Going global: ShoWest 2009 has a new international focus

Features

The network newscasts and national newspapers have all marveled about the one truly bright spot in today’s dire economic climate: The movies are doing just great! Year-to-date box office as of March 19 was up more than 10% from 2008, and admissions had risen substantially too.

The consistently strong numbers at local cinemas should buoy morale at ShoWest 2009, the world’s largest gathering of motion picture professionals and theatre owners, even as funding slows for the much-heralded transition to digital projection. That challenge will be just one of the topics under discussion in a busy program of seminars, screenings and social gatherings at the Bally’s and Paris Las Vegas, March 30 to April 2.

A major change in this year’s convention is the elimination of the Monday International Day program. The rationale of co-managing directors Robert Sunshine and Mitch Neuhauser is that all of ShoWest should be a global affair, since so many films are being released day-and-date internationally and more and more productions utilize worldwide talent.

In fact, “ShoWest Goes Global” is the theme of the opening day luncheon on Monday, March 30, sponsored by IMAX Corporation and Christie. Jim Gianopulos, chairman and CEO of Fox Filmed Entertainment, will be the keynote speaker in a program moderated by Regal Entertainment Group chairman and CEO Mike Campbell and Vue Entertainment president and CEO Tim Richards.

That afternoon, Elizabeth Guider, editor of our sister publication The Hollywood Reporter, moderates a panel brainstorming “How to Stay Ahead of the Curve as the Industry Confronts the Future.” Scheduled participants include Rory Bruer, president, worldwide distribution, Sony Pictures; Andrew Cripps, president, Paramount Pictures International; Dan Harkins, CEO, Harkins Theatres; Paul Heth, president and general director, Rising Star Media; Lee Roy Mitchell, chairman, Cinemark; and Vue’s Tim Richards.

That evening, the ShoWest Showcase continues the tradition of spotlighting independent film. Delegates will have time for two screenings, and their choices are Lionsgate’s LeBron James documentary More Than a Game; Roadside Attractions’ dolphin-rescue doc The Cove, Sony Pictures Classics’ Easy Virtue, starring Jessica Biel and Colin Firth; Summit Entertainment’s Iraq drama The Hurt Locker; and Big Beach Films’ Is Anybody There?, starring Michael Caine.

The Tuesday morning breakfast hosted by Cinedigm and Doremi Cinema includes a panel discussion on the exciting options for alternative content in theatres, plus presentation of The Inter-Society’s Ken Mason Award to Paramount’s Mark Christiansen. Next, everyone gathers in Le Theatre des Arts for the ShoWest 2009 State of the Industry Update. After welcoming remarks from Warner Bros. Entertainment president and COO Alan Horn and the annual Texas Instruments DLP Cinema salute to the $100 million films of the past year, MPAA chairman Dan Glickman and NATO president John Fithian offer their insights on what challenges lie ahead for the motion picture and cinema industry. The ceremony climaxes with the presentation of the “ShoWester of the Year” award to Tony and Dean Kerasotes, heads of the sixth-largest circuit in the U.S.

3D dominates Tuesday, as Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Group president previews his studio’s upcoming 3D product and RealD hosts a lunch and preview of Sony’s 3D Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.

The big ShoWest trade show opens for business at 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, and ShoWest University kicks off with AMC exec and FJI columnist Keith Wiedenkeller surveying human-resources trends and Vue’s Mark de Quervain discussing cinema merchandising and point-of-sale. Sessions later in the week will address environmental measures and concession management.

That night, Paramount Pictures hosts a dinner reception and two screenings of its drama The Soloist, starring the powerhouse duo of Jamie Foxx and Robert Downey, Jr.

The Wednesday morning breakfast includes presentations of NAC’s Bert Nathan Memorial Award to Anita Watts, Cinema Solutions VP and FJI concessions editor, and the ShoWest/NATO Marketing Achievement Awards to creative theatre managers. Following a special presentation by Sony Pictures, the lunch program sponsored by NEC, Strong Digital Systems and GDC Technology features a knowledgeable panel addressing the question: “Does Digital Self-Financing During a Credit Crisis Offer Hope?” The lunch agenda also includes the bestowing of the Marvin Levy Career Achievement in Film Marketing Award to Regal veteran Ted Hatfield.

The afternoon concludes with a screening of Touchstone Pictures’ comedy The Proposal, starring Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds, followed by an XpandD-hosted networking dinner and a screening of Roadside Attractions and Lionsgate’s animated 3D sci-fi thriller Battle for Terra.

The 3D wave continues on Thursday morning, as Cinedigm offers a special program highlighting live 3D events for cinemas. Then, Capitol Films and ThinkFilm present the Christopher Walken-Sharon Stone road movie $5 a Day. Lunch, hosted by Dolby Labs and Barco Digital Cinema, salutes independent film and includes a Career Achievement Award presentation to influential veteran film critic Roger Ebert. Another lunch highlight is the Will Rogers Institute Theatre Manager Awards.

The last screening of the show is the new Woody Allen film, Sony Pictures Classics’ Whatever Works, starring Larry David and Evan Rachel Wood, followed by the big Final Night Banquet and Awards Ceremony hosted by The Coca-Cola Company. This year’s honorees include Cameron Diaz, Dennis Quaid, Michael Caine, Sienna Miller, Bradley Cooper, Zac Efron, Star Trek lead Chris Pine, and directors Michael Bay and Zack Snyder.

Delegates will depart ShoWest just one month before the summer rollout begins. With X-Men Origins, Star Trek, Angels & Demons, Terminator Salvation, Night at the Museum 2 and Pixar’s Up scheduled for May alone, exhibitors have plenty of reasons to celebrate the movies’ power to attract record audiences and help them forget the recession for a few diverting hours.