During the annual conference organized by the National Association of Theater Owners (NATO) and held at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, the major Studios have as usual showcased their upcoming slates.
Not so usual however is the caliber and market potential of the movies, from Paramount‘s Summer 2015 star driven releases Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation and Terminator Genisys presented directly by Arnold and Tom, to Warner Bros‘s big event movies such as Mad Max: Fury Road, San Andreas, Black Mass, Point Break, Entourage, and of course Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
From Disney‘s incredible 2015-2017 of epic hero driven slate including Avengers: Age of Ultron, Tomorrowland, Inside Out (screened in Dolby Vision), Ant-Man, Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens, Captain America: Civil War, Guardians of the Galaxy 2, and Doctor Strange, to Sony‘s filmmaker driven movies such as Xmas, Spectre, Pixels, Aloha, Money Monster, Hotel Transylvania 2.
From Universal‘s franchise driven slate of films such as Ted 2, Pitch Perfect 2, Jurassic World, Minions, Fast and Furious 8, even with authorial additions such as Everest, Crimson Peak, Straight Outta Compton, and the new Illumination’s animation feature The Secret Life of Pets, to Fox‘s author driven and internationally oriented films such as Ridley Scott’s The Martian, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s The Revenant starring Leonardo Di Caprio, David O. Russel’s Joy, the new animation film The Peanuts Movie, and then Hitman Agent 47, Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials, Josh Trank’s Fantastic Four, Paul Feig’s Spy (also featured during the following party), Paper Towns.
But CinemaCon means also the trade fair where hundreds of vendors showcase their products to the theater owners and film industry professionals: besides concessions and seating solutions, marketing and analytics tools and apps among which startups such as Dealflicks, Intensnet, Showtime Analytics and Peach Digital, make their way among established companies such as online ticketing/marketing providers Fandango and MovieTickets, POS providers RTS, NCR, Vista, and technology providers such as Imax, Barco, Cinemeccanica, Christie, 4DX, and Dolby, official sponsor this year with its new Vision system, based on wider color gamut and high dynamic range (HDR).
Also emerging as main point from panels discussions, one consideration needs to be made at this point: on one side the vendors and the real estate investors seem to be pushing toward building more and bigger theaters and upgrading technology turning theaters into high-end all entertainment venues for tenth-pole big event movies and richer audiences, on the other marketeers, filmmakers and distributors, together with smaller theater owners are wondering how to get teenagers back to be frequent moviegoers leveraging timely releasing and smart pricing strategies, an analysis that needs to take into account what is happening in the digital space – i.e. the shrinking windows and the increasingly common day-and-date releases. A lot of work has to be done in this respect and the different parts of the industry are responsible to seek win-win solutions, with the primary objective of protecting the moviegoing experience and ultimately making consumers happy, the one and only way to drive revenue up. For the film industry to thrive, no one should be left behind: many theater owners (the majority of attendees of CinemaCon, the ones outside the big chains) cannot keep the pace with continuous investments in technology while facing diminishing margins and lower attendance. New technologies are desirable only if the demand justifies the need of new investments: mature markets such as North America and Europe are struggling in this respect, whereas biggest part of the growth is coming from Asia, China in particular (see http://flixbiz.com/2015/03/12/global-box-office-inflated-by-chinese-wind-us-suffering/).
CinemaCon was also the moment to honor the careers of great executives such as Fox’s Chief Jim Gianopoulos recipient of the Pioneer of the Year award, and Warner’s SVP Asia Distribution Erlina Surharjono recipient of the Passepartout Award, and to celebrate stars like Julianne Moore and legends like Clint Eastwood, recipient of the Fandango Fan Choice Award for Favorite Film of 2014 for the surprising results of American Sniper. In particular, the director told the audience about his working style and his incredible career, disclosing also some funny anecdotes – i.e. very few people know that Sergio Leone did not speak english and he did not speak Italian, but they could understand each other using the secret language of filmmaking.
The Big Screen Achievement Awards ended the 4-day convention with the bubbly and at times hilarious appearances of Alan Arkin – Lifetime Achievement Award, Elizabeth Banks – Breakthrough Filmmaker of the Year, Francis Lawrence – Director of the Year, Amy Schumer – Breakthrough Performer of the Year, again Paul Feig – Comedy Filmmaker of the Year, again Julianne Moore – CinemaCon Vanguard Award, Kevin Hart – Comedy Star of the Year, Rose Byrne – Female Star of the Year, Paul Rudd – Male Star of the Year.
There was also a final party sponsored by Coca-Cola at the Caesar’s Palace pool but that must stay outside of the chronicles because what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas!