LIVE From CinemaCon 2011: Todd Phillips To Exhibitors: "I'm On Your Side"

on March 31, 2011 by Boxoffice Staff


Thursday Afternoon Update: Before premiering the theatrical trailer for The Hangover 2 at today's Warner Bros. presentation, writer/director Todd Phillips won a healthy round of applause from the crowd by making a bold statement.

"I'm on your side in this whole VOD business," said Phillips. "If I wanted to make movies for TV I would have become a TV director."

The statement comes on the heels of a decision by Warner Bros., Sony, Fox and Universal to use DirecTV in order to allow viewers to consume Hollywood releases at home 60 days after they have opened theatrically. The exhibition community has reacted with outrage, and NATO issued an official statement blasting the move.

The trailer for The Hangover 2 easily generated the strongest reaction of all the films WB had on display. Phillips previously used ShoWest to launch trailers for The Hangover and Due Date to great success.

The new clips on display were from J. Edgar, Harold & Kumar 3, New Year's Eve, Contagion, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Final Destination 5, Sherlock Holmes 2, Green Lantern, Horrible Bosses, Crazy Stupid Love and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II.

Director Martin Campbell and stars Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively introduced Green Lantern clips featuring unfinished special effects. "Don't worry. I can say with confidence that they plan on finishing it," joked Reynolds.

Director Seth Gordon was joined by Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day to introduce the first trailer for Horrible Bosses. The trailer won plenty of laughs.

Crazy Stupid Love's trailer was introduced by directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa as well as Steve Carell. The film is clearly gunning for the same dramedy loving moviegoers that made WB's Life As We Know It a hit last year.

The presentation ended with some unfinished clips from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II. Producer David Heyman was on hand to present them and he won applause when he stressed that the Potter films are meant to be seen in theaters.

Thursday Morning Update: Sony, Universal, Warner Bros. and Fox will now show films via DirecTV 60 days after they hit theaters. The premium VOD option will cost $29.99.

CinemaCon attendees are already voicing their displeasure about not being kept in the loop when it comes to such a major decision.

NATO has released the following official statement:

On March 30, it was reported that Warner Bros., Fox, Sony and Universal planned to release certain of their films to the home 60 days after their theatrical release in "premium" Video on Demand at a price point of $30. On behalf of its members, the National Association of Theater Owners (NATO) expresses our surprise and strong disappointment.

Theater operators were not consulted or informed of the substance, details or timing of this announcement. It's particularly disappointing to confront this issue today, while we are celebrating our industry partnerships at our annual convention - CinemaCon - in Las Vegas.

NATO has repeatedly, publicly and privately, raised concerns and questions about the wisdom of shortening the theatrical release window to address the studios' difficulties in the home market. We have pointed out the strength of theatrical exhibition-revenues have grown in four of the last five years-and that early-to-the-home VoD will import the problems of the home entertainment market into the theatrical market without fixing those problems.

The studios have not managed to maintain a price point in the home market and we expect that they will be unable to do so with early VoD. They risk accelerating the already intense need to maximize revenues on every screen opening weekend and driving out films that need time to develop-like many of the recent Academy Award-nominated pictures. They risk exacerbating the scourge of movie theft by delivering a pristine, high definition, digital copy to pirates months earlier than they had previously been available. Paramount has explicitly cited piracy as a reason they will not pursue early VoD. Further, they risk damaging theatrical revenues without actually delivering what the home consumer seems to want, which is flexibility, portability and a low price.

These plans fundamentally alter the economic relationship between exhibitors, filmmakers and producers, and the studios taking part in this misguided venture. We would expect cinema owners to respond to such a fundamental change and to reevaluate all aspects of their relationships with these four studios.

As NATO's Executive Board noted in their open letter of June 16, 2010, the length of a movie's release window is an important economic consideration for theater owners in whether, how widely and under what terms they book a film.

Additionally, cinema owners devote millions of hours of screen time each year to trailers promoting the movies that will play on their screens. With those trailers now arguably promoting movies that will appear shortly in the home market to the detriment of theater admissions, we can expect theater owners to calculate just how much that valuable screen time is worth to their bottom lines and to the studios that have collapsed the release window. The same consideration will no doubt be given to the acres of wall and floor space devoted to posters and standees.

In the end, the entire motion picture community will have a say in how the industry moves forward. These studios have made their decision in what they no doubt perceive to be their best interests. Theater owners will do the same.

Wednesday Afternoon Update #3: James Cameron, George Lucas and Jeffrey Katzenberg discussed everything from 3D conversions to movie theaters adding restaurants during a packed luncheon this afternoon.

Cameron focused on several topics including weak 3D conversions and how he's taking his time converting Titanic as well as how important light levels are when showing 3D. "You're not getting 3D," said Cameron of bad conversions. "You're getting 2.2 or 2.3D."

Katzenberg briefly mentioned a new technology called scalable multi-core processing that will allow animators to work in real time. The studio chief also thanked the exhibition crowd for making the effort to push for more digital screens.

Said Lucas of the upcoming re-release of his Star Wars trilogy: "I'm betting big that people will still go to see a movie they've watched on TV and DVD in theaters because they want the communal experience."

Both Katzenberg and Lucas agreed that the future of cinemas will be adding meal options. "Movie theaters will become more like restaurants," said Lucas. 

Wednesday Afternoon Update #2: Disney took the stage this afternoon to tout an impressive slate of upcoming releases. The Mouse House is headed into some familiar territory from now until late 2012. The only completely new property they displayed was Brave, which will feature voice work from Kelly McDonald and Billy Connolly.

The presentation began with a heartfelt tribute to Chuck Viane, president of worldwide distribution. Viane is retiring this coming July, and based on the applause he received it's clear he'll be fondly remembered.

Dave Hollis, executive vice president of distribution/sales, was on hand to introduce various clips and even a handful of stars.

Larry the Cable Guy provided a few laughs before a 26-minute look at Cars 2 ran. "Don't worry," joked the comic, "This is about cars. So if it don't make any money the government will give you bailouts."

Jason Segel and Amy Adams introduced a clip from The Muppets. "This has been a passion project of mine since I was young," gushed Segel. "When you're a kid, Kermit the Frog is Tom Hanks."

An extended clip from Winnie the Pooh won a big "awwww" from the audience. The July 15 release should do very well among families.

Hollis discussed the fact that Monsters Inc. will be a prequel focusing on how Mike and Sully met during college. No clips were shown since the film won't hit thaters until the end of 2012.

An exclusive clip from The Avengers was met with silent reverence. We'd say more, but they'd kill us.

The presentation concluded with extended footage from Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. Producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Rob Marshall introduced the clips. Said Marshall of star Johnny Depp, "He's such a gracious gentleman. A real pleasure to work with." The franchise has grossed $2.6 billion worldwide, so exhibitors are surely pleased that Depp was game for another round of Captain Jack's antics.

Tuesday Afternoon Update: Just nine days into the job, new MPAA Chairman and CEO Senator Chris Todd took the stage to deliver the annual State of the Industry speech . Dodd was joined by NATO President & CEO John Fithian.

Key quotes from Dodd:

"So, when we saw box office growth in 2009, we cheered. In 2010 it slowed, and revenues dropped off in the early part of this year. That's not just a concern for you; it's a concern for all of us. But I for one do not believe the sky is falling. Yes, people have a wider variety of entertainment options these days. Yes, gas prices have gone up. But you have seen attendance ebb and flow in the past, and I believe audiences will be coming back to your theaters to see our films because there really is no parallel to the incredible experience that we, together, provide."

"Nearly 2.5 million people work in our film industry. The success of the movie and TV business doesn't just benefit the names on theater marquees. It also affects all the names in the closing credits and so many more -middle class folks, working hard behind the scenes to provide for their families, saving for college and retirement. And since movies and TV shows are now being made in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, movie theft harms middle class families and small businesses all across the country."

Read the full speech here.

Key Fithian Quotes:

"The first quarter of 2011 has been difficult. But that is a function of the movies in the market. Beginning in May, we expect those comps to improve substantially. The strength of the studio product being shown here this demands confidence in the industry's immediate future. You can just feel the buzz from the movies highlighted last night, this morning, and all through the week."

"The movies drive our business. Another reason for theatrical box office growth is innovation. Our members around the world have invested billions in stadium seating, luxury cinemas, enhanced food and beverage choices, and of course, digital cinema and 3D. The digital revolution has simply exploded since a year ago. Here in the U.S., we have nearly 16,000 digital screens out of a total of 39,000. Almost 9,000 of those digital screens are equipped to project in 3D. We will add thousands more this year."

Monday Night Update: Before the lights dimmed at Paramount's summer and fall clip reel, a studio exec admitted that the 2011 box office has been, well, underwhelming. Paramount can't change the tide alone, but they showed the conventioneers in Caesars' Coliseum, Celine Dion's cathedral, clips from five films they hope will help: Super 8, Kung Fu Panda 2, Puss in Boots, Thor and Captain America. Transformers 3 was heard about but not seenin a video clip, 2009 ShoWest winner Michael Bay said to the crowd, "Two years ago, I told you I'd never make a 3D movie. Well, I lied."

In the same opening montage, directors JJ Abrams, Ron Howard, Cameron Crowe, Christopher Nolan, John Lasseter, Judd Apatow and Todd Phillips (fittingly for Caesars, who sells a souvenir Hangover poster in their gift shop) thanked movie theater owners for giving them inspiration as children and for selling them buckets of tickets as adult artists. They also shared bits of cinema trivia: Apatow is that guy who keeps Snow Caps in business, Phillips remembers when theaters had a smoking section.

But before Paramount could launch into their two hour plus presentation, CinemaCon head Mitch Neuhauser showed off the Coliseum's newly installed projector booth (with 10 projectors from four companies, it's the most expensive in the world, says NATO President John Fithian) and introduced the audience to two intimidating technologies: Pirate Eye, an anti-theft technology scanning the room for cameras from behind the screen, and Demitrious, an intimidatingly under-dressed gladiator hired to attack any furtive texters.

JJ Abrams started off the night by introducing 22 minutes of Super 8 with passion and reluctance. "I honestly don't want to show it. But I really do," he said. The influence of producer Steven Spielberg was strong in the string of scenes. Without giving much away (not that there was much to be gleaned), the footage established the friendship of the crew of kids who witness the train crash, introduced us to the driver of the ill-fated truck seen in the trailer, and proved that whatever the bad thing is, it's really, really strong. Oh, and that Abrams is still dedicated to lens flares.

Marvel Comics showed four scenes from Joe Johnston's Captain America: First Avenger: the hero's creation, his first encounter with his shield, the film's snowy and mysterious present day opening, and the introduction of Dominic Cooper as Howard Stark, the coiffed and charismatic father of Tony. It played well, but the 20 minutes of Thor played better. When Marvel brought Aussi star Chris Hemsworth on the stage, you could hear women gasp at his muscles as accent. His Thor is brash and cocky and Kenneth Branaugh's clearly having fun contrasting the Viking's berserker-smash personality against the modern world. The surprise was just how funny the film appears to bethere's a great throwaway gag in a diner when Thor discovers coffee, and when Kat Dennings discovers the newly fallen God senseless over the loss of his weapon, she quips, "Yeah, I know you're hammered."

Animated films Kung Fu Panda 2 and Puss in Boots rounded out the night. Two weeks ago, DreamWorks showed long clips of both in Los Angeles in 2D. Now, they're ready to show off the 3D, which they've made good use of in each film. Panda was warmly received, but the audience missed out by not seeing any fight choreography with Lord Shen, an evil white peacock whose spinning, scissoring tail looks stunning in 2D and must be unimaginably beautiful in three dimensions. Jack Black came out and did some kung fu moves for the crowd. When he tipped his hat to Celine Dion with a few bars of "My Heart Will Go On," he got the second loudest laughs of the night. The comedy winner was Puss in Boots, who showed 15 minutes that played like catnip. You could see the cash registers over the theater owners' heads when Puss played: it's got broad appeal and it's indisputably good. Either quality could make money. Together, it's all but guaranteed, and that's the kind of movie exhibitors want to see.
- Amy Nicholson


Tags: CinemaCon, CinemaCon 2011

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