ShoWest honors William Stembler, Pixar
William Stembler, Georgia Theatre Co.
"I was born into it," Stembler says of the movie theater business, which his grandfather joined in the 1920s. "His first theater was a stable that he remodeled into a theater." But the young Stembler initially resisted the family enterprise, instead joining the Army and earning a law degree from the University of Georgia. After a short stint with the SEC, Stembler was hired by his father as in-house counsel at the family's Georgia Theatres and was promoted to president in 1983. When the circuit was sold to UA, Stembler stayed on for a bit but eventually left and created the current Georgia Theatre Co., which has become a major player in the South with 272 screens in 27 locations (and 10 under construction). During his 37 years in exhibition, Stembler has maintained a family dynamic -- his son-in-law recently joined the company, he boasts -- while also serving in many capacities for NATO, including as chair from 1996-97. What film did he enjoy most this year? " 'The Blind Side,' not even close," he says. "A wonderful values movie and it was filmed at the high school I graduated from in Georgia. More importantly, it was a tremendous performer at our theaters."
Pixar Animation Studios
If a baseball player hit 10 home runs in 10 at-bats, he'd be in the Hall of Fame. Pixar will have to settle for more than $5.5 billion in worldwide boxoffice and a record five Oscars for best animated feature (including three in a row) from its first 10 films. Beginning with "Toy Story" in 1995 and continuing through last summer's "Up," the Emeryville, Calif.-based computer animation studio has enjoyed a track record unrivaled in the history of the medium. How? "At the heart of it all is the passion of the filmmakers to focus on story and characters," says GM Jim Morris. "That's an obvious thing to say but it's one thing to say it and another to make the hard choices to ensure that the projects are successful." True, it's hard to imagine another studio scrapping a half-completed film ("Toy Story 2") to start over from the beginning. Four years into its ownership by Disney and with execs John Lasseter and Ed Catmull now holding dual Disney/Pixar roles, the company has grown to 1,200 employees, with plans to increase its output from one film a year to three films every two years. The perfect streak can't last forever, though this summer's "Toy Story 3" is as close to a sure-thing hit as the studio has ever made. "Every director feels pressure not to screw it up," Morris jokes. "It's our worst nightmare."
10 for 10
Pixar's remarkably consistent track record
"Toy Story" (1995) -- $362 mil
"A Bug's Life" (1998) -- $363 mil
"Toy Story 2" (1999) -- $485 mil
"Monsters, Inc." (2001) -- $525 mil
"Finding Nemo" (2003) -- $865 mil
"The Incredibles" (2004) -- $631 mil
"Cars" (2005) --$462 mil
"Ratatouille" (2007) -- $624 mil
"WALL-E" (2008) -- $521 mil
"Up" (2009) -- $723 mil
Worldwide boxoffice. Source: Rentrak and THR research