Jackie Brenneman, executive vice president & general counsel of the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO), and Esther Baruh, former NATO director of government relations, have been selected as the 2022 recipients of the Ken Mason Inter‐Society Award, it was announced Tuesday (February 15).
The Ken Mason Award honors individuals who have made outstanding long‐term contributions leading to the overall improvement of the motion picture experience. Brenneman and Baruh will receive the award at a ceremony to be held on Tuesday, February 22 at the ICTA Seminar Series LA at the Universal Hilton in Los Angeles.
“Jackie and Esther have long been respected for their work on behalf of the movie theater industry,” said Mark Collins, president of the Inter‐Society for the Enhancement of Cinema Presentation, which gives out the award each year. “But their work on behalf of theater owners fighting to stay in business during the pandemic has been nothing short of extraordinary. Without their work, the theater industry as we know it would no longer exist.”
In the summer of 2020, Brenneman and Baruh identified potential pandemic relief funding in the Save Our Stages Act, joined in a coalition with the National Independent Venues Association, secured additional funding to cover movie theaters, lobbied Congress, rallied theater owners and Hollywood supporters, and saw through the passage of $16 billion of federal grants through the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) program in December.
Following the passage of the SVOG grants, Brenneman and Baruh worked closely with the Small Business Administration (SBA) to ensure a process that was fair and workable. They continued lobbying politicians to pressure the SBA to speed up the process and fairly evaluate grant applications amid bureaucratic misunderstandings and delays. The grants were processed and funded beginning in June 2021.
Throughout the process, Brenneman and Baruh educated theater owners and assisted in grant applications and appeals while lobbying the SBA fiercely to adhere to the spirit and the letter of the grant legislation. Thanks in part to their efforts, 1,645 movie theater companies have received $2.47 billion dollars in grants to date.
Brenneman joined NATO in October 2014 from the law firm Foley Lardner LLP as manager of industry relations with a specialty in technology issues. As part of her duties at the organization, she also served as executive director of Inter-Society.
Baruh has been with NATO since March 2014, when she joined as manager of government relations, overseeing NATO’s lobbying efforts. She departed the organization in September to move to Italy.
“Jackie and Esther have always been valuable and highly regarded members of the NATO team in their respective roles,” said NATO President & CEO John Fithian in a statement. “But there is no ordinary job description that encompasses what they have accomplished in the last year and a half. They have, to put it plainly, saved the industry. I cannot think of anyone more deserving of this honor.”
Previous recipients of the Ken Mason Inter‐Society Award include Ioan Allen, Wendy Aylsworth, Curt Behlmer, Susie Beiersdorf, Mark Christiansen, John Fithian, Sid Ganis, Jack Kline, Ken Mason, Barry Reardon, Al Shapiro and Bud Stone.