CS at ShoWest: Day 1 Report

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Day 1 of the ShoWest Exhibitors’ Conference in Las Vegas was fairly uneventful but generally optimistic, as it kicked off a day earlier than normal with the Opening Day Luncheon sponsored by the IMAX Corporation and Christie, followed by a Seminar claiming to help teach exhibitors “How to Stay Ahead of the Curve as the Industry Confronts the Future.” Highlights of the day were a Keynote Address by Fox Chairman & CEO Jim Gianopulos and an appearance by DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg.

The future was certainly something on everyone’s mind this year, especially after the pervasive presence of the country’s economic woes and how that has affected the credit market that plays a large part in the planned expansion for Digital 3D technology across the country.

Gianopulos’ Keynote Address was a speech laced with charts and graphs showing how the theatrical moviegoing experience continues to grow despite the recent economic upheaval and recession. He noted that despite the dramatic increase in home technology like HD televisions and Blu-ray, those who own five or more pieces of home theater technology are still more likely to go to the movie theater every weekend than less. He mentioned that movie attendance continues to be the #3 choice for most people going out for their entertainment and that it made up a larger audience of those going to sporting events, Broadway theater and other activities, which tend to be more costly. International growth was also a large factor, noting that North America made up roughly half of the over $18 billion grossed at the box office worldwide in 2008, and that there was a lot of room for growth.

After the speech, the luncheon’s sponsor IMAX showed a sizzle reel of their recent and upcoming movies that will take advantage of the larger format, including sound bytes from J.J. Abrams, Michael Bay and James Cameron about how the IMAX Experience enhances their creativity and how audiences can enjoy their movies.

Katzenberg’s presence was a last minute announcement, as he wasn’t previously scheduled, but it seemed appropriate considering that it was Katzenberg last year who announced that all future DreamWorks Animation releases would be taking advantage of 3D technology. He returned to ShoWest triumphant after the success of DreamWorks Animation’s Monsters vs. Aliens, which opened with $59.3 million with $32.6 million of that from the roughly 2,000 screens showing the movie in InTru3D. That’s an amazing number considering that less than half the screens showing the film were equipped to project in Digital 3D. Katzenberg was confident that by June, the credit market would be settled down enough that the expansion of the technology could continue as planned, but he noted that international markets were catching up to North America in terms of the number of theaters equipped to show their movies in 3D. (He noticed that Monsters vs. Aliens would screen in China only on Digital 3D screens.)

The scheduled seminar that followed wasn’t particularly focused, as it featured executives from very different branches of the industry, from international distributors like Andrew Cripps of Paramount Pictures International to Paul Heth, the President of Rising Star Media, and other guests who would normally be talking about global distribution outside the United States. Even though the usual International Day that focused on these issues had been folded into the overall conference this year, there certainly seemed to be less attendance than normal this year, which could be due to the economy or the lack of a tentpole presence at the conference.

Monday night’s ShoWest Showcase, dubbed “An Evening of Independent Film,” was generally well-attended, notably a packed-to-capacity screening of Kathryn Bigelow’s Iraq bomb squad thriller The Hurt Locker (Summit – June 26), followed by a brief Q ‘n’ A with the director.

Today, Digital 3D will continue to be at the forefront with presentations from Disney and Sony of their upcoming 3D releases. ComingSoon.net will have a chance later to sit down with Michael Lewis, CEO of RealD, to talk about the current status and future of 3D, as a follow up to last year’s interview.

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