Schulich alum revitalizes movie theatres – and Hollywood loves him for it

Tens of thousands of mostly grey-haired fans have waded through Cineplex lobbies to watch live feeds from the Metropolitan, the renowned New York opera house, wrote The Globe and Mail‘s Report on Business magazine Sept. 26. The hero of this tale is Cineplex’s Calcutta-born CEO, Ellis Jacob (MBA ’76). Both here and abroad, he’s known as the man who’s not just reviving the flagging theatre industry but reinventing it. Cineplex is defying the flat attendance numbers plaguing the rest of its peers.

His efforts have garnered him a certain celebrity in Hollywood. Jeffrey Katzenberg, co-founder (along with Steven Spielberg and David Geffen) of Hollywood’s DreamWorks studio, calls Jacob "a great leader for the entire industry, not just the Canadian industry," and has been known to pull the Cineplex honcho aside at conferences for long tête-à-têtes.

And Jacob is just getting started. He firmly believes that his movie theatres can offer a product that’s as lifelike as if you were sitting in Yankee Stadium or Carnegie Hall. If the 1,100 film execs gathered in Las Vegas for ShoWest 2008 – the four-day confab that kicks off blockbuster season – were expecting any flash from Ellis Jacob [who was named ShoWester of the Year, an honour bestowed on the person who contributed most to the theatre industry in the previous year], they were sorely disappointed. Red carpets and movie stars aren’t his scene.

Jacob didn’t exactly bumble his way to the top of the biggest theatre chain in Canada. "Don’t let him fool you," says Katzenberg. "He’s a bulldog dressed up in sheep’s clothing." Indeed, over the past two decades, humble Ellis Jacob has directed three of the most audacious acts in the North American theatre business: wresting Garth Drabinsky’s Cineplex Odeon from the brink of bankruptcy in the late ’80s; starting a new chain of small-market megaplexes; and pulling off a merger between fierce rivals Cineplex and Famous Players.

Corporate survival guide recommendations includes Schulich EMBA

The Globe and Mail included this item on the EMBA Program at the Schulich School of Business at York University in a feature article on education for business people.

Duration18 months
Star alumnus: Dennis Fotinos (EMBA ’04), CEO, Enwave Energy Corp.

Go here if you’re looking to tap new markets. Schulich students complete a two-week residency at the Kellogg School of Management in Chicago. As well, a 10-day international study seminar takes advantage of partner schools in Asia, Europe and the Middle East. Upon graduation, alumni can take elective courses at Kellogg or Schulich tuition-free.

We are hearkening back to simpler, safer times

There are similarities today with the society of half a century ago, says Marcel Martel, history professor in York’s Faculty of Arts, in a story in the Toronto Star Sept. 26. "The ’50s were about conservatism, social conformity and suburbia." But there were also pockets of discord and a growing teen culture with movies such as Rebel Without a Cause and a concern about teen delinquents who aped a leather-jacketed Marlon Brando riding a motorcycle in The Wild One. Teen culture and youth crime are still issues today, he says, and we have just replaced Cold War fears with terrorism jitters.

Osgoode alum is the catalyst of the of Banff Centre’s theatre arts program

In the spring of 2007, Kelly Robinson (LLB ’82) took advantage of the proximity of Broadway to take a group of acting students from the New School for Drama to see Inherit the Wind, starring Christopher Plummer and Brian Dennehy, and learn a lesson about life-long learning, wrote the Calgary Herald Sept. 26.

Since that moment at the Lyceum Theatre, Robinson, who will only say that he is in his mid-50s, has followed half that advice, having been named director of theatre arts at The Banff Centre last February. The department oversees productions, workshops, residencies and commissions in opera, dance and theatre – a scope of duties that make it impossible for Robinson to stop learning any time soon.

For one thing, he has to figure out how to manoeuvre within the bureaucracy of a large arts institution – The Banff Centre has an annual budget of almost $44 million – while finding support among the higher-ups for new programs and productions. In this, Robinson can draw on a background that includes competitive gymnastics, ballet and a law degree from York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School. These diverse influences manifest themselves in a methodical pattern of speech, marked by the occasional verbal somersault.

The boundary between legit and crooked is beginning to blur

Criminals can take a variety of routes into the financial system, wrote The Globe and Mail Sept. 26 in a story about the increasing sophistication of organized crime. The white-collar professionals they employ include lawyers, accountants, stockbrokers, insurance agents, real estate agents and staff at financial institutions and car dealerships. "Within the criminal milieu, money laundering has taken on a life of its own and has become an integral component in the operations of criminal organizations," York University criminologist Margaret Beare, professor in York’s Osgoode Hall Law School and the Faculty of Arts, has written. "A distinct criminal career has opened up to provide laundering services."

Education grad student runs for NDP in Stratford

Running under the New Democratic Party banner, Kerry McManus is a first-time political candidate, wrote the Stratford Beacon-Herald Sept. 25, in a story about local candidates for the provincial election. She is a teacher/librarian at Stratford Central Secondary School and is currently on leave and working towards a master’s degree in education with a Graduate Diploma in Environmental & Sustainability Education at York University.

Her community involvement has been focused on social justice and environmental issues and includes leadership roles in co-ordinating events that have included food drives, river cleanups, a fundraiser for children in Kenya and a social justice fair. She is a co-founder of CARE Stratford, an organization dedicated to environmental awareness and action.

Boston firm works with York to gauge hockey skills

Think you have the hand-eye coordination to be a National Hockey League star with skills comparable to Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins? Well, a Woburn, Mass. company called SensAble Technologies Inc. has helped develop a simulation test that may prove you right – or wrong, wrote the Boston Globe online Sept. 23. A provider of haptic devices and modeling solutions, SensAble said it worked with neuroscientist Lauren Sergio of York University’s School of Kinesiology & Health Science, Faculty of Health, to develop software for force feedback devices that can "measure player finesse in a virtual hockey game."

On air

  • William Dimma, author, former dean of York’s Schulich School of Business and an honorary member of York’s Board of Governors, spoke about the issue of greed and compensation of executives in connection with the proposed bailout of financial industry, on CBC Radio’s “The Current” Sept. 25.