John Fithian, who serves as the CEO of the National Association of Theatre Owners, has announced that he will retire on May 1, 2023 after 30 years with the organization,
Fithian first began working with NATO as outside counsel way back in 1992. He became the President of the organization in 2000, and the group has already begun a search for Fithian’s successor, who will effectively serve as the top lobbyist for the exhibition industry.
Fithian’s long tenure marked a period of change for movie theaters, from their transition from film to digital projection, not to mention the Covid-19 pandemic, which forced theaters to close their doors, leaving many critics to wonder if they would ever reopen. It was Fithian, working in tandem with theater owners and public health experts, who ensured that they did reopen by helping to create a set of safety standards and cleaning procedures.
“It is nearly impossible to sum up a career of three decades in a few sentences. I will leave that to others,” Fithian said in a statement. “But my highest goal was always to leave this organization and this industry stronger and more effective than I found it — and more importantly — to ensure that it remains strong and effective after I am gone. The professional and experienced staff I leave behind and the culture of service we have built together is a legacy to be proud of.”
Fithian should also be proud of his lobbying efforts to get the federal government to pass legislation that provided federal loans to theater owners and expanded unemployment benefits to approximately 150,000 theater workers who were furloughed during the pandemic.
Fithian also held the line when it came to the industry’s push for shrinking theatrical windows, and while the theatrical window for some titles is down to just 17 days, Fithian correctly predicted that movie theaters would remain crucial to a film’s bottom line, as it’s next to impossible for streamers to recoup the costs of blockbuster movies via new subscribers and their monthly fees.
“John’s impact on the movie theater industry is profound and lasting,” NATO Chairman Rolando Rodriguez said in a statement. “Whether in Hollywood, Washington, D.C., or internationally, NATO’s reach and effectiveness as an advocate for the movie theater industry [have] grown and sharpened under John’s leadership. We have big shoes to fill, and we offer John our [most] profound thanks for all his years of service.”