Carmike Cinemas hires Bass Pro Shops, Lowe’s executive for its aggressive growth plans

Carmike Cinemas said today it has hired a former Bass Pro Shops and Lowe’s Companies executive to help the company grow to 300 theaters and 3,000 screens nationwide.

Thomas Wilkinson becomes director of real estate and development for Columbus-based Carmike, which at last count had 232 movie theaters and 2,242 screens in 35 states.

Wilkinson, 44, spent six years with Bass Pro Shops, helping the outdoors retailer expand its footprint in the U.S., working with regional mall developers, retail landlords and cities, Carmike said. He was with home-improvement chain Lowe’s for 12 years, managing the company’s growth to 1,300 locations. That included evaluating sites for up to 40 stores each year.

Carmike President and Chief Executive Officer David Passman, in a statement, said Wilkinson “is joining Carmike at a perfect time to assist us in executing upon our new phase of growth.”

Passman has consistently said the motion-picture exhibitor plans to be aggressive with its growth in the coming years. The company has been steadily opening new theaters — usually via leases rather than owning property — and retrofitting older ones, including installing enhanced video, audio and seating in “Big D” auditoriums. The “D” stands for digital, technology that all but a handful of Carmike theaters now have.

Locally, Carmike operates the Carmike 15, the Ritz 13 and the Peachtree 8. It also has the Wynnsong 10 on Fort Benning.