Film Festivals

CINEMACON 2011

By • Apr 24th, 2011 •

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From March 28th — 31st, 2011 the worldwide motion picture theatre industry convention was held at Caesars Palace. It was the inaugural of CinemaCon, the official convention of NATO (North American Theater Owners). CinemaCon is the largest and most important annual gathering of cinema owners and operators from around the world. It was swarmed with movie stars and premieres. And I got to interview all of them except last year’s fantasy jump-off, Russell Brant, who only did select one-on-one press.

How important is CinemaCon? James Cameron and George Lucas hosted a luncheon and the next morning Cameron showcased the new coming era of movies. CinemaCon made one thing perfectly clear: Soon all movies will be filmed in 3D.

CinemaCon 2011 hosted over 6,000 industry professionals, all on hand for the screenings (held in the 4,082 seat Caesars Palace Colosseum (known as the Celine Dion theater), the ballroom luncheons and the parties.

CinemaCon attendance does not come cheap and the sponsors recognized their responsibility to put on a great convention. The International Package was $895 for members and $1,095 for non-members. The Domestic Package was $795 for members and $995 for non-members. There were also other packages for only the Trade Show & Seminars and a Trade Show Pass.

The CinemaCon Trade Show featured the largest the latest, most important and innovative technological advances in theatre equipment, and concluding the week, The Coca-Cola Company hosted to the Annual CinemaCon Big Screen Achievement.

Monday & Tuesday’s Schedule of Events. Monday’s highlight was the 6-9pm World Premiere Event, “CinemaCon 2011- Celebrating the Moviegoing Experience” featuring an exclusive sneak preview of select upcoming releases presented by Paramount Pictures, DreamWorks Animation and Marvel Studios. We saw generous clips of Thor (with the hottest guy on the planet, Chris Hemsworth, introducing the clip), CAPTAIN AMERICA, KUNG FU PANDA 2 (Jack Black introduced the clip) and PUSS N’ BOOTS.

Thor looks fabulous and so does PUSS N’ BOOTS.

Then we went off to the CinemaCon Kick-Off Party, where the food and drinks flowed, the dancing started, and we had photos taken placing ourselves on movie posters. We went back for second photos!

CinemaCon also held Off-Premise Evening Activities Schedule, CinemaCon 2011 Presents: An Evening of Independent and Specialty Film at the Rave Motion Pictures’ Town Square 18 Theatre (with continuous shuttle bus service from 6:00pm to 12:30am). Delegates are invited to attend screenings at both 8:00pm and 10:15pm with each film offered being shown twice.

Films screened were THUNDER SOUL—Roadside Attractions, THE FIRST GRADER—National Geographic Films, PAGE ONE: A YEAR INSIDE THE NEW YORK TIMES—Magnolia Films and THE FOO FIGHTERS: BACK AND FORTH—Cinedigm Entertainment Group.

Wednesday & Thursday’s Schedule of Events. Wednesday began as usual with a continental breakfast (from 7:30am to 8:30am) followed by trade seminars. There was lunch available each day for all the delegates, but an invitation-only luncheon and panel discussion was held from 12:30pm to 2:15pm. The Octavius Ballroom quickly filled up for a chicken lunch followed by a fantastic panel discussion with James Cameron, George Lucas and Jeffrey Katzenberg.

Cameron and Lucas were incredibly articulate using imaginative key phrases to bring their drum-rolled vision to the delegates. The entire convention’s theme was bigger, better movies presented in a theater – not on an iPhone, iPad, mini DVD player, or on-Demand TV. And, with Cameron’s conversion of Titanic to 3D and Lucas’s third tinkering of STAR WARS: EPISODE 1 – THE PHANTOM MENACE to 3D theaters in 2012, both filmmakers proclaimed that in the future everything will be filmed in 3D.

The Force will be in 3-D. Lucas did mention that Time magazine criticized his re-doing STAR WARS again. (He intends to re-do all 6 STAR WARS movies in 3D.) Lucas justified it by saying that there is an entire generation who never saw STAR WARS in a theater (or, in other words, a new generation that will pay the 3D ticket price).

Cameron and Lucas did acknowledge that lousy 2D to 3D conversion is ruining the 3D process in theatergoer’s minds. They intend to change that. Lucas referenced a company called Prime Focus a few times. Prime Focus is Lucasfilm’s new partner recruited to help them bring STAR WARS: EPISODE 1 – THE PHANTOM MENACE to 3D theaters. Prime Focus is the world’s leading 2D-to-3D conversion company, giving moviemakers the power to produce high quality stereoscopic 3D films from a 2D source. Let’s hope so. Right now, conversion from 2D to 3D looks awful, and audiences can tell the difference.

There were several teasers of movies including J EDGAR by Clint Eastwood, THE DEVIL’S DOUBLE (starring Dominic Cooper as Uday Hussein and his body double), Abduction (starring CinemaCon’s anointed mega-star Taylor Lautner) and a clip of CONAN THE BARBARIAN introduced by star Jason Momoa.

Executive Producer Steven Spielberg, director J.J. Abrams and Paramount debuted 20 minutes of footage from their upcoming film, SUPER 8. Abrams introduced the film telling the audience about his relationship with Spielberg and bringing him the idea for Super 8 (obviously banking on Spielberg’s beginnings as a child with a Super 8 movie camera). It is abundantly clear that Abrams wanted to make a memorial to Spielberg. All the shots are identical to the Spielberg template and re-create famous shots from CLOSE ENCOUNTERS, JAWS, E.T. and GREMLINS. Does Spielberg really need this kind of adulation? Will there be a Marty McFly in SUPER 8?

After lunch, we went to the Sony Pictures Special Award Presentation and Screening. Drew Barrymore surprised the audience by turning up to introduce her CHARLIE’S ANGELS co-star, Female Star of the Year, Cameron Diaz. Diaz introduced a clip from her new movie BAD TEACHER.

Next year, I’m bringing binoculars.

The lobby of the Colosseum was transformed into a zoo for the screening of Kevin James’ movie ZOOKEEPER.

Wednesday evening was the 2011 Pioneer of the Year Dinner with Tim Allen as the Master of Ceremonies. At 10:30pm Sony Pictures Classics invited delegates to a screening of POM WONDERFUL PRESENTS: THE GREATEST MOVIE EVER SOLD by filmmaker Morgan Spurlock.

What a full day and night! I was exhausted, especially since the Caesars Palace Convention Empire is so big. I must have walked 10 miles.

CinemaCon also addressed the hot, testy topic of VOD (video-on-demand). Studios and cable operators for months have been exploring deals to make films available on VOD systems just four to six weeks after they hit theaters, and at premium prices. Theater owners have consistently balked at such proposals, saying they threaten to undermine their businesses by encouraging potential theatergoers to stay home and watch movies on small screens without grand sound systems. Yeah, we want this at premium prices?

CinemaCon – Thursday. The morning program began with a 7:15am continental breakfast in the lobby of The Colosseum following a very special morning program hosted by James Cameron. Called “James Cameron Talks Frame Rates: A Demonstration and Exclusive Look at the Future of Digital Cinema”. Cameron revealed that he wants to be shooting the AVATAR sequels utilizing a faster 48 or 60 frame rate for the movies explaining, “When you author and project a movie at 48 or 60, it becomes a different movie. The 3D shows you a window into reality; the higher frame rate takes the glass out of the window. In fact, it is just reality. It is really stunning.”

He also said that George Lucas and Peter Jackson are big boosters of the higher frame rates. Jackson even initially intended to film “The Hobbit” at 48 frames, before deciding it was impractical, Cameron told the crowd. To show off the improved quality of higher frame rates, Cameron screened a test reel of medieval scenes shot at the various speeds. The effect was startling. At the standard 24 frames, many foreground objects and the actors’ hands blurred whenever the camera panned quickly. At the higher rates of speed, the shakiness vanished.

After the impressive demonstration, there was a 10am screening of Lionsgate film WARRIOR starring INCEPTION co-star and Bronson star, Tom Hardy, and Joel Edgerton from ANIMAL KINGDOM. Hardy and Edgerton play estranged brothers who took different roads in escaping from their alcoholic father, played by Nick Nolte. This is going to be an important Academy Award winning role film for Nolte.

The invitation-only closing day lunch, held at the Octavius Ballroom, was sponsored by Lionsgate with a special presentation of the XpanD 3D system. Yes, this was very impressive and I loved the fancy, couture-inspired 3D glasses. Our gift bag included 2 Blu-rays from Lionsgate! Mine were BURIED starring Ryan Reynolds and Tyler Perry’s FOR COLORED GIRLS. The honoree of CinemaCon’s Visionary Award was Tyler Perry, who, I thought, was going to float in on a cloud after the speeches hailing him as the savior of theater owners.

From 2:30 to 4pm, the Colosseum was taken over by Warner Bros. Pictures previews of THE GREEN LANTERN (introduced by Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively), HORRIBLE BOSSES (Charlie Day, Jason Sudeikis and Jason Batemen introducing the clip), HARRY POTTER AND DEATHLY HALLOWS 2 (with producers David Heyman and David Varron introducing the clip) and THE HANGOVER PART 2 (introduced by director Todd Phillips).

At 4pm, some of the press went to Caesars Pure nightclub where the red carpet was being held. Those cameramen were yelling. A few of us then went to the back room where the CinemaCon Big Screen Achievement Awards winners came to answer a few questions and have their photos taken with our little cameras.

What a thrill to see all the honorees up close answering questions and being charming. But where was Russell Brand? I’m mad at him now. And I read his book, Booky Wooky!

But leave it to one of the press to make Tyler Perry very, very visibly mad! It stopped the love! The question proposed was essentially – “…how does he feel about being called a modern-day Stepin Fetchit?” So what does that reference mean? I did the research.

Stepin Fetchit (May 30, 1902 – November 19, 1985) was the stage name of American comedian and film actor Lincoln Perry (pictured). Perry parlayed the Fetchit persona into a successful film career, eventually becoming a millionaire, the first black actor in history to do so. Perry’s typical film persona and stage name have long been controversial, and seen as illustrative of negative stereotypes of African-Americans.
Well, Tyler Perry’s media empire may be criticized by some as a “minstrel show factory”, but Perry is running a successful show business conglomerate with films, DVDs, sold-out road shows, a tbs sitcom, a bestselling book and, on the Internet, The Tyler Perry Show. And Perry will appear in his first film by someone else: J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek prequel, as the head of the Starfleet Academy.

The Final Night Events was hosted by “Access Hollywood’s” Billy Bush. The awards were: CinemaCon Hall of Fame Award: The “Harry Potter” Film Franchise; Breakthrough Performer of the Year: Blake Lively; Action Star of the Year: Vin Diesel (pictured); Female Star of Tomorrow: Rosie Huntington-Whiteley; Male Star of Tomorrow: Chris Hemsworth; Comedy Star of the Year: Russell Brand; Career Achievement Award: Helen Mirren; Male Rising Star of 2011: Jason Momoa; Female Rising Star of 2011: Julianne Hough; Male Star of the Year: Ryan Reynolds; CinemaCon Visionary Award: Tyler Perry; Sprite Refreshing Films Celebrity Natasha Bedingfield. With the exception of Brand, all of the stars honored came to the press room.

At 9pm began the Gala Final Night Party and it was fabulous – just like the Las Vegas parties pre-economic collapse. Natasha Bedingfield performed and the food was exceptional.

In fact, the entire CinemaCon was fantastic. www.cinemacon.com

Additional coverage and photographs by John Bradfield.

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