Caesars' Eleven: A record number of studios will unveil their slates at CinemaCon 2018
CinemaCon is setting another record this year, with an unprecedented eleven movie studios highlighting their upcoming slates. “The studios have a lot they want to showcase,” says managing director Mitch Neuhauser, and so the eighth annual convention of the National Association of Theatre Owners will eschew feature screenings for an array of product presentations. The big show runs April 23-26 at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.
With those product presentations comes a dazzling touch of showmanship. “My associates and I are privy to some of the plans that the studios have, and if even half of them occur, there will be things happening in the Colosseum that have never happened before—exhibitors will walk away floating on air,” Neuhauser promises.
Disney, Fox, Lionsgate, Paramount, Sony, Universal and Warner Bros. will all be staging events, along with relative newcomer STX Entertainment. Focus Features will sponsor a luncheon following their successful 15th-anniversary event last year. And Amazon Studios returns for a third year. “The major difference this year,” Neuhauser notes, “is that now when they address the delegates, they will not just be a supplier of product working with other distributors, they are now handling their own films.”
The newbie at the show is Entertainment Studios Motion Pictures, sponsors of the Wednesday morning breakfast, where CEO Byron Allen will outline his vision for the company.
“The audience at the Colosseum isn’t there simply to have fun,” Neuhauser observes. “Yes, they’re being entertained, but they’re looking at things for the very first time and doing so from a business standpoint. They’re looking at product that they need to book, that they need to make forecasts on, because they have financial responsibilities to their boards, to their companies. In many instances this is the very first time that the theatre owners get to see anything visually about upcoming product and it gives them the opportunity to think about how those films are going to do.”
One of the most newsworthy events at CinemaCon 2018 will be the Monday afternoon session on the opening of the Saudi Arabian market to movie theatres after a 35-year ban. “John Fithian [president of NATO] is going to spearhead the panel discussion and we’re delighted to have one of the top executives from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Redha Al-Haidar, president of the General Commission for Audiovisual Media,” Neuhauser says. “This is a huge opportunity. We’re honored to have him attend CinemaCon with some of his associates. There are some reports that the Saudi market could one day by over a billion-dollar market.”
Monday’s International Day programming will also feature a one-on-one discussion between Phil Clapp of UNIC and Alejandro Ramírez Magaña, chair of the new Global Cinema Federation. “This is going to be the first public discussion of the initiative and its goals,” Neuhauser notes. “Alejandro has been an incredible leader and a driving force behind the GCF along with the other 12 founding companies.” Ramírez Magaña is also the first non-American to receive NATO’s prestigious Marquee Award.
In all, Neuhauser expect 850 to 900 delegates to attend International Day activities.
Other highlights include the first address to the industry by new MPAA chairman and CEO Charles Rivkin; an “Industry Think Tank” featuring insights from Fox chairman and CEO Stacey Snider, Cinemark CEO Mark Zoradi and Avatar producer Jon Landau; and a panel on the success of independent and specialty films featuring executives from Fox Searchlight, Focus Features, Sony Pictures Classics and NEON.
Neuhauser feels the independent sector played an essential role in creating movie excitement in 2017: “What happened from an independent/specialty standpoint was fantastic news. The success of movies like Three Billboards, The Shape of Water, Lady Bird, I Tonya, The Florida Project, The Disaster Artist, Call Me by Your Name—there’s an audience out there for these films.
“We love the tentpoles, they are box-office record-setters, but there is also a thirst for more personal, smaller, character-driven films. These two types of films can co-exist, they are very compatible, they can help each other,” Neuhauser contends.
In this year when women’s issues have gained a higher profile, Neuhauser says, “We’re delighted that our two lunches are going to be moderated by terrific women from within the industry, Nikkole Denson-Randolph from AMC and Sarah Pitre from Alamo Drafthouse.”
As always, the show culminates with the CinemaCon “Big Screen Achievement Awards” ceremony. This year’s honorees are Samuel L. Jackson, Jodie Foster, Dakota Johnson, Benicio Del Toro, Jack Black, Anna Kendrick, Black Panther director Ryan Cooger, Felicity Jones, Jonah Hill, Kate McKinnon, Girls Trip breakout star Tiffany Haddish, Gabrielle Union, Taron Egerton and Get Out’s Lil Rel Howery.
Neuhauser is clearly grateful for the support CinemaCon receives from distribution. “When we go in and meet with studios, not once has there ever been an ounce, an iota of hesitation about being part of CinemaCon. I never want to take anything for granted, but as soon as we start meeting in July with the studios, they’re the ones who bring up their plans for the following year. This is an unbelievable show of support to exhibition and their belief in what the theatre owners are doing and the future of this great industry.”
He’s also bullish on the prospects for theatrical exhibition. “If there weren’t a great future ahead for this industry, would circuit A be spending over three and half billion dollars to buy circuit B? Is that not a statement in itself about the great future ahead? Exhibitors are pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into their theatres. When the digital revolution happened, everyone thought once it comes and goes, things are going to quiet down. It hasn’t. It’s steamrolled.
“The motion picture theatrical experience is an incredible magnet that pulls people out of the home, connects them with each other. You walk down the street and everyone is oblivious to everyone else, they’re on their cellphones, they’re bumping into each other, but get them into a theatre to see Get Out or Black Panther, or The Big Sick where they can laugh and cry…you don’t get that at home. I keep going back to our tagline: ‘CinemaCon, Where We Celebrate the Moviegoing Experience.’”
Monday, April 23
International Day Awards Luncheon, including honors for Caribbean Cinemas’ Robert Carrady, 20th Century Fox International’s Kurt Rieder and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom director J.A. Bayona, 12 Noon-1:30 pm
“The New Frontier: Saudi Arabia” Panel Discussion, 2:30-3:30 pm
Sony Pictures Entertainment Gala Opening Night Studio Event, with After-Party at Omnia, 6:30-10:30 pm
Tuesday, April 24
“The State of the Industry” Program, including a Presentation from Walt Disney Studios, 9:00-11:30 am
Warner Bros.’ “The Big Picture” Product Preview, 4:00-5:45 pm
“An Evening with STX Films,” 7:30-9:00 pm
Paramount Pictures Presents “Lights, Camera, Action Point,” 9:15-11:00 pm
Wednesday, April 25
Breakfast and Presentation from Entertainment Studios Motion Pictures, 7:45-9:30 am
Universal Pictures Product Presentation, 10:00-11:30 am
Luncheon and Focus Features Product Presentation, 12:15-2:00 pm
“Industry Think Tank: Meeting the Expectations of the Savvy Moviegoer,” 2:45-3:45 pm
Paramount Pictures Product Presentation, 4:30-6:00 pm
Will Rogers “Pioneer of the Year” Dinner honoring Tom Cruise, 7:15-9:30 pm
Thursday, April 26
Independent and Specialty Market Panel, 8:15-9:30 am
Twentieth Century Fox Product Presentation, 10:00-11:30 am
Luncheon and Amazon Studios Program, 12:15-2:00 pm
Lionsgate Product Presentation, 2:30-4:15 pm
CinemaCon Big Screen Achievement Awards Ceremony, 7:30-9:15 pm
Big Screen Achievement Awards After-Party, 9:30-11:30 pm