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How many years have you worked in the Movie Theatre Industry and how did you first become involved?
This is my 29th year in the industry. When I was 15, my brother, who also works for AMC, came home from his theatre and asked if I wanted a job because they had fired their entire evening team for stealing.

What’s the best part of your Job? Do you have any memorable experiences that you would like to share?
The people, hands down. I love developing others to take on additional leadership roles within the company.

 

My current role as the Director of the Carmike Transition has been one of the most exciting experiences I have ever had. I’ve worked with a team of people since October in Kansas City creating training plans and schedules in order to assimilate our new theatres and management teams into our AMC brands.

What is your fondest movie theatre memory?
The re-release of the original Star Wars trilogy was quite memorable and nostalgic. Also hosting my first premiere when I moved to Universal Citywalk 19 – it was The Mummy.

How old were you when you went to your first movie? Do you remember the theatre and the city?
I went to the movies with my mom and dad to see Heaven Can Wait at a drive-in when I was 5. I had no idea what I was watching. I think they couldn’t find a baby sitter.

What is your favorite movie of all time? What is it about this movie that stands out for you?
The Godfather is my all-time favorite movie. It’s the movie that whenever it is on, I watch it to the end. I am fascinated by the world of the Corleone Family. Knowing that Paramount did not want Al Pacino in that role originally is mind-boggling to me because I can’t imagine anyone else in that role. What Brando brought to that role was nothing short of brilliant.

Do you have any special interests that you would like to share?
I am very engaged in LGBTQ activism.

What does being a member of NATO of CA/NV mean to you?
It’s important to have an organization that can advocate for your industry and also to promote its successes.

Of all the resources that the Association offers (seminars, scholarships, email advisories, etc.) which is most useful for you?
The advocacy. Plus, I have had multiple employees win scholarships so I love that part of NATO because we give back to the next generation.

 

Jeff Zarillo and Paul Katani
“We were literally waiting in the parking lot to see if they would lift it [Prop 8 marriage ban for same-sex couples], and once they [the 9th Circuit] lifted it we ran into the registrar’s office and got our wedding license.” That day was June 28th, 2013, which also happened to be Mayor Villaraigosa’s last day as Mayor of Los Angeles. He was out on a farewell tour and Mayor Garcetti was getting ready to move in to the office. Mayor Villaraigosa came back to City Hall just to marry Jeff Zarrillo and Paul Katami. Mr. Zarrillo remembers, “His [Villaraigosa’s] carpet was all rolled up, there was nothing on his shelves, and he married us!” Mr. Zarrillo, who is a GM for AMC Burbank 30, doesn’t remember much that happened that day because it happened so fast. He does remember calling his mother to let her know that he was getting married but that there wasn’t time for her to attend. However, Rachel Maddow broadcast the ceremony live.
Jeff Zarrillo and Paul Katami were one of two plaintiff couples that took Prop 8 to court. When the California Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in 2008, the couple had decided it was time to marry. But people who opposed gay marriage put together the ballot initiative, Prop 8. Zarrillo and Katami decided to campaign against the proposition. As he says, “Someone had to do it.”

 

The couple created a video called “Weathering the Storm” that went viral which caught the attention of the American Foundation for Equal Rights. A foundation that was looking for plaintiffs in a lawsuit they were about to file. A few weeks later, Mr. Zarrillo and Mr. Katami were on board.

 

As the case progressed, Jeff Zarrillo and Paul Katami turned to film and stage to make a bigger impact. They were the center of the documentary that appeared at Sundance and on HBO called “The Case Against 8”. It’s a behind-the-scenes account of the 5 year struggle to overturn the ban. The couple to this day still gets messages, not only from the states but from all over the world from people who have seen the movie and changed their lives in some capacity. Academy Award winner Dustin Lance Black, writer of “Milk” and “When We Rise” (a miniseries they were also featured in) wrote the stage play “8” of the trial after the couple lost a court battle to have the recorded trial tapes released to the public. George Clooney, Morgan Freeman, and Brad Pitt all appeared in this play to raise funds for educational purposes. Like Mr. Zarrillo, Matt Bomer came out late in life and played Zarrillo both in the Los Angeles and New York productions.

 

As for his GM job, he is now managing a merger with Carmike Cinemas; AMC was very supportive of Zarrillo’s time away when he needed it during his campaigning and the company championed the couple’s case. AMC played “The Case Against 8” in multiple theatres when it opened. Mr. Zarrillo always found the time to get back to the theatre and do his job. It’s a job he loves and AMC is the only company he’s ever known. He’s been an employee for 29 years (his brother has been with AMC 31 years). When he began at age 15, he was only allowed to work on the weekends, ripping tickets and selling popcorn at his local AMC in Jersey.

 

Jeff and Paul were married again on their first anniversary by their two lawyers who defended them in court, with 250 people in attendance, and their families present. Since he’s able to remember a lot more from his second wedding, he says his favorite moment was dancing with his mother. And after fighting for equal rights in marriage for years, what does marriage mean to him? He loves the word “husband” and the word “marriage”. He loves introducing Paul as his husband. Marriage for him is love and security. He says, “I didn’t know how much it meant to me until I couldn’t have it.”