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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

CinemaCon 2012, Day 1: Checking In

Film Flam Flummox


The last time I attended covered the Las Vegas-set annual convention for NATO, the National Association of Theatre Owners, not only was it still called ShoWest, digital projection was the next big thing that hadn't quite been standardized, much less perfected; 3D was still a relic of the '50s and early '80s; movie piracy was just a slowly growing concern in the American theatrical release marketplace; theatres' main step toward added luxury for its patrons was the more widespread adoption of stadium seating. Flash forward a few years to the 2012 edition of NATO's rechristened (as of 2011) CinemaCon, and theatres are in the final transition from projecting celluloid prints to only digital ones; digital 3D as a cash-grabbing trend has already quickly grown, peaked, and is on an equally hasty decline; piracy, particularly on the Internet, is a plague that informs many a release decision not only in theatres but in the home entertainment market; and posh, premium-priced cinemas offering not only reclining seats but in many cases in-movie, wait service dining options is the latest rage to bolster theatrical attendance. In a somewhat similar move to more upscale environment, with the new CinemaCon branding came a a shift in venue from the adjoined Ballys and Paris to the diagonally across the intersection of Las Vegas Boulevard and Flamingo Road at the resort most closely equated with high rolling in Sin City: Caesars Palace.

But, as it is often said, the more things change, the more they say the same. While the new digs offer both a more centrally concentrated and expansive space for the convention's varied slate of activities to take place, it was a bit comforting to be greeted at the Promenade Level of the Caesars ballroom/convention wing by the familiar "welcome" archway--albeit now, of course, bearing the CinemaCon name.

And, per tradition, not far from the branded entryway is the big video screen showing trailers. One thing I noticed over the ShoWest years was how the screen gradually shrank in size with each successive convention. While I wasn't here for last year's inaugural CinemaCon, this year, at least, it's back to the more attention-grabbing dimensions of the first NATO convention I attended.

Multiple levels for the convention also means a lot more space for studios to play around and promote their upcoming releases. Just about every square inch was put to use--including the escalators, which Paramount and Fox put to good use, pushing some of their big summer hopefuls: in the former case, the latest Sacha Baron Cohen comedy The Dictator and the action sequel G.I. Joe: Retaliation; in the latter, Ridley Scott's much-anticipated, much-mysterious Alien sort-of-prequel Prometheus.

More hallway space means that many more movie posters, which is a bit overwhelming for even an obsessive cinephile such as myself--not to mention makes it all the more difficult to stand out from the pack. So Universal and product tie-in partner Coca-Cola deserve some credit for immediately catching attention with their large display promoting Peter Berg's board game-inspired sci-fi (!) actioner Battleship.

The most intriguing posters in the hallways for me are not for any upcoming release, but those in the back stretch of the main convention space, which is devoted to displaying various autographed items up for silent auction to benefit a familiar name to moviegoers for: Variety, the Children's Charity, video highlights of whose numerous philanthropic efforts and activities were shown on a large screen alongside statues of Alvin and the Chipmunks (who, thankfully, are not set to return to the big screen in 2012).

Stay tuned here all week for ongoing coverage of all the goings-on at CinemaCon 2012!

(very special thanks to Heather Lewandoski, Jessica Erskine, and the entire crew at Rogers & Cowan for all their helpful and generous assistance at the convention.)

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