As expected the slow roll-out of 3D across North America and the world dominated the agenda of the opening day of ShoWest as delegates looked ahead to a gradual easing of the credit crunch and DreamWorks Animation chief Jeffrey Katzenberg flew into town to deliver a triumphant rallying cry to exhibitors.
Katzenberg's presence at the condensed annual convention was by no
means guaranteed and hinged on the results of last weekend's 3D launch
of Monsters Vs Aliens. In the end the film's much lauded $59.3m
three-day gross inspired Katzenberg to tell attendees at a seminar on
the future of the industry, '3D is real, it's great and it's here.'
Hollywood's most ardent champion of the format noted there were
roughly 2,100 screens in North America equipped to show films in 3D
and said that as the credit markets began to relax 'our goal should be
to have 7-8,000 3D screens installed by the end of 2010 - enough to
play two 3D movies at the same time.'
Paramount Pictures International president Andrew Cripps said that
given an improvement in the global markets he expected the roughly
1,500 international 3D screen count to double by the end of 2010.
Cripps and Katzenberg are familiar to one another given that Paramount
Pictures International is handling the overseas launch of Monsters Vs
Aliens, which opens in most markets this weekend. Cripps noted the
early release of the film in Russia was partly due to the high incidence of piracy as well as a national school holiday.
Paul Heth, president and general director of Rising Star Media, a joint exhibition venture between National Amusements and Soquel Ventures with a heavy presence in Russia, said piracy was such a problem in the country that day-and-date releasing or pre-North American releases were 'essential'. He said the DVD release window had shrunk to four weeks compared to an average of four months in North America.
Heth called for more local language pictures in Russia and saidsuperhero films did not always travel that well, or certainly not as well as animated films - Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa was a huge hit in
Russia - or family titles. 'Local production is a game multiplier,' he said.
Earlier in the day in the show's opening keynote address Fox Filmed
Entertainment co-chairman Jim Gianopulos pledged the studio's
commitment to digital conversion. Gianopulos noted that at a time when
the average working person in the US has 16 leisure hours a week and
spends most of it playing games or surfing the net, ancillary markets
- an outdated phrase if ever there was one - 'provide financial
support for bigger movies.'
He moved to reassure exhibitors and drew a ripple of applause when he
said the trick was to move releasing windows as close together as
possible without disrupting the earning power of each. 'We're in this
together,' he said.
Gianopulos compared North American box office of $9.78bn for 2008 with international receipts of $18.35bn, adding somewhat speciously that if the US per-capita spend on film-going for a population of 340m was applied to the 6.5bn population of the rest of the world, international ticket sales would rise to $186.94bn.
Tomorrow in ShoWest's second day,Motion Picture Association Of America chairman and CEO Dan Glickman and National Association Of Theatre Owners president and CEO John Fithian will deliver their annual state of the industry addresses.
Fithian will highlight statistics from 2008 that have been on his company's website for several weeks, listing for example the $7.18 average US ticket price and 1.363bn admissions tally.
Glickman will finally unveil the annual facts and figures pertaining
to average production and marketing costs of a Motion Picture
Association Of America film, among other things. The belief is that he
wanted to keep a low profile about Hollywood's record revenues so as
not to jeopardise the possibility of subsidies from Washington.