Earlier this year, Boxoffice Pro partnered with Celluloid Junkie to present the fourth-annual list of Top Women in Global Exhibition, published in our CinemaCon issue. Throughout 2019 and early 2020, Boxoffice Pro will continue to honor the women who have an immeasurable impact on the exhibition industry with a series of in-depth profiles.
There are few people in the exhibition industry that need no introduction, and Susie Beiersdorf is one of them. Currently the vice president of sales – the Americas, for Christie, Beiersdorf has a long history in the cinema business dating back to her childhood when she worked at her parents’ drive-in theater in Southern California. She began working her way up the corporate ladder at Cineplex Odeon before becoming director of sales at DTS, where she helped secure the adoption of digital surround sound. Before Christie, Beiersdorf worked at Sony, where she helped with the rollout of the company’s 4K digital cinema projection systems. Her current title is Vice President of Sales, Cinema – The Americas
Early in your career, you worked in a management capacity at Cineplex Odeon. How did your time there help when you moved to the technology side of the industry?
I was fortunate to grow up in a theater family. Three of my siblings and I continue in the business today. The majority of theater operations at that time were tightly knit family or relatively small corporate entities that sought out people with a passion for the business. Cineplex was one of the companies that was on the forefront of design, operations, and technology. I was exposed to the entrepreneurship of innovation early.
You’ve been an integral part of the theater industry’s digital transition. What’s the next stage now that digital projectors are installed in most of the world’s cinemas?
I think it’s important to note that “digital” applies to both audio and image presentation. Digital has created a variety of opportunities across the industry for enhancing the moviegoing experience, and these are being adopted as exhibitors continue to invest in creating differentiating environments. We are also starting to see the early stages of refresh for the original fleet of digital projectors, as we are near the end of the virtual print fee (VPF) programs.
You’ve been in the more tech-focused side of exhibition industry for years now—at DTS, Sony, and now Christie—but your career has seen you form strong relationships with theater chains. Do you perceive a difference in gender diversity between those two areas? Is the tech side of the exhibition industry more male-dominated?
Regardless of one’s role or gender, if you make it your mission to understand the technology and theater business and consider all stakeholders’ views as part of the entire ecosystem, you can be successful in this industry. As we have embraced the digital revolution, bootstrapping has evolved into more technical and corporate technology-driven individuals being sought out.
What can companies like Christie do to A) encourage gender diversity within the theatrical exhibition industry and B) once there is more gender diversity, encourage women to move up the ladder and achieve executive positions?
Christie is a leading cinema technology provider with a diverse workforce, and we are very proud of this. I believe all businesses should hire based on skills, potential, and performance.
Tell me about your mentors in this business.
First and foremost, my father, who was a wise man with great passion for the theater business. I am fortunate to have been involved with the swift change of the industry at the forefront of the digital transition and developed many relationships along the way. Much of this industry is relationship-based, and the sharing of knowledge is important.
What’s the best piece of professional advice you’ve ever gotten?
My father—my mentor—taught me to always be genuine, honest, and inquisitive.
What advice would you give to women just entering the movie exhibition business?
This industry is like no other. You need to have a passion for it. To be successful, and to grow as a leader, it’s key to learn the ecosystem, build your knowledge and relationships, and get involved in various industry-specific associations.
In speaking with executives, a lot of them are, ironically, too busy to regularly go to the movies! But if you aren’t, is there a favorite theater you like to go to? What’s your ideal movie night?
I love watching movies on the big screen and never get tired of popcorn. I am fortunate to live in Los Angeles, where there are many choices for a great movie experience. When I travel, which is often, I like to check out the local theaters and see how operators are catering to the different markets.