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12 People You Need to Know in 2017: John Martin

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Last edited 9:33 a.m., Dec. 27, 2016

John Martin’s path to Hollywood was set by the time he was knee high.

On hot summer days in Houston, Texas, Martin regularly pedaled his bike to watch films at the River Oaks Theater, a nearby single-screen movie theater that showed everything from films created in the 1920s to blockbusters. He compares it favorably to the kind of calendar the Moxie Cinema has created locally.

This inspiring introduction to film led Martin to pack his car as soon as he graduated from the University of Texas-Austin and head to the bright lights of Los Angeles. His first job in the city that both crushes and makes dreams was in the mailroom of Orion Pictures. Martin spent over a decade in Hollywood and worked on development and production for a number of notable films, “Dances with Wolves” being one of them. He never wanted to be in the spotlight, instead wanting to help orchestrate, inspire and create.

“I didn’t want to be in front of the camera. I wanted to be part of the moviemaking experience, which I did at the studio level and production companies in L.A.,” he says. 

Eventually, he says, he missed Austin and headed home in 1997. Martin was Director of Broadband for Frog Design from 1998 to 2002, splitting time between Austin, Silicon Valley and Europe. Instead of sitting in the River Oaks Theater, he found himself sitting in the newly created Alamo Drafthouse Cinema and, once again, found himself stealing away to watch films. 

“It happened to be the year that the first Alamo began and I always thought I was the second biggest customer over the years,” he says. 

He and partner Marc Evans purchased the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema company in 2003. Martin ran it as CEO until 2010. 

In that time span, Martin says the company grew from five or six locations to 15 and created a platform to expand Alamo Drafthouse coast-to-coast.

Now, Martin and Evans, via Springboard Ventures LLC, have 25 locations from San Francisco to New York. Known for operating restaurants and bars in its theaters and employing a zero-tolerance policy toward cellphone usage during screenings, the company is set to open the system’s largest Alamo Drafthouse in Springfield by spring 2017. [Editor's note: Alamo Drafthouse was originally scheduled to open in February, but officials pushed back the launch.]

“Fifty-five thousand square feet, 14 screens – it will be wonderful,” Martin says. 

Neither of the partners had ever stepped foot in Springfield until discovering the availability of Campbell 16 Cine. They purchased flights and headed to the Ozarks to check out the area and the market. 

He says the experience of learning about Springfield has been eye opening: the friendliness; the progressive, pro-business mindset; and the extensive craft brewery and restaurant scenes. They plan on locally sourcing food and beverage as much as possible, he says.

“It’s a business that I’ve wrapped my head around and I enjoy it,” he says. “It’s not really work. In my eyes, it is an extension of my love of film and food and everything in between.” 

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