In April of this year, a group of independent movie exhibitors formed the Independent Cinema Alliance (ICA), a nonprofit corporation aiming to serve as an advocate for those who run independent cinemas. At the same time, the group revealed plans to take over the responsibilities of NATO’s Cinema Buying Group and rename it the Cinema Buying Alliance (CBA). Currently, the ICA has over 234 member companies representing nearly 4,500 screens.
On November 20, the ICA announced it had come to an agreement with 40-year industry veteran Rob Del Moro to head up the new entity. Del Moro is the former Chief Technical and Theatre Operations Officer for giant circuit Regal Entertainment Group (acquired earlier this year by Cineworld). The CBA continues the Cinema Buying Group’s mission to provide a stronger buying structure for smaller cinema owners by combining their purchasing power. “We’re so incredibly fortunate to have Rob’s experience and expertise applied to helping our members improve their bottom line,” says Bill Campbell, President and CEO of the Orpheum Theatre Inc. and an ICA founding board member. “While serving with NATO, he worked closely with independents, so he can relate to the industry challenges our members face and advocate for strengthening their businesses.”
Del Moro notes, “The Independent Cinema Alliance is another voice, not the only voice of independents. Independents are also active members of NATO, but they formed this organization to specifically address issues that are very relevant to them. So it made sense that the Cinema Buying Group would move on over to the ICA, with NATO’s support and NATO’s endorsement, since the Cinema Buying Group predominantly serviced independents.” He continues, “The Cinema Buying Group did a terrific job over the years. My goal now is to take it to the next level, and use all of the years of experience I have in the industry with buying and my relationships with all the vendors. We’re very excited to bring more value to the organization.”
NATO’s Cinema Buying Group arose out of a need for smaller theaters to join the virtual print fee (VPF) programs enabling them to acquire digital projection equipment, and Del Moro says the CBA will continue to assist with equipment needs. But there’s a lot more to running a theater beyond expensive sound and projection equipment. “Currently within the CBG offerings,” Del Moro notes, “there’s a xenon-bulb buying program, a uniform program, a carpet-mill program, a cleaning-supply program. But there are so many areas that need to be addressed that haven’t been in the past. There are so many other consumables that independents use on a daily basis that we’re going to start getting involved with.”
Del Moro understands that independent exhibitors face a host of challenges. “One that I’m most concerned about is their ability to offset rising costs of commodities, of equipment. They’re combating many things that everyone in business is combating: higher payroll rates, regulation, things that affect all small businesses. You’re not going to get a break on your rising labor costs. You’re not going to get a break on your rising rents. So how do you continue to draw a bottom-line profit for your business? Maybe you start collectively working together on reducing costs as a cooperative.
“A guy who’s got three buildings with six screens each, if now he can participate in a group of 4,000 screens, we can hope that we achieve better pricing. It’s good for the manufacturers as well, because now they can know how to go to market and stock or produce a certain quantity, a certain volume. In the current environment, they go out and they hope that this independent picks up their product, whether it’s an amplifier or raw popcorn seed. But now if they know that 4,000 screens are going in collectively … just like an agricultural co-op, they’re going to all bind together and that makes it a lot easier also for the manufacturer. And it can help them plan sales goals for following years as well.”
“One of my initiatives moving into the new year,” Del Moro says, “is to interface with the smaller independents at the small regional shows. At these types of shows it’s a more relaxed atmosphere in which I can spend better quality time with the independents.”
Del Moro has high praise for his colleagues at the Independent Cinema Alliance: “There’s a terrific leadership group that’s involved: Bill Campbell, Byron Berkley, Gina DiSanto, Randy Hester, Jeff Benson—all prominent independent owners from various parts of the country … They’re long-term industry people and very, very smart. And with my involvement with NATO representing Regal, I had the ability to interface with these same people from the NATO standpoint.”
Along with his new duties at the CBA, Del Moro is the founder of Strategies Plus Solutions LLC, a business consulting company that specializes in procurement, food and beverage, marketing, and theater operations.
“After Regal was acquired, I decided to move on to the next chapter of my career and launched my firm. I’m excited that we are able to work with the ICA on this exciting new opportunity.”
Del Moro says he is happy to bring his expertise to the smaller players in the cinema business. “The independents are a vital part of the industry. Everybody’s important in the industry—the big players are very important, but also the independents that bring cinema to the small towns where the large exhibitors would never even consider opening a cinema. That’s part of the American culture that needs to survive and needs to continue.”