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Al Shapiro Distinguished Service Award
Every Halloween for the past 35 years, Scott Forman, senior vp andassistant general sales manager of domestic distribution for Warner Bros., has made a point of visiting the Variety Boys & Girls Club in Boyle Heights. “It’s in the most gang-infested area of East Los Angeles — 38 gangs within three miles of the club,” he says.
Forman was still young when his father — a Pacific Theatres employee — and some co-workers started their annual trek to hand out food and gifts at the club for Halloween and Christmas. But the executive says his years spent helping underprivileged inner-city youth has been entirely rewarding. Now, Forman is about to receive a reward of another kind, ShowEast’s Al Shapiro Distinguished Service Award. “What it really means is that the collective group at Variety are a team of people who can do great things to make a difference in the lives of children,” Forman says.
Food and gifts have given way to even greater acts of charity: Forman and his team are gathering capital to rebuild the club itself. They’ve socked away more than $10 million, and Forman says they’re hoping to break ground in the new year on a building that will be “hopefully a Disneyland-type environment.”
The tradition of giving continues in the Forman household: His teenage son is on the board of the recently created Junior Variety, a volunteer program designed to get young people involved in giving back. Says Forman, “Hopefully, they’ll go off to their universities and be the next generation of philanthropists.”
Show ‘E’ Award
Theatrical distribution is in David Tuckerman’s bloodline — literally. His grandfather opened Orange, N.J.’s first nickelodeon, and as Tuckerman grew up, he helped build movie theaters and sometimes even filled in as a night manager. Yet New Line’s theatrical distribution president almost opted for an entirely different career path. “I just love cars,” he says. “I thought owning a dealership would be fun — anything that was exotic and European.”
Fortunately for the movie business, automobiles remained a hobby for Tuckerman, recipient of this year’s Show “E” Award. Tuckerman started out on the theatrical side of things with Music Makers Theaters before moving on to Loews/Sony Theaters. In 2000, he jumped the tracks and landed at New Line, overseeing domestic releases of such films as the “Lord of the Rings” and “Austin Powers” trilogies.
Tuckerman says there are surprising similarities between working for a theater circuit and working for a studio. “When I was in exhibition and buying the film, the first question I always asked was: ‘Who is the audience?'” he says. “Basically the first question I ask here when someone brings us a project is: ‘Who’s the audience?'”
But having worked in exhibition and distribution, he remains leery of both sides’ increased corporatization. “Regional chains that were incredibly important don’t exist anymore,” he says. “People who have put all of these chains together — they’re only interested in making money. This quarter has to be better than last year’s quarter. But this isn’t a business where we can sell more widgets.”
Salah M. Hassanein Humanitarian Award
Whether it’s about the exhibition business or charitable good works, the president of National Amusements says it all comes down to one element: relationships. “You have to do whatever it is that you do with a lot of passion and energy,” says Shari Redstone. “That’s what I learned growing up.”
Admittedly, relationships are a little easier to maintain when it’s a family business. Redstone’s grandfather Michael started National Amusements in 1936, and it has remained in family hands ever since. Of course, the family business also encompasses Viacom and CBS Corp. — Shari is vice chair of the board of directors at both companies, while her father, Sumner, is chair for both.
While there has been some fairly public discord recently between the two, the younger Redstone attributes her interest in humanitarian work to experiences dating back to her childhood. “I worked at Children’s Hospital when I was a kid. I worked in the Medford school system when I was (studying) at Tufts, teaching kids to read. Then I did some work with victims of child abuse, so it’s something that’s always been important to me,” she explains. “That was an important part of our upbringing — you had to give back and make a difference.”
That she has done, serving on the board of directors at such charities as Combined Jewish Philanthropies, the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University and the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation. She’s also on the board of trustees at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. But Redstone likes to mix her work with her charity when possible; for example, she helped CASA organize a Family Day, in which invited families shared dinner and a movie to promote togetherness.
“You looked at these kids and saw how exciting it was for them to be with their parents and families,” she says. “We really feel — one person at a time — we can change the world. For me, it’s about touching the individual.”
Alejandro Ramirez Magana
International Achievement Award in Exhibition
Over the years, Alejandro Ramirez and his father have seen their family-owned cinema chain grow from a national exhibitor with small duplexes to one of the world’s largest international circuits, with state-of-the-art theaters.
Founded in 1971, Cinepolis, which forms part of parent company Organizacion Ramirez, revolutionized the moviegoing experience in Mexico, opening that country’s first multiplex in 1994. Today the Morelia, Mexico-based outfit has nearly 1,700 screens throughout Latin America, operating complexes in Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica and Panama. In May it will open multiplexes in Colombia and Honduras.
Ramirez, who has served as CEO of the exhibitor since 2004, can take plenty of credit for that success, but the Harvard- and Oxford-educated executive says that without certain market factors — namely the deregulation of Mexican exhibition in 1994 — Cinepolis would never have been able to expand as broadly as it has. Privatization signaled an end to government-run cinemas and eliminated the state’s exclusive contract with some of Hollywood’s top studios.
Once Cinepolis and its competitors gained access to product from all major U.S. distributors, modern multiplexes started to crop up across the nation. “Cinepolis was the first exhibitor to introduce stadium seating, ticket sales over the phone, electronic ticketing and Imax theaters,” Ramirez points out.
That business model has worked so well for Cinepolis that it is the only major theater chain in Mexico that doesn’t rely on private equity firms to raise capital. “Fortunately, the business is going very well, and we don’t require that type of financing,” he says.
International Achievement Award in Distribution
Rodrigo Saturnino’s career in the Brazilian film industry has spanned three decades, dating back to the days when Brazil’s military dictatorship held power. From 1977 to 1988, he worked in the distribution division at state-run film agency Embrafilme; at that time, production was on the rise, with moviegoers flocking to cinemas to see the latest local releases. But when the military government fell in 1985, it wasn’t long before the indigenous sector began to suffer.
Saturnino was able to turn his experience to his advantage, however. As industry conditions were shifting, he landed a job as sales manager at Columbia TriStar Buena Vista Filmes do Brasil in 1988, and since the early ’90s, he has served as general manager of Columbia and Buena Vista International’s joint venture in Brazil.
Saturnino says 2007 has been a particularly good year for Columbia TriStar thanks largely to “Spider-Man 3,” which broke Brazil’s all-time boxoffice record. The film went out with 700 prints, the nation’s biggest release ever. But he points out that sizable challenges face distributors in the region, namely the high costs of tickets and the lack of theater development, particularly in lower-class neighborhoods.
“Since almost all of our multiplexes are in (middle- and upper-class) areas, we need more theater development in poorer areas,” he says. “The problem is that most theaters in Brazil are in shopping malls, and many working-class neighborhoods are not ideal areas to build malls.”
But he’s also determined to ramp up local production as well, and Saturnino says he’s especially proud that Columbia TriStar Filmes do Brasil developed, co-produced and distributed 2005’s “Two Sons of San Francisco” — which became one of the country’s biggest boxoffice hits in two decades.
Felipe de Jesus Munoz Vazquez
MPA Anti-Piracy Latin American Government Leadership Award
Before Mexican President Felipe Calderon named Felipe de Jesus Munoz Vazquez head of the Federal Crimes Investigation division of the attorney general’s office this past March, Munoz oversaw a specialized law enforcement unit that investigates industrial property crimes and copyright violations. He also formed part of a Mexican delegation that participated in the International Conference on Intellectual and Industrial Property held in Lyon, France, and he also has participated in diverse bilateral meetings with high-ranking U.S. officials.
Despite his impressive credentials, Munoz has his work cut out for him when it comes to curbing piracy in the nation, where the problem is greater than anywhere else in the world: The audiovisual industry here lost an estimated $1.1 billion in 2005. To combat the epidemic, the federal attorney general’s office has stepped up its anti-piracy raids, particularly in the Mexico City neighborhood of Tepito, where underground warehouses numbering in the hundreds manufacture millions of pirated DVDs and CDs.
Throughout his career, Munoz has placed strong emphasis on coordinating anti-piracy efforts between federal, state and municipal authorities. He also has cooperated closely with the MPA in following leads that have resulted in major busts. Earlier this year, federal police raided a Mexico City lab that had the capacity to produce more than 200 million units annually.
This year alone, Munoz’s division has seized 92 million illicit articles and has dismantled 781 DVD reproduction labs. Federal authorities also have shuttered eight factories that produce and package audiovisual products and have made some 200 arrests. Needless to say, the MPA is pleased. “(Munoz) has injected uncommon energy into combating the actions of those who profit financially from the ideas and hard work of others,” says Steve Solot, senior vp Latin American operations for the MPA.
In addition, Frank Darabont will receive the Kodak Award for excellence in filmmaking. Awards will be presented in two sessions.
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