Kelly Tricarico is the founder, president and CEO of Cinema Pro, Inc and has been involved in the entertainment construction industry for nearly twenty years. She is also an executive member of the board of the newly formed trade group Women in Exhibition. As movie theatres around the country slowly begin to reopen I wanted to get Tricarico’s thoughts about the challenges involved in getting movie theatres ready for the public as we slowly emerge from the coronavirus pandemic.
Digital Cinema Report: You’ve been involved in the entertainment construction business for many years. What have been some of your favorite projects?
Kelly Tricarico: That’s a difficult question Nick, as they all have their joys and challenges. I really enjoy getting the opportunity to work with my clients from conception to completion. I’m very involved in all aspects of the projects. Having worked on stages and front ends for clients such as Reading Entertainment, Directors Guild of America, MOMA, Dolby, AMC, BowTie, Regal, SVA, Silver Spot/Bardan, Sony, PBS, Film Forum, and various sound proofing projects for SoundSense and ESI (just to name a few), I’d be hard press to choose a true favorite. I will say one of the most interesting projects was re-configuring a screen in the private downtown New York office of multi-billionaire Ron Perelman.
DCR: As I understand it, you took over your old company in 2017, became its CEO and renamed the business. Talk a little bit about that.
KT: Actually Nick, I had worked for another company as the business administrations director, taking care of all the back office administration duties as well as purchasing, marketing, accounting, human resources, etc. Basically a right hand person to the owner since 2003. Unfortunately, in June of 2016 the owner was in a horrific accident that left him with traumatic brain injury. Myself, along with the other employees/installers stepped up and kept the company going for another year until the family decided to close that company. It was then that I opened my own company to continue the legacy. I have been very fortunate to have such wonderful mentors, friends and clients that have helped me learn the ropes. It’s not easy being a woman owned business in this industry, but I’m passionate and determined. I love what I do.
DCR: Prior to March 1, how many people worked for you?
KT: Prior to the beginning of the first COVID 19 cases here in New York, I had myself and five other fulltime employees as well as a number of part-time subcontractors.
DCR: What is that number today?
KT: Sadly I have had to place everyone on furlough until the restrictions lift and we can start making beautiful movie theatres again.
DCR: How many, if any, people in your company have tested positive for COVID-19?
KT: Fortunately there have not been any cases with my direct employees. I have been very diligent about keeping in contact with everyone and trying my best to help them in any way I can.
DCR: An even worse question: how many, if any, have died?
KT: Again, fortunately there has been no fatalities of employees, however, sadly I have had a number of friends that have lost loved ones due in part to COVID 19. It’s especially difficult to watch them grieve, not only because of their loss, but because they can’t honor their loved ones in a manner they would like until all this is over.
DCR: Dealing with the short-term and long-term fate of loyal employees has to be one of the most challenging decisions facing any CEO in the world today. The challenge is even greater in this industry because, by government mandate, exhibitor’s doors are closed and they have no income. How are you handling the situation?
KT: These are scary, uncertain times indeed. I think every good leader is learning to pivot and rethink their protocols. I have been doing my best to provide assurance and support to employees and my clients. I feel confident that we will get through this and come out stronger for having experienced it together.
DCR: Have you been able to do any business during the shutdown? If so please describe the project.
KT: I have been servicing a client in Washington DC where we provided the diffusion film over an interactive video wall. We have had the opportunity to service that site a few times. Sadly, all other work has been delayed.
DCR: What are your customers telling you about their plans going forward?
KT: Honestly, it’s a mixed bag. I service both large and small clients and with the uncertainty of times, it seems to be a wait and see attitude across the board.
DCR: As a result of the pandemic, movie theatre design and construction seem certain to change, at least for the short term. What will movie theatres look like in six months? In six years?
KT: That’s another good question. I wish I could get my crystal ball to work so that I could predict. I suspect that the resurgence of drive-In movies will be something that may have more than a fleeting moment. I also feel that it will be important to make the moviegoer feel confident and safe, so I think the emphasis is going to be on cleanliness and mandated safety measures. My hope is that the studios will continue realizing the importance of the shared movie experience and continue releasing blockbuster hits for us all to enjoy.
DCR: What are your clients telling you about the challenges involved in reopening their theatres and how is that affecting Cinema Pro?
KT: In terms of going forward, it seems that most of my clients are doing their best to rethink what is best for their patrons. The industry is putting a great deal of thought into the issue of safety and social distancing and my clients are trying to implement those standards. At this point, it’s really too early to tell what true affect the outcome of this will be for several of my independently owned clients, but the larger chains are definitely pivoting to contactless booking, integrated seating, self-scan ticketing, pre-order and self-serve concessions and various other protocol that will ensure better safety to their patrons.
In terms of my company specifically, we have had several conversations with various clients in respect to cleaning and maintenance protocol and what we can do to assist in helping the theatres remain a comfortable, safe environment. We are focusing on deep cleaning and disinfecting and we are also capable and certified to do terminal cleaning in case of an outbreak. We are also capable of providing remote monitoring and technical service for networking audio/visual and digital content. We are capable of any and all interior construction remodeling, including seating and lighting changes. We are doing whatever we can to help our clients and we are negotiating reasonable pricing to assist in assuring the success of their re-openings.