ShoWest Round-up (Pt. 2)

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ShoWest 09 marked a change in  programming. Monday has in recent years been “International Day,” but with the increasing interconnectedness of the industry, it no longer made sense to separate out the international programming. Hence, Monday became the official opening day instead of the traditional Tuesday.

Fox’s Jim Gianopulos kicked off the Opening Day luncheon with an overview of the health of the exhibition industry:

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.

A picture of James and the Giant Graph is here. A chart showing how people who use 5 or more home entertainment technologies go to more movies is here and another one showing what the inside of my brain looks like is here.

Wednesday saw a bit of fireworks with a luncheon panel discussing digital cinema financing:

Moderated by G. Kendrick Macdowell, VP, general counsel and director of government affairs at NATO, the panel featured two studio execs who have pledged support in the form of virtual print fees to individual exhibitors. Mark Christiansen, executive VP of operations at Paramount Pictures, deemed his studio’s plan “incredibly easy…something you can do now.” But Fox exec VP of digital exhibition Julian Levin, who is also reaching out to individual cinema owners, bluntly criticized the streamlined Paramount offer document as having “a lot of holes,” contrasting the Fox approach as that of “a grown-up business.”

Even more contentious was exhibitor George Solomon, CEO of Southern Theatres. Dismissing the role of third-party integrators like Cinedigm and Digital Cinema Implementation Partners, he declared, “I believe that mid-size circuits should be able to negotiate virtual print fees directly or have their own consortiums… I don’t believe in giving a cut to an integrator.”

The plain-speaking Solomon, whom Macdowell at one point compared to a crafty Southern lawyer, proved not much of a champion of the digital revolution. “35mm is still better,” he contended. “What’s the difference between a hard drive and 35mm film? Forty pounds!” Arguing that the benefits of digital accrue mainly to the studios, he challenged, “If distribution wants 2K, give us the money!”

And as ever, the Closing Night awards were star-packed and festive. Lots of pictures here.