This month Mitch Neuhauser, Managing Director of CinemaCon, joins John in this column.
Though words are simply insufficient to describe how elated and grateful we are for the tremendous support given to our convention, we attempt here to scratch the surface of our sentiments. Simply put, CinemaCon constituted a tremendous success that exceeded our very high expectations, principally due to the energetic support of many people who care deeply about the wonderful business of motion picture exhibition.
As CinemaCon opened, our industry had suffered through three months of disappointing box office results. By the end of the week, the more than 3,000 officially registered delegates who participated in the event could feel confident that growth would return soon to a global business that experienced a record $32 billion in receipts last year. From the amazing footage of upcoming films, to the creative ideas discussed, to the innovations demonstrated on the sold-out trade floor and suites, theater operators from around the world acquired a new tool set for success.
Exhibition cannot exist without movies, and our partners in distribution came in strong number to show us their soon-to-be released product. Paramount, Disney, Sony, Lionsgate and Warner Bros. all hosted major presentations with a bevy of stars to promote exciting upcoming movies. The movies of our Independent ShowCase night (graciously hosted by NATO member Rave Motion Pictures), and a late-night documentary screening rounded out the offerings. And Universal and Fox chipped in with honorees and major filmmaker presenters. Even though NATO has some difficult battles with some of our distribution partners right now, we are grateful that they all contributed to the success of the convention and the industry going forward.
We don't dare describe our favorite movie segments of the week, for fear of leaving out some amazing filmmaking. But we can cite a few of our favorite star events. John's picks include the standing ovation given to Tyler Perry for his amazing body of work, the hilarious award reception of Russell Brand, and the ever-gracious presence of Helen Mirren. For Mitch—aside from the studio presentations, which were beyond incredible—it was Vin Diesel's acceptance speech that came right from the heart. When Vin noted that "without movie theaters as a place to show our films, all there would be are dailies," he summed up what CinemaCon is all about: a true celebration of the moviegoing experience. And of course we are grateful to Billy Bush and the Access Hollywood team for their mastery of the Big Screen Achievement Awards ceremony.
The movies bring people to our cinemas. The sophisticated equipment we utilize and the delicious concessions we offer enable the finest environment in which to enjoy those movies. We thank our partners at the International Cinema Technology Association and the National Association of Concessionaires and their myriad members for populating the trade floor and demonstration suites with enticing displays of the best products on the market today. We all experienced some amazing technologies and sampled some very tasty treats.
Speaking of great-tasting refreshment, our faithful industry friends from the Coca-Cola Company served admirably as the convention's Presenting Sponsor. Our partners at Coke, led by Stefanie Miller, gave support throughout the week and threw one fabulous party on closing night. Memories will linger of the delicious food and exciting musical entertainment of Natasha Bedingfield as conventioneers mingled outside on a beautiful evening surrounding the six pools of the glorious Caesars Garden of the Gods Pool Oasis.
Though Coca-Cola took the lead, many, many other companies offered sponsorship support throughout the week. By giving of their time, financial support and creative engagement with our delegates, these sponsors helped to keep our registration rates affordable and our experience enjoyable. The names of these sponsors are included at the margins of this column. Thank you to all.
One of the primary reasons for our move to Caesars was our desire to house all delegates in one auditorium for the major product presentations and industry addresses. With the support of the Anschutz Entertainment Group, we were thrilled to be in the Colosseum—"Celine's house"—throughout the week, and we weren't disappointed. With the tireless support of many companies (including Boston Light and Sound, Dolby Labs, QSC Audio Products, Christie, Barco, NEC, Sony Digital Cinema Solutions, RealD and MasterImage 3D), we constructed the most complicated and technologically advanced projection booth ever assembled in one place. The movies looked great and the stars shone bright on a massive screen with an amazing sound system, and we trust the several thousand enthusiastic professionals left happy.
In addition to the "show" of our show business, we were also so pleased to assemble an extensive array of substantive programs to educate our delegates. Industry leader Millard Ochs of Warner Bros. International Cinemas helped organize Monday's International Day programming. Program topics included audience targeting, foreign and local movie production, global digital challenges, international exhibition best practices and the exploding "BRIC" markets of Brazil, Russia, India and China.
Wednesday morning's seminar series offered five different cutting-edge panel discussions on such topics as social networking, technology problem-solving, independent films, new technologies and premium theaters. Attending delegates told us how much they learned from the many experts who shared their insights with us on Monday and Wednesday. Thank you to all our volunteer presenters.
The brain trust continued at Wednesday's historic lunch where RealD's Michael Lewis hosted a panel discussion on the digital world of filmmaking. Hollywood creative titans James Cameron, George Lucas and Jeffrey Katzenberg inspired us with their wisdom. The authors of this column stood at the back of the ballroom and noted that virtually none of the two thousand-plus lunch attendees left the room until after the last words were spoken from our august panelists. As two guys who have attended many, many movie industry conventions, we can tell you that almost never happens.
Our friend and supporter Jim Cameron returned on Thursday morning for an important technical demonstration and discussion on digital cinema frame rates. We were literally the first to witness the future of cinema technology on the big screen. Where else but CinemaCon can ordinary cinema engineers and operators engage in a spirited Q&A session with the world's most successful filmmaker?
NATO's leading substantive partner, of course, is the Motion Picture Association of America. Here, too, CinemaCon made history as we were fortunate to experience the first public appearance and speech from Senator Chris Dodd as the new Chairman and CEO of the MPAA. In our joint state-of-the-industry addresses, press conference, and private meetings, the MPAA and NATO demonstrated our continuing partnership as we together represent this wonderful industry.
Speaking of industry firsts, we are very pleased and honored that CinemaCon could combine efforts with the Will Rogers Motion Picture Pioneers Foundation to bestow the "Pioneer of the Year" award on our dear friend Dick Cook, the former Chairman of Walt Disney Studios. With CinemaCon and industry sponsors contributing the venue and dinner, and the Foundation soliciting financial support, we raised over one million dollars to support industry veterans in need. Tim Allen made us laugh. Three former heads of Disney made us think. And Dick simply made us proud to be a part of this magical industry.
The show never would have happened without the tremendous volunteer support of NATO's own members. Convention Honorary Chairmen Mike Campbell and Lee Roy Mitchell added real gravitas to our efforts. The association's Board, led by Chairman Tony Kerasotes, took a big (but smart!) risk by investing the time and money to create this convention. A task force of members including Byron Berkley, Rob Del Moro, John McDonald and Tim Warner provided key guidance and volunteer manpower. But most importantly, the task force co-chairmen, Phil Harris and Bill Stembler, put in hundreds of hours and strategic leadership to enable this event. On behalf of all NATO members and all CinemaCon delegates, we offer our heartfelt thanks to these amazing volunteers.
And finally, one last but important group of volunteers also deserve special credit: the past chairmen and presidents of NATO, who honored us all with their receipt of the first annual "NATO Marquee Award." Receiving their awards on Tuesday morning were:
Lee Roy Mitchell
A. Alan Friedberg
Roy B. White
(Unable to attend were Barrie Lawson Loeks and Sumner Redstone.)
What an honor to have these titans of NATO gathered together on our first CinemaCon stage.
Well, all good things must come to an end, and so does CinemaCon 2011. We welcome and invite the feedback and suggestions of all our delegates—and we're already excited about the next CinemaCon! Mark your calendars for April 23 - 26, 2012 in Las Vegas!