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Wednesday, April 1, 2020

CinemaCon 2020: Salute to the Motion Picture Industry

Film Flam Flummox

When the National Association of Theatre Owners announced the cancellation of this year's CinemaCon on March 11 due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, the program for what would've been the 10th convention under the name (previously, famously known as ShoWest) for motion picture exhibitors around the world was already deep into production. And so, today, on the day after it was to be presented on the big screen of the Colosseum at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas as the curtain-raiser for the traditional Tuesday morning "State of the Industry" presentation, NATO released its annual "Salute to the Motion Picture Industry" reel online to those who were scheduled to attend.

While the official title of this presentation is accurate, it is more precisely a salute to the highest grossers at the worldwide box office. The key word in recent years has been "worldwide," for the characteristically kinetic and rousing reel from Cinema Concepts (again, why doesn't the Academy hire these guys to do a "year in cinema" montage for the Oscars® telecast?) included not only a number of expected titles such as the entire Marvel Studios 2019 slate from Disney, but also some notable, high-profile domestic underachievers that made up some ground globally, and, in one of the more welcome--and long overdue--moves in the last couple of years, a number of international, non-English blockbusters. As Cinema Concepts has always done, the roll call was done in smaller groups, linked by genre, tone, both, or simple whim. First was the action-driven group of Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw (Universal), John Wick: Chapter 3--Parabellum (Lionsgate), domestic underachievers Alita: Battle Angel (20th Century Fox) and Terminator: Dark Fate (Paramount), and Chinese blockbuster The Captain. Next was the "dark phase," featuring Joker (Warner Bros.); It Chapter Two (WB); another domestic underachiever, Godzilla: King of the Monsters (WB); and, in a somewhat thematically consistent but nonetheless odd inclusion for this passage, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil (Disney). That last one, I suppose, made for a more of a seamless transition to the mostly animated feature section: Toy Story 4 (Disney/Pixar), The Secret Life of Pets 2 (Universal), How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (Universal/DreamWorks), Frozen II (Disney), Tim Burton's live action Dumbo (Disney), and Chinese sensation Ne Zha. The next passage was more of a hodgepodge, primarily more adult-oriented, what with Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood (Sony/Columbia) and Knives Out (Lionsgate), but also inexplicably including Shazam! (WB/New Line). The latter would have probably been more fitting in the next phase, centering on live action family entertainers: Pokémon: Detective Pikachu (WB), Jumanji: The Next Level (Sony/Columbia); and Aladdin (Disney). With the exception of Sony/Marvel co-production Spider-Man: Far from Home, the next passage was all about Disney: Carol Danvers (Marvel); Star Wars: Episode IX--The Rise of Skywalker (Lucasfilm); and The Lion King. This, of course, was mere prelude to the grand finale, which trumpted Disney as the undisputed king of the global box office, thanks to 2019's--and all of history's--box office champion, Marvel's Avengers: Endgame.

Should CinemaCon be held in 2021 as hoped, the "Salute to the Film Industry" reel should be an even more noteworthy one than usual, for it remains to be seen how long the current cinema closures worldwide will stand, and how many more delays and adjustments the studios will make to their release schedule. Will there even be enough theatrical releases, let alone high grossing ones, in 2020 to celebrate? Stay tuned.

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