If every silver lining has its cloud, neither Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) Chairman Dan Glickman nor National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) President John Fithian felt compelled to mention current or future impediments to the health of film exhibition in their annual addresses at the ShoWest exhibition convention.
Last week the MPAA released box office figures for 2007 that reflected box office but not admission gains and Glickman choose to emphasize the positive in his initial remarks.
He cited a survey conducted by the association last summer in which movie goers were polled and 77% responded that their experience was time and money well spent.
He also stated that against conventional wisdom 'folks that pimp their living rooms for a home entertainment environment go to the movies four times more (a year) than the national average.'
Anecdotal data peppered both Glickman and Fithian's remarks and the barrage of statistics suggested a less than random selection might easily lead to a contrary conclusion.
Fithian recalled a box office downturn in 2005 and likened industry and media response at the time to a cartoon character carrying a sign reading: The End is Near.' 'Well we're still around,' he stated and noted that historically film attendance defies downturns in the economy.
Neither of the industry chiefs chose to do much crystal ball gazing; preferring to concentrate on enduring factors including the economic edge going to the movies has over music concerts and other entertainment and sporting activities (including bowling), a reversal in the window between theatrical and DVD release and the fact that the cost of a movie ticket has not increased in relation to inflation over the past three decades.
Fithian then switched gears and noted that audiences were willing to pay higher ticket prices for premium attractions such as 3D and large format versions of popular releases.
The morning session began with DreamWorks Animation's Jeffrey Katzenberg presenting sequences from imminent and future releases Kung Fu Panda and Monsters vs. Aliens in 3D to demonstrate the strides in quality digital has provided the technique.
'This is the greatest (film) innovation since colour 70 years ago,' he asserted. Katzenberg pointed out that 10 films in 3D are currently on the release slate for 2009 and that puts tremendous pressure on the schedule for the conversion of analog sites.
Roughly 10% of North American screens presently had digital capability and the penetration internationally is generally lower with a few exceptions.
A fervent cheerleader, Katzenberg was convincing in his remarks and in the footage he screened that the uniqueness of the viewing experience could not be replicated in a home setting and that 3D was the best opportunity for 'growing admissions and not just box office.'
A panel on Monday also noted the challenges 3D poses for film pirates but cautioned that sophisticated thieves would replicate it in some fashion eventually.
Piracy also figured into the MPAA and NATO addresses with Glickman simply stating it remained the greatest threat to all sectors of the industry.
Fithian stated that an estimated $670m was lost to film theft in 2007 or roughly 4% - a figure that suggests both enforcement and education is bringing down the economic impact from illegal activity at least in North America.
Fithian did ultimately concede a note of frustration in the release philosophies of the major distributors.
He saw millions squandered by the cluttered summer and holiday periods at the expense of softer competition periods in February, April and September.
'Popular films do well no matter what time of year you open them,' he maintained.
He also thumped for more diverse product ('it's happening') and that theater owners 'love lots of movies in the marketplace' contrary to popular evidence or anecdotal contradiction.