The National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) plans to buttress its support of independent cinema operators through a newly created position; Director of Independent Exhibitor Engagement. Todd Halstead, NATO’s Director of Government Relations and Strategy Development since 2021, has been named to the role, which will be added to his current portfolio of responsibilities for the organization.
In his expanded role, Halstead will work closely with the with NATO’s Independent Theatre Owners Coalition (ITOC), chaired by Colleen Barstow of Omaha-based ACX Cinemas. Prior to the pandemic small cinema operators routinely expressed their discontent and belief that NATO only fights for the concerns of major theatre chains. Such talk was mostly squelched when NATO helped secure Shuttered Venue Operators Grants (SVOG) from the United States government during COVID-19 closures. With Michael O’Leary taking over as President & CEO of NATO earlier this year, this appointment may be trying to signal the organization’s commitment to small theatre owners.
Even so, Halstead, a NATO veteran, has plenty of experience working with indie cinema operators, having previously assisted in the founding of the Independent Cinema Alliance (ICA) as its Executive Diretor from 2019 to 2021. It’s unclear whether the newly created NATO position will overlap with ICA’s ongoing work or if it will be complimentary.