St. John's sojourn: ShowCanada heads to Newfoundland with full slate of seminars and screenings


The biggest shake-up among exhibitors in years, the conversion to digital projection, is nearing completion. Now that their auditoriums have sparkling, scratch-free projection, exhibitors are looking ahead to their next steps. “Never in our history have we had so much to offer our guests. Now the question is, how do we convert this into more admissions?” asks Nuria Bronfman, executive director of the Motion Picture Theatre Associations of Canada.

This year’s programming at ShowCanada aims to answer that question. Delegates will come away from the convention with ideas about how to leverage investments in technology to encourage moviegoers to come back to theatres. An estimated 450 delegates will converge to discuss these issues in St. John’s, Newfoundland, on May 28-30. A trip to the city, which sits at the most eastern point of Canada, is on the bucket list of many Canadians, yet the remote location means this will be the first-time visit for many, including the convention itself.

A highlight of the two-and-a-half day conference will be the seminar on Thursday, “Technology in the Cinema…Where Are We Now?” The technical advisor for the National Association of Theatre Owners, Jerry Pierce, will moderate the panel. Bronfman praises Pierce’s ability to translate complicated technical concepts and explain how they affect the business model of exhibitors. “He will bring a level of expertise and clarity to make regular people understand,” she says, counting herself as one of the listeners who has been impressed by his communication skills. The panel will also feature experts from Barco, Christie, Deluxe, Doremi and GDC, who will discuss everything from laser projectors to automation to the challenges of getting proper light levels onscreen.

This year’s show will also feature a seminar from the Disney Institute on “how to create quality customer service for our guests,” Bronfman details. “So much of what they talk about has resonance for all different sectors and levels of management in our industry. Now that we have these great venues, we want to know how to maximize them for our guests.” While the Disney Institute offers advice to many industries, the company’s deep understanding of the guest experience at theme parks is particularly applicable to movie theatres.

NATO president John Fithian will present a “State of the Industry” address to the delegates on Wednesday, followed by a speech from Bronfman that will focus on Canadian exhibitors. “He brings a U.S. and global perspective, and I will Canadian-ize it,” Bronfman quips. Fithian reported on the box-office success of movies in relation to their ratings at CinemaCon, and Bronfman was spurred by the report to delve into the stats for film ratings in Canada. In Canada, six different provincial governments determine ratings. A14 and A18 roughly translate to the MPAA’s PG-13 and R, but Quebec uses yet another rating system (13+, 16+). The different systems can be a bit of a headache to deal with and occasionally cause problems. She will also compare the top ten films by province, which she finds can be an interesting tool to compare the relative success of different films.

Bronfman and the MPTAC are also watching changing demographics in the U.S. and how that may affect the Canadian market. “The Hispanic population is becoming the number-one demographic in the U.S. We don’t have those numbers in terms of Hispanics. It will be interesting to see what’s happening in terms of the films that are coming out of the States, and if they’re gearing them more towards that audience. We’ll be keeping an eye on that for sure, where we have similarities and differences.”

She also plans to touch on alternative content. Independent theatre owners now have the option to show opera, ballet or the latest boxing match, and they’re eager to know what their options are. Bronfman also notes that there is increasing interest in developing information about moviegoing demographics and how to use this data to serve a community. “Circuits, community theatres and independent theatres are looking towards that information. It’s a smart way to do programming for your community if you’re able to. In some places, family films do well—or not at all. Or comedies don’t do as well. I think we’re starting to be much more aware of the differences you see once you start to delve down into the demographics.”

The convention will also include plenty of screenings, which are always a popular choice among delegates. “Distributors have come out full force to support ShowCanada. Every distributor has a product reel, and there is new footage that was not at CinemaCon. There will be three, perhaps four, screenings,” Bronfman reveals. “Everyone will be pleased with the titles.”

In past post-show surveys, delegates have asked for more “local flavor,” and this year’s convention attempts to heed that request. In addition to tradeshow booths, there will be local artisans on the tradeshow floor. Fancy a quilt or some crafts from a local pewter works? At the tradeshow, it will be easy to pick up a souvenir. There will also be a couple of evenings “off-campus,” as Bronfman says, to prevent people from feeling like they spent three days straight in a hotel without seeing the sights.

Another common complaint at conventions is the lack of time to exercise. At seven each morning, men and women alike can wake up to the “Pioneering Women’s Bootcamp.” Bronfman hired a local trainer whose mission is about “balance and empowering women,” to whip the attendees into shape. Her outlook is consistent with the message of Pioneering Women, an organization that helps support women in Canada’s motion picture industry. Bronfman admits she’s not sure how many people will show up, but she also thinks it could be the beginning of a trend. With many social events packing the calendar, people may take the opportunity to sweat off their nightcap or their celebratory drinks at Tuesday evening’s Showmanship Awards. The convention itself should also be a kick-start for its attendees, giving delegates enough new ideas and contacts to power through until next year’s ShowCanada.