When 16-year-old Dwight “Red” Harkins set out on his motorcycle from his hometown of Cincinnati in 1931, his intended destination was Hollywood, and his goals were fame and fortune. Along the way Red stopped in Arizona – and he never left. In 1933, at the age of 18, he opened the first Harkins Theater in downtown Tempe.
When Red passed away in 1974, his son, Dan, took over the business, which was then in dire financial straits. Yet in the four decades since, Harkins Theaters has not only endured, but has grown from five locations with a total of eight movie screens to 30 locations with 428 screens in five states.
Bank of America has been a longstanding partner in the growth of Harkins Theaters. In 1993, Bank of America helped Harkins acquire Mann Theaters, growing Harkins from under 30 screens to 75 screens overnight. Harkins Theaters grew rapidly over the last two decades and Bank of America has been there helping to provide financing for new megaplexes. Most recently, Bank of America helped Harkins Theaters finance the conversion of all of its screens from 35 millimeter to state-of-the art digital projection systems.
“When we talk to Bank of America, it really does not feel like we’re talking to a banker,” says Harkins. “They have passion and they have compassion. And thankfully throughout my relationship with them over 25 years, it’s been an adventure of prosperity and success and growth.”
The success of Harkins Theaters has brought important economic benefits to the Phoenix area. Today, Harkins Theaters employs nearly 3,000 people. Many of those employees are young people for whom working at a movie theater is their first job, and Harkins Theaters provides a fun, educational, and rewarding way to gain work experience.
“Harkins Theaters works very hard to educate their team members and advance people up through the ranks within the company,” says Kate Scardello, a commercial banker at Bank of America. “They provide career development for thousands of people in Arizona.”
“It’s a responsibility that we don’t take lightly,” says Mike Bowers, President and COO of Harkins Theatres. “We spend a lot of time and energy on the development of our team and are very concerned that they are coming away with something valuable.”
Harkins Theatres gives back to the Phoenix community in other ways too, supporting vital charitable organizations like Phoenix Children’s Hospital and the Boys and Girls Club and Arizona Animal Welfare League. Harkins says he learned the value of giving back from his dad. “We want people know that we are grateful to moviegoers and the community for the loyalty they have shown us over the years,” he says.
Harkins sees strong growth ahead for the chain that his father started nearly eight decades ago, and that means more loyal moviegoers, more local jobs, and more opportunity to give back to the community.
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