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Sunday, March 31, 2019

CinemaCon 2019 preview

Film Flam Flummox

Tomorrow, Monday, April 1 marks the first day of CinemaCon, the annual convention of the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO), in Las Vegas. The four-day conference is perhaps best known for the lavish presentations thrown by film distributors large and smaller, showcasing the upcoming releases--and, more often than not, talent behind and/or featured in said releases--on their slate. After a packed 2018 edition that saw the the convention struggling to fit in the many studios that opted to formally participate, 2019 finds the event in a bit of flux, much like the film exhibition industry as a whole following the mega-merger of the Walt Disney Studios and 20th Century Fox. The departure of the latter already leaving an empty spot in the schedule in what had been its traditional week-capping spot on Thursday morning, the convention suffered a further blow with Sony Pictures announcing in January that it is opting not to put on a presentation this year. That decision has appeared to, if not completely set off, then at least partially influence a bit of a domino effect, with Focus Features then opting to abandon what had been an annual luncheon slot. With the Will Rogers Motion Pictures Pioneers Foundation also deciding to move its Pioneer of the Year dinner gala from being a midweek staple of the convention to being its own separate event in Los Angeles, yet another hole materialized in the schedule. So this year finds a couple of indies picking up the slack and getting thrust onto the main stage in the massive Colosseum in Caesars Palace: Amazon Studios, which like Focus had traditionally held a luncheon, screens its celebrated Sundance acquisition Late Night, with presumably at least a passing glance at the rest of its slate; and, in the most unexpected move, the big opening night slot is being given to CinemaCon newcomers NEON, who will be screening their Scottish country music drama Wild Rose, which the distributors picked up at this past fall's Toronto International Film Festival. While the big studios that are returning will certainly be doing their best to grab exhibitors' and the media's attention--and, in the case of the bigger-than-ever Disney, more attention and scrutiny will certainly be paid as its game plan with its newly acquired division of Fox should be come at least a little more clear--there is an unusual air of uncertainty, and thus a larger sense of excitement, about how exactly this year will play out.

Here's the scheduled daily rundown of the studio presentations:

But as I say every year since I've been comprehensively covering what was then named ShoWest back in 2001, this event is about more than just the product that is projected on cinemas' screens, but all issues pertaining to the exhibition industry, from the latest and greatest in audio, projection, and presentation technologies and concession stand offerings in the massive trade show and demonstration suites; to strategies and ongoing business concerns for theatre owners. All of the business talk will culminate with the Thursday evening tradition of the Big Screen Achievement Awards, honoring numerous luminaries for their contributions in front of and behind the camera on upcoming releases.

Stay tuned here and on my Twitter and Instagram all week for ongoing coverage of all the goings-on at CinemaCon 2019!

(Very special thanks to Rogers & Cowan for all their helpful and generous assistance at the convention.)

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