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Monday, April 25, 2022

CinemaCon 2022, Day 1: Checking In

Film Flam Flummox

CinemaCon

CinemaCon 2022 floor signage (photo by Michael Dequina)

While CinemaCon, the official convention for the National Association of Theatre Owners, did take place in 2021 after 2020's near-universal pandemic pause, that unusually summer-set edition was, by most first person accounts, a downscaled event from the norm. The event's return to its traditional springtime berth for 2022 is, in its own way, itself a signal of a return to normalcy as theatrical attendance and box office has rebounded in the last few months. That being said, not unlike how the world populace at large has largely resumed normal day-to-day activity but with some alteration/adaptation, so has the convention.

This became obvious within taking literally first steps into the dedicated ballroom/convention wing of Caesars Palace. To enter, one must take escalators to the convention wing. Typically, the sides of the escalators themselves are prime spots for studios to advertise upcoming releases. This year, however, both sets of escalators to the main convention level and the upper halls, are in their natural, uncovered state.

riding up the CinemaCon escalators Riding up the bare CinemaCon escalators
(animated photo by Michael Dequina)

Not immune to the changes is the familiar CinemaCon archway, which had remained constant since 2015. Instead of being made up of conjoined LED screens that rotated various images and displayed schedule information, it was back to a static sign with schedule information that had to be manually updated--not only a throwback to the earliest years of the convention, but also the days of its predecessor event from 2011 and earlier, ShoWest.

CinemaCon archway CinemaCon archway
(photo by Michael Dequina)

The last remaining constant, however, is the Christie-sponsored screen that sits slightly diagonally opposite the archway showcasing various trailers from upcoming film releases. Even here, though, there was a slight change in programming: there were no profiles on stars set to be honored on the Thursday night Big Screen Achievement Awards, likely due to the fact that honoree list is still a bit of a work of progress even at this writing.

CinemaCon lobby screen CinemaCon lobby screen
(photo by Michael Dequina)

A not-so-slight change in the age of COVID is the Wellness Check-In station, where one must provide either vaccination proof or 48-hour negative test before one can even proceed to registration. Signs directing to this first stop met everyone once making the hard right turn into the main convention lobby space after the long escalator ride up.

Registration and Wellness Check-In signs Registration and Wellness Check-In signs
(photo by Michael Dequina)

Wellness Check-In Wellness Check-In
(photo by Michael Dequina)

Situated diagonally from the Wellness Check-In station was another new addition, but this a far more positive one, and one that perhaps should have been instituted a long time ago: an official CinemaCon store selling shirts, hats, and other officially branded convention merchandise. It's a bit amazing that it took over 10 years to set-up what seems like, in instant retrospect, a no-brainer idea.

CinemaCon store
(photo by Michael Dequina)

While the amount of posters and banners in the main labyrinth of hallways was noticeably lighter pverall than in the pre-pandemic years, one trend that has thankfully ended to some degree is major studios not premiering new one-sheets, teaser posters, banners, or even rough mock-ups in the convention corridors. Two studios in particular, Universal (and its specialty division, Focus Features) and Lionsgate, led that charge. The former premiered new non-teaser banners and posters for Jordan Peele's enigmatic thriller Nope (due out July 22); first-ever posters for comedian Jo Koy's starring debut Easter Sunday (August 5), star Idris Elba and producer Will Packer's reunion on the lion-stalking thriller Beast (August 19), and the James Wan- and Jason Blum-produced creepy doll horror flick Megan (early 2023). On the Focus side, there was a banner for the Lesley Manville-starring novel adaptation Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris (July 15), and the sequel Downton Abbey: A New Era (May 20 in North America) claimed the plum advertising spot covering the landing between the two main sets of escalators in the convention center.

Nope poster Nope poster
(photo by Michael Dequina)

Nope banner Nope banner
(photo by Michael Dequina)

Easter Sunday poster Easter Sunday poster
(photo by Michael Dequina)

Idris Elba in Beast poster Beast poster, starring Idris Elba
(photo by Michael Dequina)

Megan poster Megan poster
(photo by Michael Dequina)

Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris banner Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris banner
(photo by Michael Dequina)

Downton Abbey: A New Era floor display Downton Abbey: A New Era floor display
(photo by Michael Dequina)

The other leading studio taking up hallway real estate, Lionsgate, made a bit of a bolder statement, occupying blocks of lightbox space to give first glimpses at a wide swath of their slate: action four-quels John Wick: Chapter 4 (March 24, 2023) and Expendables 4 (TBA 2023); two younger-skewing literary adaptations, the Judy Blume favorite Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret. (September 16) and the Wonder spinoff White Bird (October 14); and comedian Sebastian Maniscalco's semi-autobiographical comedy About My Father (TBA 2022), also starring Robert De Niro.

John Wick: Chapter 4 display John Wick: Chapter 4 display
(photo by Michael Dequina)

Expendables 4 display Expendables 4 display
(photo by Michael Dequina)

Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret. display Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret. display
(photo by Michael Dequina)

White Bird: A Wonder Story display White Bird: A Wonder Story display
(photo by Michael Dequina)

About My Father display About My Father display
(photo by Michael Dequina)

While not as prominent a hallway presence as those other two studios, Warner Bros. commandeered the choice lightbox display just inside the convention welcome arch, touting its upcoming big screen titles based on DC Comics: the DC Extended Universe entries Black Adam (October 21), Shazam! Fury of the Gods (December 16), Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom (March 17, 2023), and The Flash (June 23, 2023); and the animated feature League of Super-Pets (July 29).

Warner Bros. DC display Warner Bros.' DC display:
Shazam! Fury of the Gods, Black Adam,
Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom, The Flash,
League of Super-Pets
(photo by Michael Dequina)

While Sony Pictures' hotly anticipated animated sequel Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse--Part One was just recently delayed from an October release date to one in June of next year, the studio won the award for the coolest hallway display: an interactive exhibit where one enters and navigates in comic book adventures starring either Miles Morales, Peter Parker, or Gwen Stacy by unlocking pages, panels, and actions through various body movements. Needless to say, this was far easier said than done, but those that were able to even slightly step into the Spider-Verse were treated to some impressive visuals and animations.

Sony Pictures interactive Spider-Verse display Sony Pictures' Spider-Verse interactive display
(photo by Michael Dequina)

Sony Pictures interactive Spider-Verse display Sony Pictures' Spider-Verse interactive display
(photo by Michael Dequina)

Sony Pictures interactive Spider-Verse display Sony Pictures' Spider-Verse interactive display
(photo by Michael Dequina)

That elaborate display was clearly the standout among those designed for selfies and--above all--social media posting/free promotion, but also standing out (no pun intended) from the basic large cardboard standees were two for a pair of sequels originally set for summer 2020 but infamously pushed by the pandemic: a foosball table for Universal and Illumination's Minions: The Rise of Gru (July 1) and a helmet-shaped display showing clips from Paramount's Top Gun: Maverick (May 27).

Minions: The Rise of Gru foosball table Minions: The Rise of Gru foosball table
(photo by Michael Dequina)

Top Gun: Maverick display Top Gun: Maverick display
(photo by Michael Dequina)

Amazon Studios, once a major presence and participant in the official convention program, had its solitary presence for the week in a single-poster rundown of upcoming releases. With its recently closed acquisition of MGM--and thus, presumably, a renewed commitment to standard-window theatrical releases--perhaps they will once again secure a place in the official presentation schedule in 2023.

Amazon Studios preview poster Amazon Studios preview poster
(photo by Michael Dequina)

One trend that has grown this year is that of obscure independent distributors/films securing lightbox space. The two titles that caught the most attention were two self-explanatory biopics: Reagan, starring Dennis Quaid; and, speaking of Amazon, Bezos.

Reagan movie poster Reagan poster
(photo by Michael Dequina)

Bezos movie poster Bezos poster
(photo by Michael Dequina)

Per tradition, a certain stretch of the hallways is devoted to displaying various autographed posters and memorabilia items up for silent auction to benefit Variety, the Children's Charity. Most notable for me was a one-sheet of Marshall, signed by, among others, the late Chadwick Boseman.

Variety, the Children's Charity silent auction display Variety, the Children's Charity silent auction display
(photo by Michael Dequina)

Marshall poster signed by Chadwick Boseman Marshall movie poster signed by Chadwick Boseman
for Variety, the Children's Charity silent auction
(photo by Michael Dequina)


Stay tuned here and on my Twitter and Instagram all week for ongoing coverage of all the goings-on at CinemaCon 2022!


(Very special thanks to Heather Lewandoski and the CinemaCon PR team for all their helpful and generous assistance at the convention, as well as Mitch Neuhauser and the CinemaCon crew and John Fithian, Jackie Brenneman, and the National Association of Theatre Owners)


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