International Day at CinemaCon (23) kicked off in Las Vegas with a pair of addresses that offered a tub-thumping appraisal of international box office growth and reiterated several other familiar themes.

The overall message from Warner Bros president of international distribution Veronika Kwan Vandenberg and Vue Entertainment CEO Tim Richards was that exhibitors must embrace international box office growth, 3D and new technology or they will get left behind.

Kwan Vandenberg said high frame rate would be the “next best thing” for the industry, adding that the studio’s December release of the first episode of The Hobbit (pictured) would be the first film to go out on a higher frame rate.

“It’s important to stay ahead of the curve as consumers are adopting new technologies,” the executive said.

The focus of her presentation was the robust growth in BRIC markets, noting that while Japan – where local language product claims 55% market share – remained the lead territory outside North America, in the last five years box office in China had swelled from $400m to $2bn, of which $725m in 2011 came from Hollywood fare.

With every studio and eastward-looking company scrambling to share in China’s success, the recent arrangement between China and the WTO has paved the way for 34 revenue-share releases each year. Kwan Vandenberg said that Chinese box office is projected to reach $5.6bn by 2016.

Russia and Brazil are also riding the crest of economic waves and are projected to reach $2.2bn and $1.2bn by 2016, respectively.

According to various sources and anecdotal evidence, local language fare in India, the fourth component in the BRIC markets, accounts for between 90% and 95% of market share. “India remains elusive to Hollywood fare,” Kwan Vandenberg said.

3D continues to be a key driver in international box office, due in no small part to digital roll-out and the 30% ticket price surcharge. The executive said that in 2011 half the industry’s top 20 films and all of the top four were released in 3D.

“By the end of 2012 we expect the digital footprint to be 61% of international with quite a few markets nearing or at 100% penetration,” Kwan Vandenberg said.

Vue Entertainment’s Tim Richards spoke of the need for cinemas to convert to digital at a time when Hollywood films continue to deliver massive results outside North America. “Digital projection is now available in 70,000 screens worldwide,” Richards said.

He noted that in Europe around 11% of single-screen venues had converted to digital compared to 89% of multiplexes. “If the smaller venues don’t embrace digital quickly they [will not survive]. It’s likely distributors will stop supplying 35mm film prints in [some markets] in the next 12 months.”

Richards reported that last year’s brouhaha over shrinking windows had simmered down to the point where exhibition and distribution had adopted a policy of flexible engagement, although he did not elaborate.

Piracy remained a major concern and Richards noted that Western advertising and Western credit card companies supported “shockingly sophisticated” pirate websites around the world.

  • Heading into the International Day Lunch, Universal’s svp of international distribution Jack Ledwith was due to collect the CinemaCon Passepartout Award, while Timur Bekmambetov was in town for the International Filmmaker Of The Year honour. Hoyts Entertainment CEO Delfin Fernandez was up for the Global Achievement Award In Exhibition and Paramount Pictures International would receive the International Boxoffice [sic] Achievement Award.
  • CinemaCon top brass announced on Monday that Sylvester Stallone will collect the CinemaCon Career Achievement Award on Apr 26.