NATO was founded in 1965 by the merger of the largest movie-theater trade organizations, the Theater Owners of America and the Allied States Association of Motion Picture Exhibitors.
The official magazine of NATO is Boxoffice (magazine).
As presented on the website for the Nielsen Media Film Group, hosted by Nielsen Business Media,
The Nielsen Film Group events - ShoWest, Cinema Expo International, ShowEast and CineAsia – are the only conventions and tradeshows dedicated to the needs of the movie theatre industry worldwide. Our events bring together the key decision makers from every major, regional and independent theatre circuit with the major International Film Distributors, as well as the manufacturers of products, services and technologies for the movie theatre industry. All of our events include screenings of upcoming films, product reel presentations, educational seminars, special events and awards galas.
According to Rick Lyman, of The New York Times, it is "the largest and most important gathering of theatre operators" in the world, at which "the theatrical distribution business takes stock of its problems, which have been legion, and assesses its future, always through the rosiest glasses available."
In 1980, NATO initiated the American Movie Awards, held at the Wilshire Theater, Beverly Hills, California, and broadcast on NBC, with the winners selected based on voting by theater patrons. Various legal difficulties prevented the awards from being presented in 1981, and the event was discontinued after the 1982 awards due to competition from other awards shows.