Tim Richards

Source: Courtesy of BFI

Tim Richards

Vue Entertainment CEO and founder Tim Richards was born in Canada but spent much of his childhood in Brazil, owing to his father’s job as a trade commissioner. Richards worked as a New York lawyer, moving into the film business during the recession of the early 1990s. He joined Warner Bros in Los Angeles in 1994 as senior vice president, and in 1999 opened his first cinema, in Livingstone, Scotland.

Today, London-based Richards’ venture has evolved into Vue International, the largest privately owned exhibitor in Europe, with more than 220 sites, also operating out of Taiwan. He served as chair of the British Film Institute (BFI) from February 2021 until February of this year, and is now on the lookout for another venture akin to his BFI work in support of UK independent film. “I’m starting to look now, but I want to catch my breath first,” he says.

What is your office like?
It’s [still] our first office. We moved in from our living rooms and dining rooms almost exactly 20 years ago when we started the company. We’ve been here [in Chiswick, west London] for 20 years. It’s a little corporate and we are moving into a new office in two months, which is going to be a proper, very cool, cinema company office. It’s at Westfield [in nearby Shepherd’s Bush] — we’re going to have our flagship cinema in our backyard.

What’s the first thing you do in the morning when you get to the office?
I have a large Starbucks — a venti skinny cappuccino, and it’s always [from] Starbucks. I love Starbucks. Then I sit down with my assistant Charlotte [Driessen], who has been with me for 16 years and is unfortunately leaving this summer. We sit down and review the day and the week each morning, first thing.

What was your first job in the industry?
I was a New York m&a [mergers and acquisitions] lawyer who got bored after the recession hit, and I responded to a job ad in the Financial Times for a position with the [film] studios. After 11 interviews, I joined UCI [United Cinemas International] as head of international business development in 1990. I have always loved movies. The first film I remember seeing was when growing up in Rio, I snuck into a screening of To Kill A Mockingbird. I was fairly traumatised seeing it as a young child.

Who helped you most when you were first starting out?
I didn’t have any mentors. I’d have to say my wife [Sylvie Richards], for supporting me and making sacrifices, and advising early on and right through my whole career. She’s a lawyer, investment banker and more recently a film producer [who has worked at Paul Trijbits’ former UK company FilmWave].

With whom would you most like to take a meeting?
My grandfather, who passed away far too young. He was a serial entrepreneur and a larger-than-life character that I have faint memories of, I was young when he passed away. I’ve heard so many stories and I would love the chance to meet him as an adult.

What do you do to unwind?
I’ve always loved speed. I was an international ski racer, I raced competitively. I have been car racing for the last 15 years. And kite surfing.

What excites you about the industry?
After the four years we’ve all gone through in the industry in the post-pandemic period, there is virtually no aspect of the business I’m not excited about. I’m just excited to be back in the business doing what we all love, and I’m excited not to be talking about restructuring or refinancing or liquidity issues.

We’ve gone through a difficult period — it’s been five years, and I will include 2024, that we have, at very best, stalled. The industry is at a turning point, and I’m more excited [now] about the future than I have been in 34 years in the business.

What book are you reading at the moment?
I’m a fan of [US author and financial journalist] Michael Lewis and I’m just finishing his latest book on [crypto­currency fraudster] Sam Bankman-Fried. It’s an extra­ordinary story.

What are you most proud of professionally?
The company our team has built over the last 20 years since we started it. I’m most proud personally of being able to save the company and 10,000 jobs during the pandemic.

Who would play you in the film of your life and who would direct?
I don’t want a film made of my life!