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CinemaCon: DreamWorks and Disney/Pixar Previews, Fithian Pins B.O. Recovery Hopes on 3-D, Summer

CinemaCon: DreamWorks and Disney/Pixar Previews, Fithian Pins B.O. Recovery Hopes on 3-D, Summer

Here’s a quick overview of news coming out of CinemaCon, the annual theater owners’ convention in Las Vegas, from Anthony D’Alessandro:

Following new MPAA Chairman Christopher Dodd’s speech Tuesday, National Association of Theatre Owners President and CEO John Fithian gave his State of the Industry address to CinemaCon attendees, insisting that all exhibitors must convert to digital. He also presented stats about the ever-expanding moviegoing audience–despite 2011’s low admissions. An astonishing 34 3-D films will unspool this year versus 2010’s 25, Fithian said:

“For any exhibitor who can hear my voice who hasn’t begun your digital transition, I urge you to get moving.  The distribution and exhibition industries achieved history when
we agreed to technical standards and a virtual print fee model to enable this transition. But the VPFs won’t last forever.  Domestically, you must be installed by the end of 2012 if you want to qualify.  Equally significantly, based on our assessment of the roll-out schedule and our conversations with our distribution partners, I believe that film prints could be unavailable as early as the end of 2013.  Simply put, if you don’t make the decision to get on the digital train soon, you will be making the decision to get out of the business.”

Fithian also mentioned that the growing Hispanic population of 50 million in the U.S. are prime moviegoers, averaging attendance visits seven times a year over other ethnicities who average four.  It’s an interesting point, considering that distributors typically measure ethnic groups during their exits on urban and horror films.  This weekend, Warner Bros. did not break out an ethnic survey on Sucker Punch despite rounding out its cast of lead girls with Jamie Chung and Vanessa Hudgens, both of whom are of Asian descent. Meanwhile, the prized multiplex group of 12-17 year olds account for 8% of the population and 15% of all movie tickets sold.  Fithian believes that the bumpy B.O. road this year will be smoothed out by summer. 
Read the rest of his speech here.
–Dave Hollis, Disney’s new exec vp of distribution, led the studio’s two-hour presentation at CinemaCon yesterday, which was ees warmly received by attendees. After a summer splattered with red ink from Jerry Bruckheimer’s risky hatchlings Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time ($200 million cost, $91 million domestic B.O.)  and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice ($150 million cost, $63 million domestic), the Mouse House has opted to build its slate on dependable assets: Pixar toons and its lucrative The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise  — of which the fourth film On Stranger Tides cost the studio less than previous installments which came in at well over $225 million (Bruckheimer’s knuckles had to be slapped for his 2010 overspending).  
Larry the Cable Guy introduced a clip from this summer’s Cars 2.  Also in the wings for Pixar: a Scottish highland toon The Brave voiced by Emma Thompson, Craig Ferguson and Billy Connolly, described by The Wrap as a “cross between the Asterix comics and a Sleeping Beauty of the Moors.” Also on tap, the Monsters Inc. prequel Monsters University which centers around the studious days of furry headliners Mike and Sully. Fanboys were excited when they caught a glimpse of Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye in complete garb, not only in Monday night’s Thor trailer, but in Marvel’s sizzle reel for The Avengers, a project which Disney picked up in its acquisition of the comic-book company.
At age 57, The Muppets are a dependable property, but ever since Jim Henson’s death in 1990, many have suggested that the puppets’ sense of humor has turned saccharine and pedestrian. Jason Segal, who was entrusted as producer/writer to reboot the franchise, presented exhibitors a clip from The Muppets due out in November, alongside star Amy Adams.  While kids are sure to show up, ironically, Disney and Henson Co. are eager to get the respect from the 25+ crowd on this film – a demo who once adored The Muppet Show during its 1976-1981 TV airing.  Segal, a member of Judd Apatow’s posse, has hooked a number of hipsters to co-star, i.e. Zach Galifianakis, Jack Black, Lady Gaga as well as tunes by Flight of the Conchords bandmate Bret McKenzie. 
But if there are any gambles on the Disney slate, it’s in its portion of DreamWorks titles, a reel that the label’s co-Chairman/CEO Stacey Snider showed earlier Tuesday evening.  What’s obvious is that DreamWorks is splitting its slate between genre fare and potential award contenders.  For young males, there’s the ‘80s horror film reboot Fright Night, introduced by Colin Farrell and director Craig Gillespie, and robot pugilist actioner Real Steel, which star Hugh Jackman talked up.  Balancing out these extremes are the Emma Stone Southern period drama The Help (based on the bestseller), a possible ripe choice for chicks, as well as Steven Spielberg’s The War Horse, which the director discussed via video with some behind-the-scenes footage. 

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