Vegas sneak preview: NATO's CinemaCon event adds more movies to the mix


“We are going into our third year forgetting about any success we may have achieved in year one and two,” declares Mitch Neuhauser, managing director of CinemaCon. “We want this to be like it’s our first year—we want it to be fresh and exciting.”

Indeed, the third edition of the National Association of Theatre Owners’ annual convention at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas (April 15-18) is packed with movie showcases, seminars and social events that should leave delegates breathless by closing night.

And this year, the programming mix is somewhat different. As Neuhauser explains, “We do post-show surveys. People love the studio presentations, they love to see the product coming out, accompanied by filmmakers and celebrities, and we’ve delivered on that end over the past two years. But you also get a certain faction who love to see feature-length films. When a studio agrees to support the show, they know what works best. They have a whole slate of producers and executives and filmmakers that they need to cover, and it’s a very detailed process a studio goes through just to commit to be a part of the show.

“I’m delighted to say that this year we’re going to have the best of both worlds, because not only are we going to have all the studios doing presentations on upcoming product, but four are going beyond and showcasing feature films.”

The first studio to “go beyond” is Paramount Pictures, which will host the Monday opening-night presentation featuring footage from their summer blockbusters Star Trek Into Darkness and World War Z and a full screening of Michael Bay’s new action comedy Pain & Gain, starring Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne Johnson. Among the luminaries present will be Bay, Star Trek director J.J. Abrams and cast members Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Alice Eve and John Cho.

On Tuesday night, Twentieth Century Fox previews their June release The Heat, introduced by stars Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy and director Paul Feig. “Fox is really excited to have a powerhouse summer comedy, and we couldn’t be more thrilled to show it,” Neuhauser enthuses. The studio will also unveil their 2013 product reel in a Thursday morning session.

On Wednesday morning, Walt Disney Studios will cap their preview reel of summer 2013 and beyond with a 2D screening of Disney/Pixar’s Monsters University, the highly anticipated sequel to one of the most popular comedies in the Pixar library, Monsters, Inc. The final CinemaCon screening, on Wednesday night, is CBS Films’ The To Do List, starring Aubrey Plaza from NBC’s “Parks and Recreation” and a cast of comic performers including Andy Samberg, Bill Hader and Christopher Mintz-Plasse.

CinemaCon brings back its popular Filmmakers Lunch and Panel Discussion on Wednesday; this year’s guests include Guillermo del Toro, whom Neuhauser describes as “a true visionary and a master storyteller,” multi-Oscar winner Oliver Stone, and Sam Raimi, director of the current blockbuster Oz the Great and Powerful.

Another returning session (on Wednesday morning) is “An Industry Think Tank: Meeting the Expectations of Today’s Savvy Moviegoer.” The diverse panel includes Universal Pictures chairman Adam Fogelson; veteran producer Michael De Luca (Moneyball, Captain Phillips); Carmike Cinemas president and CEO David Passman (who also serves as chairman of NATO): Bud Mayo, CEO of pioneering digital circuit Digiplex Destinations; and Matt Jacobson, head of development at Facebook and one of its first ten original employees.

Also sure to create talk is the final-day luncheon and special program “Driving Financial Success: Women + Movies = Bigger Box Office,” moderated by Hollywood Reporter editorial director Janice Min. Says Neuhauser, “The purpose of this program is to discuss the fact that there should be more movies made by women, with women, about women and for women. And there are a lot of films out there that prove that there’s a lot of money to be made.” Participants include Oscar-winning actress Geena Davis, founder of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media; Regal Entertainment CEO Amy Miles; Paul Feig, director of Bridesmaids and The Heat; Hunger Games producer Nina Jacobson; and Vanessa Morrison, president of Fox Animation Studios.

A technology demo of special interest will take place at the nearby Brenden Theatres on opening day: “Second Screen Live,” Disney’s interactive version of Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas that allows guests to play or sing along with the movie in real time using their iPads. “It’s a way to broaden the life of a film beyond its initial run and bring it back for a totally new experience,” Neuhauser explains.

The show culminates with the annual “Big Screen Achievement Awards” ceremony, this year honoring such stars as Harrison Ford, Morgan Freeman, Melissa McCarthy, Chris Pine, Vince Vaughn, Owen Wilson, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Armie Hammer and Elizabeth Banks. And again, the CinemaCon schedule incorporates the annual Pioneer of the Year dinner, which will honor veteran producer Kathleen Kennedy, president of Lucasfilm.

Other highlights of this hectic schedule include Monday “International Day” programming with a special focus on China; the Tuesday morning “State of the Industry” session with industry addresses by NATO’s John Fithian and MPAA’s Chris Dodd and Universal Pictures’ product preview; and many more informative seminars and social events.

Speaking of socializing, Neuhauser promises more hospitality lounges for networking, apart from the massive tradeshow, which is already sold out. “It’s going to be one busy week,” Neuhauser says, and that’s the safest bet in Vegas.


Monday, April 15
Paramount Pictures Opening Night Presentation and Party, including a screening of Pain & Gain, 6:00-10:30 pm

Tuesday, April 16
“The State of the Industry” Program, including a special presentation from Universal Pictures, 9:30-11:30 am
Warner Bros. “The Big Picture” Product Preview, 4:30-6:15 pm
Screening of 20th Century Fox’s The Heat, 8:45-10:45 pm

Wednesday, April 17
“An Industry Think Tank: Meeting the Expectations of Today’s Savvy Moviegoer,” 9:00-10:15 am
Walt Disney Studios Product Preview, including a screening of Monsters University, 10:30 am-12:30 pm
Filmmakers Lunch and Panel Discussion, 12:45-2:30 pm
Sony Pictures Entertainment Product Preview, 5:45-7:00 pm
Pioneer of the Year Dinner honoring Kathleen Kennedy, 7:45-10:00 pm
Late Night Screening of CBS Films’ The To Do List, 10:45 pm-12:30 am

Thursday, April 18
“Motion Picture Theatre Showmanship” Panel, 8:45-10:00 am
Twentieth Century Fox Product Preview, 10:30 am-12:30 pm
Final Day Luncheon and Special Program: “Driving Financial Success: Women + Movies = Bigger Box Office,” 12:30-2:15 pm
Lionsgate Product Preview, 2:30-4:30 pm
CinemaCon “Big Screen Achievement Awards,” 7:30-9:00 pm
Gala Final Night Poolside Party, 9:00-11:00 pm