Andrew Cretors carries on the legacy of his great-great-grandfather Charles Cretors, who founded C. Cretors and Co. over 130 years ago. A stalwart of the cinema concessions business, C. Cretors and Co. has brought popcorn to generations of moviegoers. For Andrew Cretors, this service represents a passion that goes beyond family tradition. Andrew Cretors has served as president of C. Cretors and Co. since 2006 and has been an active National Association of Concessionaires (NAC) member since 2008, becoming part of the association’s board of directors in 2009. Cretors will continue his involvement with NAC under a new role this year, as he starts a two-year term as president of the association. He will be receiving NAC’s Bert Nathan Award, a designation the association grants each year in recognition of an individual’s leadership and contributions to the theater concessions industry. Boxoffice spoke with Cretors ahead of the event for his take on the changes and constants of life at the concessions stand.
What has been the key to maintaining C. Cretors and Co.’s success and standing in the industry?
That’s a good question, and a lot of people have asked me that. I really should have a better answer ready to go. The way we’ve looked at it is focused on keeping the customer happy. We know our strengths and capabilities, and that’s what we focus on. We’ve never been out to conquer the world; we’ve always been dedicated to providing the best equipment and solutions to our customers.
Concessions menus are expanding across the country but popcorn is still king. Why do you think that is?
Popcorn is such an integral part of the moviegoing experience. I think it’s one of the things about going to the movies that people really look forward to. When people go to the concessions stand, they’re looking for some sort of indulgence, and popcorn stands out as one of the healthiest options that’s out there. It’s popped fresh on-site and typically has some light seasoning applied to it. There’s a general trend of people steering away from processed foods that might look fun to eat and are creatively packaged, but consumers are looking at those options and are not sure what’s in them and are putting them aside. The other component, of course, is that it’s still a very affordable snack for concessionaires to offer. If consumers demand it and concessionaires can make a nice profit from it, then it’s a winning combination.
We’ve seen technological shifts transform the exhibition business. Does the same idea apply to popcorn, or is it timeless?
As a natural snack, popcorn doesn’t require a lot more than just heating it. There are a variety of different ways to heat it, so from a technological standpoint we’re always coming up with new ways to provide our snacks in as cost-effective a way as possible. We will sometimes lean on our larger industrial line experience: we have machines for smaller theaters and bigger machines that can produce thousands of pounds of finished popcorn per hour. Sometimes we tap into that knowledge and see how we can apply it across all our machines. We’re always coming up with new ideas and ways to make the popcorn at a higher quality with less cost to the concessionaires.
Growing up in the industry, did you ever imagine yourself working in the family business?
That’s an interesting question and it speaks to one of the tenets of our family business. When I was in middle and high school, I would come in and work in the stockroom on my days off. It was a way for me to learn about the business while earning a summer paycheck. My dad had a requirement for all of us—my brother, sister, and I all work for the company today— that if we wanted to make a career out of working here, we each had to first work outside of the family business. It was so we could gain outside experience in our chosen fields, but also to open our eyes to the other opportunities that existed and to make sure we didn’t blindly go in thinking the family tradition was something we had to do. He wanted it to be a choice for us. That’s what we did, all three of us. For me personally, my dad called me up in 1997 and told me they needed an IT network administrator. I have a business degree with a background in management of information systems, so it was an option for me to come back and join the company as the IT guy. As the years passed and different positions opened up, I applied for them and went on to occupy roles as a market manager in international sales, operations, and eventually to the presidency in 2006. I learned many things on the “outside,” as I call it. My dad wanted to make sure that the people I was working with would also have some respect for me. There are a lot of people here who worked hard to get to the positions they’re in, and some of them may not have respected me as a college graduate walking in like I owned the place and giving them orders. It was important for me to work outside the business and then to work my way up.
What does it mean to be receiving this award at CinemaCon?
I was quite shocked when I received the call notifying me that I was going to be receiving this award. I’ve been the treasurer for the NAC for five or six years and have enjoyed the position, enjoyed participating, contributing, and getting to know the people who are shaping the industry. To have been selected for the award is really quite humbling for me, because I guess I really didn’t know I was doing anything that was worthy of such an award. I look at the names of some of the prior recipients and I am humbled to think I’m mentioned among them, let alone receiving the same award. I’m really honored to have been selected. Shelly [Olesen], from Cretors, has received it and so has my dad, but from my perspective, it seemed obvious for them to have received it. Shelly has done so much for the industry, been on so many committees with the NAC and done so much to promote the association and the industry. My dad, with the equipment that he’s designed, much of it becoming industry standard, it makes sense for him to be honored. So it’s really fantastic to be recognized among them with this award.