Can you describe what NAC’s role and organization are?
The National Association of Concessionaires (NAC) is celebrating its 70th anniversary as a trade association this year. The international organization is comprised of trading partners dedicated to the concessions, hospitality, and leisure-time food industry, in not only the movie exhibition business, but also in venues such as professional and college sports arenas, amusement parks, racetracks, family entertainment centers, performing art centers, convention centers, and many more.
NAC members come in all shapes and sizes. The membership consists of people who operate concessions and food service, companies who supply food products and services enjoyed at these operations, and manufacturers who make equipment used in both the preparation and serving of these offerings.
As far as programing, NAC provides a networking platform, tools and education programs that help our members succeed in meeting and surpassing the expectations of the increasingly diverse and demanding patrons who frequent our venues.
The association has over 500 members, which is a high-water mark in recent history. Pardon the brief promotion, but there has never been a better time to be a member of NAC and to prove it, we are offering a very attractive first-time membership rate that more than pays for itself.
NAC has an annual event called the Concession & Hospitality Expo that is slated for July 15–18 at the Denver Marriott City Center in Denver, Colorado. It’s an education conference covering a wide range of topics and a highly successful trade show that is already very close to a sellout. We invite all to attend, and you can find out more by visiting www.naconline.org
You were at CinemaCon last week. What were your key takeaways from the trade show?
The big picture is that the movie exhibition industry is as strong as ever. The show set an attendance record and the trade show floor was jam-packed to the delight of the companies who made a significant investment to display their goods and services. Everywhere you turned, there were substantive conversations and meetings between buyers and sellers. Hats off to CinemaCon and NATO for setting the bar high. We are looking forward to a continuing partnership with CinemaCon.
I am proud to say that NAC members were strongly represented at the show. As an association, we had many great conversations with current and future members. One particular highlight was the NAC educational session, “Concession Confessions: Lessons Learned and Future Opportunities.” It was a panel discussion led by Kathi Gillman of Starplex Cinemas. The content and interaction between the panel and the large audience was impressive and brought some key issues and trends to light.
What are currently the main trends you are observing in the movie theater concession business?
According to the panel of experts that I just referred to, there seem to be three areas that continue to jump out, and they are: quality, convenience, and access to alcoholic beverages. Just about every question and discussion during the session seemed to address one of these topics. Theater patrons reflect current society, meaning they have diverse and demanding expectations.
Food offerings are trending more toward café style, in addition to the traditional fare, which necessitates greater equipment and training.
The design of the concession stand is changing to be more flexible to serve patrons efficiently in both high- and low-demand periods. In-show short-order capabilities and on-premises bars and restaurants for before and after the show are gaining traction.
The inclusion of alcohol service has been highly effective for our theater operator members. They have been able to incorporate this feature in an efficient and responsible manner, and it has opened up new streams of revenue and promotional partnership opportunities with suppliers.
How much of an impact do you foresee for luxury theaters?
The luxury theater is a niche market, but it is growing every year. Many of our theater circuit members are operating a luxury banner or are in the process of piloting the concept. It is a way to cater to the moviegoer that is looking for a all-inclusive, quality experience and a way for theater owners to stay unique and relevant during a time when entertainment is readily available at home. Experiencing a motion picture in a theater with others is still the best way to enjoy the movies, so it makes sense to provide this heightened level of service.
Your organization has an international footprint, which gives you some visibility in the overall industry. What are the elements that set the U.S. market apart from other international markets?
In talking and interacting with several international members, a common thread seems to be the dichotomy of large and small theaters in the United States versus the large circuits internationally. The difference is a constant factor to take into account when providing service to our members.
There are certainly differences that we see between our U.S. and international members. Another element that comes to mind is the current rash of government and regulatory issues and restrictions being placed on operators. Although the particulars of those restrictions may vary, there is some concern that it is open season on the movie exhibition industry around the globe.
Not to diminish the topic, but NAC tends to focus on the trends and issues that are common to all of our members, both foreign and domestic. In our experience, there are many more that unite us than divide us, and one of our key functions is to make sure that we learn from one another.
Chris Dammann is the director of communications for the National Association of Concessionaires.