As a high school junior, Atta Areqat took a part-time job as an usher at the new Cinemark-owned movie theater in Pleasant Hill, CA. Several of his friends had also gotten jobs at the cinema, but that wasn’t the only part of what made the job so exciting.
“I also loved the idea of watching free movies with friends and family,” he says.
Twenty years later, Areqat is now general manager of Cinemark Playa Vista and XD, the company’s flagship theater in Playa Vista, CA. Along the way, he’s moved up the ladder at Cinemark and credits the company’s educational and professional development opportunities for helping him succeed.
“Cinemark has shown me a tremendous amount of support over the years,” Areqat says. “I made it clear that I want to move up in the company so our executives gave me a roadmap that projected where and when I would be promoted.”
Now, he says he feels more valuable than ever and plans to advance into a director or vice president role to be “part of the top-level decision-making.”
For film buffs, popcorn lovers, and anyone else looking for an exciting entertainment-industry career, Cinemark employees say the company supports their professional goals and offers a number of training and development opportunities to help them reach for the stars.
A culture of empowerment
Adilson De Andrade joined Cinemark 21 years ago as a college student in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, after the company opened its first multiplex in the city. “It was an excellent opportunity to learn about the movie theater business through its operations,” he says.
Now based in Plano, TX, De Andrade is senior vice president of technology operations and presentation at Cinemark. “It’s been a journey, and always one step at a time,” he says, adding that his mentors within the company and its culture of empowerment have encouraged him to embrace new responsibilities and opportunities.
Cinemark offers a variety of professional development and training programs to help employees diversify their skills, experiences, and perspectives, says De Andrade, who participated in the company’s leadership academy, and diversity and inclusion and presentation skills courses.
Participating in training programs, including a weeklong intensive program that prepares employees for leadership challenges, is what Melissa Rohrbach, a Cinemark regional vice president in Monroeville, PA, says helped her advance through the company.
Rohrbach joined Cinemark 30 years ago as a high school student. “My friend told me about her job at the movies and how fun it was,” she says. Rohrbach started in the concession stand and then worked in the box office, as an usher, and in projection.
She enjoyed the ability to take on different jobs and was later promoted to assistant manager, where she volunteered for special assignments that came up. In 1996, Rohrbach became a general manager and never looked back.
“I moved from the smallest six-screen theater to bigger locations to opening a new location, and finally to the role I’m in today,” she says. “Mobility is the key to how far you can take your career.”
Rohrbach says she loves the challenge of running her own business and Cinemark instills an “ownership mentality,” which allows her to take charge of the business.
Ongoing learning opportunities
To help employees advance, Cinemark places an emphasis on continuing education and offers a tuition assistance program and scholarship opportunities.
Areqat says he participated in scholarship programs through the company and the National Association of Theatre Owners of California/Nevada. He also qualified for the Cinemark Fellowship Program, which he was nominated for by his regional vice president of operations and the senior vice president of human resources. The program is available to employees in general manager roles or higher who have been with the company for at least three years.
The company covered Areqat’s tuition at Loyola Marymount University, where he recently completed his master’s of business administration. He says the MBA program gave him the “tools to move up to the director or vice president level in the next year.” He plans to complete more educational programs along the way, too.
Embracing opportunities within the company also allows employees to network with other departments, learn from others, and grow professionally.
“I gained lots of exposure and training by relocating to higher-level theaters when the opportunities came up,” Areqat says. “I also helped open seven new locations which allowed me to network with many executives throughout the company. I always participated in our HR training programs and internal development training program when asked.”
Fostering great experiences for everyone
While Cinemark employees focus on growing their own careers, they’re also just as focused on helping others advance. Cross-departmental interactions and the company’s open-door policy help everyone feel a part of the team. De Andrade says leaders focus on maintaining and improving company culture—and they look for growth opportunities for others.
Rohrbach agrees. As regional vice president, she says, “Watching people grow and reach their potential is a privilege. When they succeed individually, Cinemark is successful and stronger as a company.”
Along with supporting its employees, De Andrade appreciates that the company also stays on top of the latest technology to deliver quality entertainment experiences. And, as a movie lover, that makes the company a great place to work.
“This industry is over 100 years old, and it will continue to thrive and evolve over the next 100 years,” Areqat says. He remembers making an announcement to a sold-out crowd at the midnight opening of “The Dark Knight” in 2008, when the audience roars shook the auditorium “like a 7.0 earthquake.”
“It brought shivers down my spine when I realized that I personally provided that feeling of joy and excitement to every single guest in that auditorium,” Areqat adds. “I knew right then and there that I was a huge part of the magic on the big screen.”