Andersons have their moment


LAS VEGAS -- It isn't too often that a husband and wife are named ShoWesters of the Year, but in the awards presentation that concluded Tuesday's opening-day ceremony at the Paris hotel, a hail of tributes made clear that J. Wayne and Mary Ann Anderson have displayed extraordinary commitment to the exhibition business in their decades-long careers.

J. Wayne Anderson serves as chairman of Maryland-based R/C Theatres, which operates 139 screens, while Mary Ann Anderson is vp and executive director of the National Association of Theater Owners. The couple celebrated their third anniversary on Valentine's Day.

Revolution Studios partner Tom Sherak said his relationship with J. Wayne Anderson dates to 1973, when the East Coast native was in the early stages of his career, managing the Stonewall Theatre in Clifton Forge, Va.

Sherak hailed Anderson as a man of "incredible integrity and honesty, truly a gentleman whose life has been filled with many honors and awards."

"What can you say? Hell, most people are dead when they get such awards," Anderson said with a smile as he accepted the prize, his second trophy from ShoWest in four years. (He received the Ken Mason InterSociety Award in 2003). He also thanked his daughter and the members of his "R/C family."

"I've said in the past that to receive awards you should put more into the industry than you take out," he said. "I hope I have put enough back into the industry to deserve this."

NATO president and CEO John Fithian offered generous praise for his colleague Mary Ann Anderson, even referring to her at one point as a "superhero" -- a compliment that coincided with an overhead slide popping up that showed her face on the body of Spider-Man.

Fithian singled her out for the "consummate professionalism" she has displayed since joining the organization in 1988. During her tenure, she has oversaw the publication of a book paying homage to exhibition, "America Goes to the Movies"; in the aftermath of Sept. 11, she organized a benefit that raised $5 million for victims and their families; she recently opened the organization's Washington office; and she serves on the board of the Will Rogers Motion Picture Pioneers Foundation.

As the crowd stood and applauded, Mary Ann Anderson blinked back tears, recalling the days in her youth when she and a friend would spend Saturday afternoons at the Fox Theater in Riverside, Calif., along with some sage parental advice. "My mom always said, 'Find work you're passionate about, and it won't feel like work,' " she said. "I have loved my work, and my work brought me love."