The gig: Paul Yanover is president of Fandango, the biggest online movie ticket seller. Fandango, based in Los Angeles and owned by Comcast Corp.'s NBCUniversal, enjoyed 81% growth in 2015 ticket sales from a year earlier, benefiting from a surge in advance ticket sales for blockbusters such as "Star Wars: The Force Awakens."
Blame Canada (and USC): Yanover, 49, grew up in Ontario, Canada, where he also attended college to study computer science and economics. He ended up in Los Angeles, where he earned a master's degree in computer science from the University of Southern California. During his academic studies, he sometimes took classes at USC's famed film school. Those electives helped him cultivate an interest in the production process and the emerging technology of computer graphics for moviemaking, he said.
First dog, first job: When he was 12 years old, Yanover got his first dog and decided he wanted to become a veterinarian, so he offered to volunteer at a neighborhood vet's office. Instead, the doctor offered to pay Yanover by the hour to work half-day shifts every Saturday morning, taking X-rays and assisting with operations. His entrepreneurial bent continued into his teenage years, when he videotaped weddings and family events for extra money.
Disney days: Yanover's career began at Walt Disney Feature Animation, which was in the midst of its 1990s renaissance that included hits such as "Beauty and the Beast" and "The Lion King." Yanover was instrumental in developing software and tools for Disney's animation artists. At the time, Disney was incorporating computer graphics into its animated films, but the business had yet to embrace the fully computer-generated, 3-D style later popularized by Pixar and DreamWorks Animation. "It was exciting to see this change around creativity and technology, and how they were coming together," Yanover said.
Detour and return to Disney: In 1999, Yanover and a fellow Disney executive left the company to create a start-up called Ceiva Logic, which makes Internet-connected frames for sharing digital photos. The company is still in business. But Yanover returned to Walt Disney Co. in 2002, where he eventually became the head of Disney Online, overseeing Disney.com, online games and the company's online movie streaming service, among other properties.
Fandango bound: Yanover joined Fandango as its president in October 2012. At that point, the company, founded in 2000, was a popular ticket-selling destination for consumers but had done little to explore other business possibilities. "I looked at it and said, 'I think there's something bigger here,'" Yanover said. "Yes, selling movie tickets is the core business, but really, we're trying to activate people's love of movies."
Buying spree: Yanover has led an ambitious expansion of Fandango through key acquisitions. In 2014, the company acquired the digital video channel Movieclips to expand its reach among film fans who flock to YouTube for the latest trailers. Fandango bought online video retailer M-Go in January in a move to bolster its perks for ticket buyers, including deals that bundle theater passes with digital downloads. Shortly afterward, the firm acquired movie review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes and its parent Flixster from Warner Bros. Entertainment. As part of the deal, Warner Bros. took a 25% stake in Fandango.
Evolving industry: Keeping up with fast-changing consumer habits and technological innovations has been crucial to Yanover's success. Fandango, for example, has experimented with an online ticketing system that doesn't require expensive scanners for entry. Its scanner-free mobile ticket, which Fandango is unveiling at CinemaCon this week in Las Vegas, will be available through five theater chains, including Carmike Cinemas.
Last year the company created an initiative called FandangoLabs to come up with new product ideas. It assembled a board of advisors from different corners of the industry, including Disney distribution head Dave Hollis, Regal Entertainment Group executive Dave Doyle, and filmmaker Jason Blum.
Personal life: Yanover is married, has two teenage daughters and lives in Laurel Canyon. As a Canadian, he says, he prefers to spend his free time in the outdoors. He especially enjoys bike rides in the hills of Malibu and Griffith Park. "For some reason, I just like going up," he said. "It's pretty satisfying when you get to the top."