988, and his brother Nicholas one year later, and the reins were taken by a third generation: Louis’ sons Tony and Dean, who in turn propelled the circuit through an era of steady growth and larger venues. Tony, today’s chairman and CEO, and Dean, president and chief operating officer, will be honored for their impressive record of success and their remarkable family legacy as the 2009 “ShoWesters of the Year” at ShoWest in Las Vegas.

Tony and Dean Kerasotes graciously took time out from their busy schedules at their open-plan offices in the heart of Chicago to share with FJI readers some reminiscences of the family business.

“When I was five or less,” Dean recalls, “my dad put us all in the car on the weekends and we’d go out to the 66 Drive-In, which had opened up around ’52. He’d go out there and check on business, count cars, and meet with the managers. Before there were liability lawsuits, they used to have playgrounds with electric trains in front of the screens, and he’d go out there and fix things.

“Back in those days, we didn’t have concession stands like we have today. Sodas would be dispensed from vending machines; the cup would drop down and a little syrup would go in and then the carbonated water. Those were continually breaking down, and he’d go out and fix the changers.”

Tony, who also remembers being taken to the Strand by his elderly grandfather, recalls the generosity of his father Louis in business meetings. “My father’s primary responsibility was film licensing. These were the days when film salespeople would come in constantly. He handled them all well, and he would always buy something. He was very empathetic to a salesperson’s needs, without giving the store away.”

Dean also praises his dad’s industriousness. “All the time we were growing up, he was focused on business and doing the right thing. We both, through modeling or genetics, acquired his work ethic.”

“He had no hobbies, we have no hobbies,” Tony insists.

Director of operations Tim Johnson, a 31-year veteran of the company, feels that “Louis was very similar to Dean. He started out as a manager, and he would call managers randomly just to touch base and ask their opinion. He paid attention to every possible detail.”

Tony got his start in the family business as a teenager doing clerical work, and briefly went to law school after graduating from Northwestern University. “But I didn’t like it,” he freely admits. “I needed a job, and the job was there to do. It was our family business, and they needed more help at the time.” Tony worked as a film buyer and booker, and he remembers, “Distributors used to have offices close to each other, they would socialize. There used to be offices in Des Moines, St. Louis, Omaha, Milwaukee…it was almost its own little society.”

Dean, two years younger, majored in psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. While there, he pitched in at some of the family’s theatres, including the popular Co-Ed Twin right on campus. “I got my start in operations there,” he notes. “At the Co-Ed we put in probably the first film-transport system in the country. We started early on with automation.”

“We were the pioneers in automating booths,” Tony interjects.

Dean continued his studies at Oklahoma State University, where he earned a doctorate in applied behavioral studies, and forged a career as a psychologist until his return to the family business in 1988.

Asked if his psychology degree gives him an advantage in a people-oriented pursuit like cinema operations, Dean Kerasotes reflects on the changes in customer treatment over the years. “I think it comes in handy. In my early days of actually working in theatres, whether in the booth or as an usher or selling popcorn or tickets, I worked with a lot of excellent theatre managers who, in the late ’60s and early ’70s, were coming to the end of their careers. They’d worked through a period when customer service was a way of life. Then there was kind of a dark ages of customer service in our business, where a lot of that generation of theatre managers passed away and there was something lost, the showmanship and the need to please the customer.

“So when I came back in ’88, one of the things I jumped into was writing job descriptions, making sure that operations were brought back to a standard. Dealing with the public, you have to meet their needs when they come in, or you’re fighting a losing battle. The key to dealing successfully with your guests is to give them an experience that leaves them happy. That’s not to say I don’t run into a few irrational guests who probably could use a referral for a real psychiatrist consult,” Dean laughs, “but that kind of approach could get me in more trouble, so I just take it with a grain of salt.

Dean continues, “In all of our training materials, we concentrate on something we call ‘show service,’ the idea that the customer experience comes first. In today’s workplace, you’re always fighting the perception that my job—say, cleaning the popper—is the main thing. But from the executives to the ushers, we try to instill the idea that your job is to make sure the customer has a good time.”

As chairman and CEO, Tony Kerasotes oversees film licensing, real estate matters, and strategic planning. Dean’s purview as president and COO is theatre management, human resources, and theatre design and construction.

One of the brothers’ most momentous decisions was to relocate their headquarters from Springfield to Chicago in 1999. Dean explains that during the ’90s “we’d grown our operations pretty substantially. We’d built a lot of multiplexes in our existing territories, we’d moved into Minneapolis and the Chicago area, so the center of our circuit had moved a little further north. We also needed to beef up our corporate structure, and the center of finance, legal, and the ability to attract qualified management professionals was in Chicago.” The company still maintains an office in Springfield, however, in the same building constructed by Gus Kerasotes in 1926.

Chief financial officer Jim DeBruzzi was one of the company’s first new hires in Chicago. Looking back at that troubled time for the movie theatre business, DeBruzzi admits, “I joined at probably the worst possible moment. I didn’t know that much about the industry. At my first company Christmas party, Tony said, ‘So are you sorry you joined?’ But we as a company were fine. While a lot of our competitors were filing bankruptcy, our cash for that year upticked ever so slightly. In fact, our cash flow never downticked at any point during that time. And whatever malaise that was hanging over the industry was quickly dissipated in 2002 when we had an unbelievable year. Every weekend was a record weekend, a celebration.”

Within a few years of its move to Chicago, Kerasotes embarked on a major expansion program. DeBruzzi explains the strategy: “The circuit was always Midwest-based, and for years most of the cash flow came out of smaller towns. That was the genesis of Kerasotes. At that time Tony and Dean had a vision of expanding, where it made sense, into bigger metropolitan markets like Minneapolis, Indianapolis, Chicago. In the meantime, we still had good, healthy cash flow coming from the smaller towns where we had always done business. But some of the theatres there were not serving the general public like they should. Many were small complexes, with auditoriums tacked on here and there, and sloped floors.

“So we had a two-pronged attack: Enter bigger metropolitan markets we’d never been in before, and retrench in the existing markets that could support a more modern and bigger complex. A prime example of the latter is Galesburg, Illinois: We had two two-screen theatres there, and replaced them with a modern eight-plex with all stadium seating which has done very well.”

DeBruzzi notes some other milestones. “Our Bolingbrook theatre in the Chicago suburbs was I think the first stadium seating unit in the entire Chicago metropolitan area. We did the same thing in Minneapolis—two 16-plexes with all stadium seating… The majority of our theatres today are newer. About 78% of our auditoriums today have stadium seating, which puts us near the top.”

Four years after the move to Chicago, Providence Equity Partners made a major investment in the company, and the circuit changed its name to Kerasotes ShowPlace Theatres. Providence’s majority ownership of Aurora, CO-based Colorado Cinemas, combined with Kerasotes’ minority stake, led to Kerasotes’ full acquisition of the 125-screen circuit in March 2007. And at the beginning of 2008, Kerasotes acquired six theatres in Wisconsin and Iowa from AGT Enterprises/Star Iowa, LLC. “They were for the most part very new, very nice theatres in markets similar to the ones we operate in,” says Tony. “The assets were high-quality.”

Along with its expansion westward to Colorado, Kerasotes ShowPlace Theatres is reaching out to both coasts. This past November, the circuit debuted its first theatre in California, the deluxe Showplace 16 in Manteca, 80 miles east of San Francisco. It is the first Kerasotes location with digital projection systems in every auditorium. And this summer, Kerasotes makes its East Coast premiere with a new theatre at the Harmon Meadows mall and office complex in Secaucus, NJ.

In recent years, the company has also significantly raised its profile in its home base of Chicago. “We didn’t have a good theatre presence in Chicago when we first moved here,” DeBruzzi recounts. “Then a couple of events unfolded. AMC and Loews merged, and the Justice Department forced the divestiture of certain locations in certain areas. In Chicago they had two units, the Webster Place theatre and the City North theatre. The Webster, frankly, was rundown and not our best foot forward in a relatively upscale demographic. We went through a blind auction process and ended up the winning bidders for those two locations. We immediately remodeled the Webster and people are rediscovering it. Those were our first two theatres within the Chicago city limits.”

Since then, the circuit has opened theatres in Naperville and Niles, and taken over the Glen 10 in Glenview from Crown Theatres. “We also added a theatre, Galewood Crossings, in an area of the city that we hope keeps getting better and better—its smack-dab in the middle of hundreds of thousands of people that didn’t have a nice theatre anywhere nearby,” DeBruzzi notes. “So all of a sudden we went from having virtually a zero presence in Chicago to having the number one or two market position.”

Coming up at the end of the year is what DeBruzzi calls the “exclamation point” of the Chicago effort, a “spectacular” new theatre at the Roosevelt Collection, a mixed-use retail and condo development in the fast-growing South Loop area. Both this project and an upcoming complex in Minneapolis are, according to Dean Kerasotes, “in a different class than we’ve done before, with reserved and VIP seating, more luxurious ambiance, full-service bars and a restaurant component.”

The circuit’s prime mover in theatre design, Dean prides himself on his meticulousness. “If you look at big, modern theatres, they all have a lot of similarities,” he notes. “What maybe is a little different about ours is that, between me and our key staff, we are very hands-on with every little design detail. Something as simple as keeping the crowd flow smooth into the box office to the concession stand. I think people would be surprised by how much space we dedicate to the box-office area, and we put in probably much larger concession stands than similar size theatres. I don’t want people to have to wait or stand in long lines. The theatres are designed to handle a lot of capacity. Since we started out owning a lot of our theatres, we design them to be beautiful and very durable.

“On the film side,” he continues, “we’re very demanding in how we design our auditoriums. We have our own technical department. We design, purchase and install all of our own equipment, from A to Z, including the concession, the projection and sound equipment. And we’re very picky about our auditorium design, the seating and presentation.”

Two Kerasotes executives directly responsible for ensuring the consistency of the theatres’ presentation and operation are chief information officer Bill Budig and director of operations Tim Johnson. Budig, a longtime colleague of CFO DeBruzzi and one of his first Chicago hires, joined Kerasotes nine years ago, moving over from a career primarily n waste management.

Budig admits that “I used to think this business was not complex. How hard can it be to take money for tickets, sell concessions and start a movie?” Today, he acknowledges, “Every day there’s something different. Now there’s digital technology and 3D. When I came here, point-of-sale, the system side, was not where we wanted it to be, so there’s where I focused all my time: Let’s get our infrastructure to the place where if Dean and Tony decide to buy five more theatres, or integrate a company, we don’t have to worry about how we’re going to handle it. Now it’s kind of an afterthought. If we build a theatre, we’ll put systems in within a week.” Under Budig’s supervision, even the Colorado Cinemas screens were transitioned to the Kerasotes infrastructure virtually overnight.

“Bill quickly set up the infrastructure to allow us to leverage technology and telecommunications to more efficiently and effectively manage theatres, whether they were next to our existing locations or not,” DeBruzzi notes. “Prior to that, we were always limited by physical logistics, but modern technology and point-of-sale systems allow you to manage a theatre remotely. You can walk over to a computer and look at the activity inside any lobby of our theatres in real time.”
Surveying the changes he’s seen over the course of the decade, Budig says, “If you go to our theatres today versus ten years ago, the box-office terminal might look a little different, the ticket stub may look different, but from the perspective of the technology running the business at the theatre level, up until digital, it really hasn’t changed that much. What has changed is how integrated the business is. When our executive team comes in the morning, we know by seven that morning how our business did the night before. We know how many tickets we sold, what films did well and didn’t, we know how many concessions we sold—all the information to help us better run the business is there.”

Customers also benefit from the latest information. “We have a system that polls the theatres every ten minutes, so as soon as the schedule is put in, our website will have the latest showtimes within ten minutes. It’s almost real time. And you can find showtimes for NCM Fathom events, or Disney’s Earth, months in advance.”

Tim Johnson’s career at Kerasotes began in his teen years. “One of our strengths as an organization is the number of managers who started in high school, including myself,” he opines. “Until 1999, every manager we had in the company I personally interviewed. In our current management structure, we have three division managers. Two of the three were hired by me as theatre employees.”

Johnson says the goal of Kerasotes ShowPlace Theatres is to run their cinemas “like a first-class hotel.” Preshow announcements are the norm, and ushers carry old-fashioned wand flashlights that are visible to customers inside the auditorium. The company philosophy is instilled in employees from the very beginning. “Before our floor staff ever waits on a customer,” Johnson explains, “they’ve already worked three shifts just talking about what’s important.”

Reducing wait times is a high priority. “We try to make sure every concession till, every box office till is used at least once a week. Nothing makes a customer madder than to see long lines and nobody back there…. When people come to the theatre, they want to have fun and they don’t want to have to wait on us.”

Dealing with emergencies is also a crucial part of training. “We have training for every possible thing that can occur in a theatre: child abduction, tornadoes, earthquakes. We had a theatre that people were trapped in because of power lines approximately 12 hours after a tornado hit. Part of the roof came off—rooftop units were out in the parking lot. Nobody was injured, fortunately. Each employee has a folder they can go to telling them exactly what to do.”

Johnson admits that “the work ethic is different today, but we have theatres with superb teams of people that we are proud to have representing us. Everyone works together as a team. It was a big move for us to open theatres in California, and we pulled 12 people from different areas and they went out and trained a new team of people. That opened in October, and they’re just now getting back [in January].”

Closer to home, “we opened our Galewood theatre in northwest Chicago, and we hired a lot of kids that really needed to work because of family economics. Usually after the first two weeks you lose a few people—we didn’t lose any. They’re a hard-working crew, really good inner-city kids.”

Along with rewards at the individual theatre level, the company does circuit-wide concession combo sales promotions that benefit both winning employees and the Will Rogers and Variety funds. Kerasotes also participates in scholarship programs through its membership in NATO of Illinois and NATO of Indiana.

Another Kerasotes veteran is head film buyer Pat Rembusch. “When I started with the company 22 years ago, we were under 200 screens,” he recalls. “The growth is really incredible, and we’ve made it through some pretty tough times in the industry.”

Rembusch is a third-generation exhibitor—his father and grandfather both owned theatres in Indiana. He entered the business in 1975, working for United Artists Pictures in Los Angeles, then moved over to exhibition with stints at Mann Theatres and Cinemark before joining Kerasotes in 1987. “It’s absolutely in my blood,” he says of the cinema business. “I’d ride with my dad to check the drive-ins in the evening, and go into the office where the distributors came to sell their films.”

In the past decade, Kerasotes has welcomed more and more so-called “specialty” films. “We’ve nurtured some areas where we feel there is a market, to the extent that we have a subscription base to whom we e-mail the art product that’s opening or holding over,” Rembusch explains. “That’s a very good tool for us. We started that about ten years ago, when art was basically just playing in the art theatres. We thought there would be a market for it if we offered it consistently, and in fact there is. But it depends on what’s available, of course.”

Rembusch says the grossing pattern of Oscar winner Slumdog Millionaire, in particular, has been “extraordinary and very unusual. I had some theatres that were up over 100% from the previous week. It’s going out to markets where historically we wouldn’t even think of playing an alternative type of film.

“It’s those types of films like Slumdog or Juno that come in and perform on a solid commercial level that can make or break a year,” he continues. “You’re going to have the standard tentpoles every year, and most of them will work, but it’s those smaller films that just pop up, that weren’t even on the radar and do $75 million or $100 million, that make it fun.”

Less fun is the challenge of product glut at certain times of the year. “Trying to get seven new films into a 16-plex just after Christmas is very challenging. In some cases, you just can’t do it because you’d be taking something off that’s doing substantial business. It can be very frustrating.”

As part of its network affiliate agreement with National CineMedia since December 2007, Kerasotes offers NCM’s digitally distributed “First Look” preshow program and Fathom live and pre-recorded entertainment events. “We’re seeing opportunities that have never been seen before, that couldn’t be done with film,” Rembusch enthuses. “We’re reading a lot about live sporting events in 3D, which will be terrific. And opera has been very successful, a great example of alternative content developing a clientele we might have lost through the years.”

“People are starting to get used to the idea that you can go to a one-night event at a movie theatre,” says Dean Kerasotes. “Some of the Fathom offerings have been extremely successful: Garth Brooks and Celine Deon sold out. We showed a movie about the Chicago Marathon in 15 locations, and to my surprise that sold out everywhere. I was a runner, but I didn’t realize that there were many people interested in Evansville, Indiana.”

Another part of the digital realm is the coming wave of 3D films. “We’re currently in the process of installing numerous 3D units and trying to stay one step ahead,” Rembusch confides. Feeling “very bullish” about the 2009 and 2010 lineups, he says he’s looking forward to the booking flexibility digital projection will provide. “It’s certainly the future, but it’s a matter of getting there,” he notes.

Part of NATO deliberations on digital cinema, Dean Kerasotes feels this will not be the breakthrough year for d-cinema the industry had hoped for. “I think the loosening up of the credit markets is going to determine when anybody can get financing to actually make the transition to digital. Pieces are in place, the equipment is ready, there are some refinements going on with interoperability issues, but the bottom line is that people can’t borrow any money to finance equipment. The economic forecasts say things will be pretty rough through 2009, so I’m not anticipating a lot happening this year.”

“I would have thought ’09 would be a huge year for digital deployment, but I don’t see it happening,” CFO DeBruzzi observes. “They may have to finance it in smaller bites. The tricky part is: How do you mete out the rollout fairly to everybody, if you don’t have all the money?”
DeBruzzi says the circuit is doing 3D installations in select locations out of their own pocket, and “any new theatre will be all-digital from the get-go. It doesn’t make any sense to do otherwise… The good news is that 35mm worked for the last 80 years, and it will work for one more.”

A visit to the Kerasotes ShowPlace offices in Chicago reveals a collegial team, all with words of high praise for the two brothers at the top.

“Tony has foresight like no one I’ve ever met,” says Rembusch. “He was instrumental in our strategic acquisitions and expansion. And Dean has carried things on the operation side and built some beautiful complexes. They’re great businessmen, very intelligent, and on top of that they’re good people.”

“They are both about as honest and esteem-building people as you’d ever find,” Johnson declares. “They treat people like you would want to be treated, and it builds such a great team. There’s no ‘they,’ it’s ‘us.’”

“They don’t act like the CEO and COO,” Budig attests. “They act like persons working with you to get the same thing resolved. They never pull rank, they never make you feel like you’re talking to the boss. You’re always talking to somebody who’s trying to make the business successful. That’s one of the things I respect about them.

“And they’re just really smart guys,” Budig continues. “Several years ago when a lot of companies were filing for bankruptcy, why wasn’t Kerasotes in that position? That’s because Tony decided years prior that there were too many theatres out there. Focus on what you’ve got. Don’t keep building just to build.”

“They’re just genuinely nice people,” DeBruzzi agrees. “Tey don’t big-time anybody. For all their success, they’re very grounded. No offense to the East Coast, but they have good Midwestern values. The two generations before them all did well, but I don’t think anybody got rich. They bring great values to the table, people enjoy working with them, and they are excellent business people.”

As they mark their family business’ 100th anniversary, Tony and Dean Kerasotes maintain a positive view of the future. “We’re very optimistic,” says Tony. “Obviously, we continue to invest money [in the company]. It’s as survivable a business as I can think of. If you look at what it’s competed against for over 100 years—radio, television, movies on television, made-for-TV movies, cable, DVDs, downloads—we’re still here and it’s still a viable industry.”

Adds Dean, “Whenever I can on a Friday or Saturday night, I’m out visiting our theatres and I go into different auditoriums, and there’s nothing like seeing a full house and people watching something they really enjoy. People who question the viability of our business probably don’t get out and do that very much. It really is a special experience.”

The Kerasotes brothers plan to keep their centennial celebration low-key and maintain a steady course. “It’s gratifying to have grown the business successfully from what we started with, which by today’s standards was not much,” Tony reflects.

Says Dean, “There’s a bit of a legacy that it’s gratifying to know we fulfilled. Our dad and uncles took it through some pretty tough times.”

Adds Tony, “And Dean and I have been doing the same since the ’80s.”

FJI thanks Tony and Dean Kerasotes and their team for sharing these memories, and marketing director Clair Malo for her gracious assistance in preparing this anniversary salute.”

THAT IS ALL FOR NOW.  KINDEST REGARDS, ME MIKE KERASOTES (C) 2015

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