By Kirk Senior, Executive Chairman, Vista Group
Ask Murray Holdaway about his top three business achievements and he’ll tell you it’s a combination of the personal, the local, and the global: building Madison Systems from 1987 to be the largest IBM business partner in New Zealand (then selling it); establishing Vista in 1996 and building it up to be the world leader in cinema exhibition software, with site numbers exceeding 5,000 in 2016; and, in building Vista, creating a global company that provides employment, economic return, and contributes to the film and ICT industries. This would be a rapid-fire summary of Murray’s extraordinary entrepreneurship and contribution.
I first met Murray more than 20 years ago, when Vista was starting out. In fact, I was there when the new touch-screen Vista Cinema System was installed in a cinema in Auckland (run by the company I was involved in), enabling moviegoers to buy their concessions and tickets at the same time. Taken for granted now, but back then it was revolutionary. The launch date itself was very memorable: Christmas Eve 1995. Launching a cinema with a brand-new system the day before Christmas was potentially a high risk, but then Murray never has been scared of a challenge and never shy of delivering on a promise. And that bold, pioneering approach is ingrained in the culture that Vista Group maintains to this day.
So, I first met Murray in a business capacity. Over the years, I’ve gotten to know him as a colleague and friend and also spend time with his wonderful family—his wife, Helen, and sons Chris (who’s followed Murray into the company) and Scott.
It wasn’t long after Vista started that the company expanded into Argentina in 1997, enabling Vista Cinema, Vista’s flagship cinema management software, to take off.
Facing a complex operating environment so early in its life cycle, and meeting the regulatory, cultural, and technical challenges it brought, meant Vista developed the ability to adapt and grow quickly internationally, to the point where Vista Cinema software is now installed in cinemas in more than 75 countries and its global share is estimated at 38 percent.
Vista’s exponential growth is highlighted by its 18 consecutive years’ presence at CinemaCon: beginning with two people and a basic table and evolving into an impressive 54 square meters in 2017, exhibiting multiple brands, with 40-plus people and an eye-watering schedule of meetings.
More recently, Murray has started on a new journey to transform Vista from a cinema software company into the leading film industry software group in the world.
Murray led Vista to its public listing in August 2014 with a successful IPO to raise capital for continued innovative development and growth. Murray insisted that all employees were given shares; he wanted everyone at Vista to be owners.
Two and a half years later, Vista Group comprises nine businesses operating across the distribution, exhibition, and moviegoer sectors—each of them aligned with Murray’s vision of delivering leading-edge technology solutions for the global film industry.
Murray is respected for his tenacity as much as for his affable nature. He is visionary, clever, startlingly honest, highly respected and inclusive, a career adviser and accelerator; yet he’s self-effacing, with a great sense of humor.
Murray steers the Vista ship with a steely eye but a gentle hand, and he is loved for it. The success of Vista that is attributable to him is immeasurable.
Murray believes in the mantra “Do good things with good people.” That is the main reason for the extraordinary life cycle of Vista Group. But more than that, it is also why Murray so deserves to be inducted into the BoxOffice Hall of Fame.