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Harkins Arizona’s 5th Largest Private Sector Employer

By Pat Kramer (Variety)


When Dan Harkins, president of the Harkins Theatres chain was chosen this year for the Arizona Business Leadership Association award for “Outstanding Leadership and Corporate Growth,” he was more than a bit surprised. “It usually goes to a publicly-traded organization many times my size with national influence. I’m only in Arizona and I sell a product quite different than computers and software. I didn’t expect to ever receive this honor.”

However, the Harkins Theatres chain is, in fact, a major player in the Phoenix marketplace: With 1100 employees, they are the fifth largest private sector employer in the state. And based on current box office figures, Harkins Theatres attendance is now higher than the combined total for Arizona’s top 25 sporting and recreational venues. In Scottsdale, the site of their corporate headquarters, Scottsdale Economic Development Director Dave Rodrique states, “They are certainly a valuable asset to the community. Not only does Dan have four or five multiscreen complexes here, but he also has his corporate headquarters here which provides a tax benefit to the community, a large number of jobs and a very desirable amenity to our residents.”

The quality of the movie experience is key to many Scottsdale’s large arts community, says Scottsdale Mayor Sam Campana. “Danny brings in foreign films and independent films as well as commercial films which are important to our arts community.” She adds, “Harkins employs hundreds of kids for their first jobs and contributes both in-kind and cash to dozens of our non profit organizations.”

In Tempe, where teenagers used to dominate the downtown landscape, Mayor Neil Guiliano says Harkins Theatres has helped change the demographics by generating traffic to the area. “In 1993, when the Harkins 11 at Centerpoint came, it brought in 1.2 million visitors that first year. As a result, it improved the demographics helping us to attract additional retail and restaurants.”

That trend has continued to occur in each of Harkins new theater locations, most notably, at the junction of Interstates 10 and 60 in Tempe, the home of Harkins Arizona Mills 24. According to AC Neilsen EDI box office attendance records for January – October 1998, Arizona Mills reigns supreme as Arizona’s busiest theater. “The Mills,” says Mayor Guiliano, “is just phenomenal, partly because it’s such a modern theater. There’s a lot of neon and color, it’s a very upbeat place and it’s an event just to be there.”

With emphasis given to the planning and design of each of their structures, Harkins Theatres has garnered favor both locally and nationally, winning two American Institute of Architects award in 1998 from a field of seventy candidates. Harkins Superstition Springs-25 in Mesa won AIA’s “Best Designed Building” award while Metro Mall 12 in Scottsdale (expected to open in January ’99) won the Merit Award in the unfinished category.

In addition to improving the business climate in their communities, Harkins active support for local charities has made them somewhat of a local here. Phoenix Mayor Skip Rimsza recalls how, Dan Harkins stepped forward to offer the services of his movie screens to help the city promote improvements to their transit system. “We didn’t have to call him, he called us.”

With his city one of the fastest-growing in America with 1.3 million residents, the Mayor notes that many of their local businesses have been acquired by large corporations changing the tenor of the area. “The beauty of Dan and the Harkins organization is that he’s locally raised. It’s very exciting for us to work with someone who has a historical investment in the area. It’s also very different from [what we’re used to], dealing with publicly traded companies where local leadership is gone. To see a local guy make it big and work so hard to contribute back to the community, that adds up to dollars and cents.”