Byron Berkley, a well-loved veteran of the North American cinema industry and a tireless advocate for exhibitors and the exhibition experience, is receiving the Vision Award at this year’s CinéShow. Berkley’s decades of combined work with NATO, the Independent Cinema Alliance (ICA), and CinéShow ensures a legacy of dedication and service that will long be remembered by those he has worked with—and will continue to work with—over the years.
After completing his education and serving with the Army Security Agency in Southeast Asia, Berkley began his exhibition career with United California Theatres (UCT) in San Francisco. He spent a number of years with UCT managing theaters in the Bay Area and Sacramento Valley before joining the Dr Pepper Company in Dallas in various marketing capacities. Next up was the Schlitz Brewing Company in Milwaukee, and then General Cinema Corporation (GCC) and its Sunkist Soft Drinks subsidiary, based in Atlanta.
In 1985, shortly after GCC sold Sunkist to RJR Nabisco’s Del Monte Foods, Berkley returned to Texas, acquiring several theater properties that GCC was in the process of divesting. He went on to found Foothills Entertainment, which he continues to operate to this day.
Berkley has been active in NATO since becoming an independent exhibitor and has headed up its Independent Theatre Owners Committee and served on the Executive Board and as NATO treasurer. He has served as president of NATO of Texas and was instrumental in forming Theatre Owners of Mid-America (TOMA), the successor association to NATO of Texas and the surrounding NATO regional associations. A founding board member of the ICA, he was also its first president and currently serves on its Studio Relations Task Force.
In addition to his work with the above-mentioned organizations, Berkley has been an instrumental figure in the growth of CinéShow. Berkely has been involved with the show since 1999, when Al Wiggington, a prominent industry vendor at the time, first proposed a small tabletop trade show in Dallas. With the support of industry vendors, NATO of Texas members, and eventually TOMA members, the show grew to its current prominence as one of the largest and best attended regional trade shows in the country.
Asked about the popularity of CinéShow, Berkley said, “The success and growth of CinéShow has been due to the efforts of our showrunners over the years. People like Rein Rabakukk, Todd Halstead and, most recently, Diane Feffer have been the forces instrumental in growing the show into what it is today. We have been very fortunate to have been associated with them.” Berkley went on to name long-time vendor representatives including, but not limited to, Bruce Proctor, Tony Liberto, David Boles, Doug Sabin, Tony Adamson, Bobby Franklin, Tim Farha, and Tim Patton—for playing a huge role in CinéShow’s growth, saying, “Without the support of folks like these from our vendor community, CinéShow probably wouldn’t have succeeded.” Berkley also noted that the major studios have been very supportive over the years, their contributions adding much to CinéShow’s appeal.
Nearing his 25th year with CinéShow, Berkley will be stepping away from the show and turning the reins over to Diane Feffer at the end of this year’s event. Said Berkley, “Being involved over these past 24-plus years has been one of the most enjoyable and rewarding business experiences I’ve had, but now it’s time to step aside as CinéShow prepares itself to move to the next level. The potential for the show to grow even bigger is unlimited, and with Diane Feffer’s guidance and the support of vendors and exhibitors, [that growth is] going to happen.”
AN INDUSTRY PAYS TRIBUTE
“Byron has always been a huge supporter of the cinema industry and has always been a valued partner. Whether through his long-time support of TOMA (Theatre Owners of Mid-America) or his vision to be a founding member of the ICA, Byron’s dedication to the exhibition industry is unparalleled and should be emulated by all. I congratulate Byron on receiving the Vision Award at CinéShow, as there could not be a more deserving honoree!”
Chris Aronson, President, Domestic Distribution, Paramount Pictures
“Byron Berkley is just a good guy all around. I’ve personally enjoyed working with him as he oversaw the formation of Theatre Owners of Mid-America a few years ago. His calm, steadfast leadership style is the kind of leadership that our industry needs. I wish you the very best, Byron!”
Bob Bagby, CEO, B&B Theatres
“Without Byron, there literally would be no TOMA. It was his idea to merge all the former NATO regionals, so he is quite literally the godfather of TOMA. He was also the brains behind TOMA’s CinéShow convention dating back more than two decades. Byron’s leadership has been inspirational to myself and others in the industry over his many years of service. He is the most deserving recipient of the Vision Award that I could possibly think of, for without his foresight and leadership TOMA would not exist. Congratulations Byron!”
Jeffrey P. Benson, Founder/CEO, Cinergy Entertainment Group Inc.
“Byron is a true champion of independent exhibition. He has been so very active in all forms of advocacy well before I met him almost 30 years ago. Be it be national NATO, state organizations, or his help in forming the Independent Cinema Alliance, Byron has always been a source of sound advice and calming guidance. He is also my champion, and I look forward to continuing to work with him well into the future.”
Bill Campbell, President, Orpheum Theatre Inc. & Chairman, Independent Cinema Alliance
“People make our industry great, and Byron Berkley is clearly no exception! Byron has graciously represented and served exhibitors, both small and large, with conviction for many years. There is no doubt that we have all benefited from his leadership and counsel. For this, we are grateful.”
John Curry, Senior Vice President Food Service, Regal
“On behalf of the Independent Cinema Alliance, we want to say congrats and thank you to Byron for his tireless work and leadership over the years. Byron has been instrumental in helping independents have a voice in Hollywood!”
Rich Daughtridge, President/CEO, Warehouse Cinemas & President, Independent Cinema Alliance
“The Premiere Cinema team wants to say congratulations to Byron Berkley, this year’s CinéShow Vision Award winner. Mr. Berkley has left a positive mark on the theater industry in more ways than anyone can imagine. He’s not only a great operator at Foothills Entertainment but a champion for independent cinema operators at both the state and national level. I have been lucky to have worked with Byron over the years at NATO, TOMA, and the ICA. I consider Byron not only a friend to the industry but a mentor to myself and countless others.”
Joel Davis, COO, Premiere Cinema Corp.
“Great leaders have visions, share visions, and inspire others to create their own. Thank you, Byron, for sharing your visions, your dreams, your ideas, mixed in with your sense of humor. You have always inspired me and many others.”
Gina DiSanto, President, NATO of Pennsylvania
“I extend my heartfelt congratulations to Byron on receiving the CinéShow Vision Award. Byron’s remarkable vision and leadership were pivotal in establishing and developing CinéShow, Theatre Owners of Mid-America, and the Independent Cinema Alliance. His selfless dedication to these organizations, coupled with his years of volunteer leadership for NATO, have left an enduring legacy within the movie theater industry.”
Todd Halstead, Director of Government Relations & Strategy Development, NATO
“I think I met Byron in 1989. I wish I’d met him sooner. He’s been my very close colleague, valued industry leader, respected adviser, valued mentor, and most especially my very dear friend. ln my lifetime I’ve known very few people who are universally admired and respected and without exception held in the highest regard. Byron’s vision and leadership was the stable guiding force behind the creation of CinéShow, and his steady hand has guided TOMA like no other. Finally, I’ve never heard anyone utter a single negative word about Byron, which surprises no one who truly knows him. I’m glad he’s been a part of my industry and my life.”
Randy Hester, President/CEO, Hometown Cinemas
“From the moment way back when I started to work with Byron on reorganizing and regenerating the Southwest NATO group, I have been in awe of Byron in every way. Byron is the role model for strong leadership, dedication to the industry, and all-around decency to all. While I don’t think that he believes me, I always tell him that he is one of my favorite people in the world—but it’s true. I feel so lucky to have had his friendship and support throughout my career. This award could not have gone to a better person. With heartfelt congratulations and love.”
Belinda Judson, Regional Liaison, NATO (Ret.)
“Byron has been a visionary, stable force in the birth and growth of TOMA and support of independent theater operators. He’s brought his entrepreneurial spirit and drive to make the organization and CinéShow relevant and invaluable to its members. Thanks for the leadership and learnings, Byron!”
Ron Krueger, COO, Santikos Theaters GAS, LLC