Motion Picture Association of American chief Dan Glickman and John Fithian, head of the National Association of Theater Owners, deliver positive state of industry speeches at ShoWest; Glickman bids farewell.

Dan Glickman, the outgoing chairman of the Motion Picture Association of America, and John Fithian, president of the National Association of Theater Owners (NATO), gave upbeat state of the industry addresses at ShoWest yesterday (March 16) after a record breaking year at the box office.

Glickman, who joins Refugees International on April 1, largely refrained from giving a valedictory speech or a recap of his six year tenure. With no successor in place, CEO Robert Pisano will handle the chairman’s role on an interim basis beginning next month.

His address seemed somewhat denuded now that the MPAA releases box office and attendance figures prior to ShoWest. Glickman added little more than anecdote to the data, noting that last year saw a significant spike in attendance and that regular movie goers are visiting the cinema more often. Roughly 50% of movie goers identified themselves as regular visitors – attending at least once a month.

Both at the convention and at an earlier press briefing, Glickman cited the global impact of Avatar with particular reference to the film’s record breaking performance in China. For many it seemed an ironic note as China pays flat rates (without overages) for the American films it imports. It had been reported that Glickman’s failure to negotiate a new profit-sharing arrangement with the Chinese was among the reasons for his departure.

Meanwhile, Fithian attempted to lay out some possible future scenarios. He trumpeted recent successes of 3D films as the beginning of a viewing trend and not a passing fashion. He said that in 2009 stereoscopic films accounted for 11% of the box office at a time when only 10% of the screens are equipped to show the format.

The NATO president also attempted to downplay press coverage of the windows issue, which had several major theatre chains in America and Europe threatening not to screen Alice in Wonderland. He also noted that in the past five years the average number of days from theatrical distribution to DVD release had remained roughly the same; fluctuating by no more than eight days.

He characterised the situation as one of “limited flexibility”. The exception to the rule would be event films released in March or September that are targeted for DVD release in peak summer and holiday periods.

The positive mood of the morning was, perhaps, put into perspective by Bill Stembler of Georgia Theaters, who on being  presented with the ShoWester of the Year award, likened the relationship between film suppliers and theatre owners as: “Two mortal enemies bound together by greed.”

With NATO taking control of ShoWest from next year, Fithian also gave a nod to Jimmy Sunshine, whose organisation had been running the eventfor the past decade. From next year, it will relocate activities to Caesar’s Palace, also in Las Vegas.

The morning concluded with a screening of Pixar’s forthcoming Toy Story 3. John Lasseter, Pixar founder and Disney Animation president, introduced the film, explaining that with the film’s release three months in the offing they were unable to present it in 3D. As a consolation he presented Pixar’s lastest 3D short subject Night And Day ahead of the feature. Crowd response was upbeat for both offerings.