By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood March 27, 2012 at 1:43PM
It's often like pulling teeth to get the Hollywood studios to invest the big bucks to put on a dog-and-pony show with stars and clip-reels for the annual National Association of Theater Owners (NATO) convention in Las Vegas. Most take a one year on, one year off approach. Well, something strange is happening. Now that it's no longer called ShoWest--CinemaCon is the new name--all the studios jockeyed for prime slots this April 23 - 26. In fact for the first time in a decade, says Fithian, all six majors will put on display reels. Some will jet in talent, who get a kick from playing in front of some 4000 exhibitors inside the Caesar's Palace Colosseum, CinemaCon's equivalent of ComicCon's Hall H.
The studios are in a delicate place with theater owners, as the film industry is finally starting to transition away from the old serial window distribution strategy that has become less viable now that consumers are demanding access to on-demand video content on multiple platforms. Studios are trying to figure out how to stay in partnership with theaters, who are threatened. "We're finding ways to grow the business together and test models in partnership before we roll out radical things," Fithian said on a NATO/MPAA conference call last week." It's about how to grow the pie together."
Both are invested in a priceless commodity: audiences sitting alone in the dark. As producer Jim Stark once told me: "Nothing beats five weeks of good word-of-mouth."
Thus it's in the studios' interest this year, especially, to make nice with exhibition. Besides, the studios know that any upbeat buzz out of CinemaCon on their summer movies will go viral. It's a win-win. (On the other hand, bad word on movies, especially those freighted with high expectations, can be toxic.)
Warner Bros. is the first studio to announce its CInemaCon program: As part of their annual “State of the Industry” featuring MPAA Chairman & CEO Christopher Dodd and NATO President and CEO John Fithian, on Tuesday April 24th at 9:30am Warners will hawk its summer product for the second year in a row, with WB president Jeff Robinov, Distribution chief Dan Fellman, and International Distribution head Veronika Vandenberg on hand to intro:
• “Dark Shadows”—Directed by Tim Burton and starring Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Helena Bonham Carter, Eva Green, Jackie Earle Haley, Jonny Miller, Chloë Grace Moretz and Bella Heathcote.
• “Rock of Ages”—Directed by Adam Shankman and starring Julianne Hough, Diego Boneta, Russell Brand, Paul Giamatti, Catherine Zeta-Jones,
Malin Akerman, Mary J. Blige with Alec Baldwin and Tom Cruise.
• “The Dark Knight Rises”—Directed by Christopher Nolan and starring Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Anne Hathaway,
Tom Hardy, Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Morgan Freeman.