New Carmike boss: Skip the hoopla, get back to basics

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While much of the movie theater industry is preoccupied with converting to whiz-bang 3-D screens, digital projection and serving espresso at the concession counter, S. David Passman III is more concerned with the basics, like cleaning the bathrooms.

The newly appointed Chief Executive of Carmike Cinemas Inc. said in interview Thursday that one of his top priorities in his new job was to ensure that the theater chain did a better job of keeping its restrooms clean as part of a ‘back to fundamentals’ strategy.


‘The company kind of took its eye off the ball with regard to taking care of our patrons with clean and friendly locations,’' said Passman, 56, an industry outsider with a background in accounting and publishing. ‘We were focusing on things like digital conversion to the exclusion of normal upkeep and training of personnel. Patrons don’t like to show up at old and dirty theaters.’

Not surprisingly, the former CPA and onetime partner of accounting firm Deloitte & Touche also wants to clean up the company’s balance sheet by reducing its debt load, which stands at $260 million. Passman wants to divert more cash from operations to slash $75 million in debt over the next two years.

Like other chains over the last decade, Carmike amassed heavy debt by spending too much money on acquisitions, costly theater upgrades and opening new locations. Carmike, whose major investors include Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, has about 250 theaters, mostly in small towns in the Southeast.

‘There was a frenzy to build new stadium seating and complexes,’' Passman said, referring to the industry’s building frenzy. ‘New buildings almost became aphrodisiacs. Everybody wanted to build a brand-new building and they made some illogical decisions.’

-- Richard Verrier