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“Inaugural CinemaCon Convenes at Ceasars Palace”

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“Inaugural CinemaCon Convenes at Ceasars Palace”

By Judy Thorburn 


2011 marked the inaugural year for CinemaCon, formerly known as Showest, the Official convention of The National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO). Along with the new name, the location for the show changed and has moved from its former host venues Ballys and Paris to another Las Vegas strip resort, Caesars Palace.

 More than 6,000 motion picture theater industry professionals, including theatre owner/managers, studio executives, movie distributors, and manufacturers of the latest groundbreaking technologies meant to enhance the moving going experience, attended the four day event from March 28-31. Highlights included special full length screenings of upcoming feature films (at the Colosseum, home of Celine Dion's show) and the appearance of several film stars and filmmakers that show up to help promote their new releases. Many of the stars in attendance were also honored with CinemaCon’s annual achievement awards in specific categories.

NATO President John Fithian announced that Global box office receipts reach a record high $31.8 billion last year, an increase of 8% over 2009. The domestic U.S. box office climbed 15 percent to $10.6 billion.

In 2010, more than 1.34 billion people went to the movies. From 2001-2010, the average annual admissions were 1.43 billion compared with 1.28 billion in the 1990s. As an official NATO spokesman said: “It’s the movies that matter, and it proves that our industry is recession resistant. Movie theaters continue to be the least expensive form of out-of-home entertainment, less expensive than Broadway theater, NFL games, touring concerts and NHL, NBA and MLB matchups.”

The main topic of discussion, a carrier over from last year's ShoWest, regarding enhancing the movie going experience was digital and 3D.  “The digital revolution has simply exploded the past year,”  Fithian said. “Nearly 16,000 screens in America are now digital out of 30,000, with 9,000 equipped to project in 3D. We will add thousands more in the next 12 months. If movie theaters don’t make the decision to get on the digital train, they will go out of business."

“In 2010, 3D grosses constituted 21 percent of total receipts. This year, Hollywood will release 34 3D movies, up from just 25 last year. It’s growing worldwide, too. Box office outside the U.S. and Canada last year exceeded $20 billion for the first time."

It only goes to prove, nothing can compare with the movie going experience. Even during a bad economy people are willing to dig into their pocket and buy a movie ticket so they can experience a safe form of fun escapism. I agree with George Lucas when he said, “Movie theatres will never go away. People want to share the experience together; to cry, and laugh. A night out of comfort and quality, you cannot get that on an I phone or TV.”

Kicking off CinemaCon 2011 was Monday night’s World Premiere Event titled CinemaCon 2011 – Celebrating the Moviegoing Experience”, a special inaugural program featuring an exclusive sneak peak of select upcoming releases presented by Paramount, Dreamworks Animation and Marvel Studios, complete with stars and filmmakers.

Prior to showing footage, there was a short video featuring directors Todd Phillips, Judd Apatow, Ron Howard, Michael Bay, Cameron Crowe, J.J. Abrams, Christopher Nolan and John Lassetter who spoke about their earliest and favorite movie experiences.

Director J.J. Abrams appeared in person to introduce a trailer and 20 minutes of never before seen footage from his film, “Super 8”, an action packed sci fi thriller starring Elle Fanning and Kyle Chandler.

Next we got a taste of Marvel Studios’ “Captain America – The First Avenger”, based on the iconic Marvel comics superhero character, which opens July 22.

Jeffrey Katzenberg took to the stage to introduce clips from “Kung Fu Panda 2” in 3D and there was a surprise appearance by the very funny Jack Black, who supplies the voice of the titled character.  “This movie kicks royal butt” said Black, as he hammed it up on stage showing the audience his kung fu moves (amusing as they were) to prove he has what it takes to kick butt, if anyone dares to get on his case.

Chris Hemsworth, the handsome, hunky star of “Thor” introduced a 20 minutes of footage from his film that co-stars recent Academy Award winner Natalie Portman. Closing out this sneak peak was 15 minutes from one of the first movies expected to kick off the holiday season in 2011, 'Puss In Boots', a spinoff from Shrek showcasing one of the beloved characters from the popular franchise, with Antonio Banderas once again lending his sexy voice to PIB.

Tuesday morning Dreamworks Studios presented a sneak peak of their most anticipated upcoming films for 2011. Steven Spielberg appeared on video to introduce behind the scenes footage from “War Horse” which opens on December 28. Producer Chris Columbus, director Tate Taylor, and actresses Emma Stone, Bryce Dallas Howard, Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer appeared on stage to promote their upcoming release, ‘The Help”.  Colin Farrell, star of Fright Night in 3D, walked on stage prior to the clip of his film and said, “ I was a fan of the original. Making the film was a blast.”

Also on hand was Director Shawn Levy and Hugh Jackman, star of “Real Steal”, a story about boxing robots, which opens in October. “I wanted to make more than a robot movie, that appeals to audiences aged 8 to 80, said Levy.  Jackman added, “This is the kind of movie I dreamt of being in as a kid”.

Afterwards, DLP presented “A Salute to the Top Grossing Films of 2010”. Twenty nine films that passed the $100 million mark included 'Alice In Wonderland', 'True Grit', 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1', 'Toy Story 3', 'How to Train Your Dragon', 'Black Swan', 'Iron Man 2', 'The King's Speech', 'Robin Hood', 'Twilight: Eclipse', 'Valentine’s Day' and 'Little Fockers'.

Later in the day, it was Walt Disney Studios turn to show off clips from their upcoming films for the Summer of 2011 and beyond. The slate included 'Cars 2 in 3D', with an in person appearance by one of its voice over stars, Larry The Cable Guy, the very funny comedian/actor who had everyone in stitches with his humorous remarks. “The movie is so good I was ashamed to be in the first one”, he said, and then added, “I am the only actor who puts on weight to do voice overs.”

Brave starring Kelly MacDonald, Billy Connolly, Julie Walters, and Emma Thompson will be released sometime next summer.  'Monsters University', a prequel to 'Monsters, Inc.  with returning voice over work by Billy Crystal and John Goodman that will be in theatres the end of 2012.  Winnie the Pooh narrated by John Cleese opens July 15.

Jason Segel and Amy Adams took to the stage to talk about their film “The Muppets”, arriving in theatres just in time for Thanksgiving, November 23. Segel said, “The Muppets were my first comic influence as a kid.  They have been brought back for a whole new generation of children. To be honest, this thing is what I am the most proud of in my career.

Marvel comics’ mightiest superheroes are brought together for the team franchise of 'The Avengers', due out May 20, 2012 and (according to Disney) “the most anticipated film of the year is 'Pirates of the Caribbean- On Stranger Tides.' Director Rob Marshall introduced three scenes from the film along with a new trailer.  Joining Johnny Depp in the cast are Geoffrey Rush, Ian McShane as the villain and Penelope Cruz who was brought on board because, “I wanted someone (a woman) who could go toe to toe with Depp” said Marshall.

Tuesday night, attendees headed over to Rave Motion Pictures Theatre at Town Square for CinemaCon 2011’s only off premises activity, an Evening of Independent and Specialty films. This year the lineup consisted of five films, four of which were documentaries: Foo Fighters: Back and Forth that chronicles the history of the Grammy winning band; 'Page One: A Year Inside The New York Times'; 'The First Grader', which is about an 80 year old Mau Mau veteran in Kenya that returns to school so he can learn to read; 'Thunder Soul', produced by actor Jamie Foxx that follows Houston’s Kashmere High School Band alumni who return home after 35 years to play a tribute concert for 92 year old Conrad “Prof” Johnson who broke the color barrier  and transformed the school’s struggling jazz band into a funk powerhouse in the early 70’s.  The fifth film was Chicago filmmaker Carmen Marron’s award winning dance tale, 'Just Go For It'. Each film was shown at 8 p.m. and 10:15 p.m. so that attendees had the opportunity to see two.  Prior to the 8 p.m. screenings a special reception was held in the theatre lobby where attendees could mingle and enjoy a buffet style dinner.

During luncheon on Wednesday sponsored by Real D and Barco, there was a panel discussion about the Digital World of Filmmaking Today, Tomorrow and Beyond, moderated by Michael Lewis featuring filmmakers George Lucas, James Cameron and Jeffrey Katzenberg. Read my separate piece on that event in this website.

Later in the day, Cameron Diaz received her Female Star of the Year Award prior to a presentation of footage from her summer release Bad Teacher that co-stars Jason Segel and Cameron's former beau Justin Timberlake.  Diaz got a glowing introduction from her award presenter BFF Drew Barrymore. Barrymore said she didn’t have a speech prepared, but eloquently went on,  “Cameron is one of the most beautiful I have known my whole life. I am proud to call her my sister.  One of the things she does is make us feel good. Her body of work is extraordinary and covers all genres. She is the only female in history to raise over $6 billion at the box office.”

Upon receiving the award, Cameron, dressed in a body hugging white dress, and flashing that signature smile stated, “I make movies because 18 years ago I got lucky. Chuck Russell took a leap of faith and made me his Tina. I feel so honored to be making movies. I just felt passionate about it and wanted to do it. Fifteen years ago I was honored with the Star of the Future. It is a real privilege and it is one of the great gifts to share stories with each other, escape a moment in time and be transported to another world. I feel very fortunate to do that and want to say thank you to all who supported me over the years.”

Immediately following the award presentation, there was a special screening of 'Zoo Keeper', starring Kevin James and supporting voice over work by an all star cast that includes Cher, Adam Sandler and Sylvester Stallone.  Before entering the theatre, guests were surprised to see that the lobby at the Colosseum was set up as a mock zoo with cages of live lions, a baby bear, an alligator, and other animals.

Comedian Tim Allen who is headlining at the Venetian served as emcee at the Pioneer Award dinner for industry legend Dick Cook, former chairman of The Walt Disney Co.  Mirage headliner Terry Fator provided additional entertainment. Celebities in attendance included John Travolta, James Cameron,  Jeffrey Katzenberg and Michael Eisner.

At the late night screening of his film “The Greatest Movie Ever Sold”, Morgan Spurlock was on hand to accept his “Documentary Filmmaker of the Year” award.

On Thursday, the final day of CinemaCon 2011, Lionsgate presented a special screening of 'Warrior', starring Nick Nolte, Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton that will open in theatres July 9. That was immediately followed by The Closing Day Lunch complete with surprise guests and exclusive footage from Lionsgate’s  upcoming 2011 release schedule.  Jason Momoa, recipient of Male Rising Star of 2011 made an appearance before a clip was shown from his film, 'Conan The Barbarian in 3D', that will be released August 19. “I have worked my whole life to be up there (turning to the big screen), said Mamoa.

Tyler Perry who has had five number one box office hits under his belt that drew in a total of $519 million in revenue introduced footage from his next film, 'Madea’s Big Happy Family' that opens Easter weekend. The recipient of the CinemaCon Visionary Award stated, “We are all responsible for the magic of movie making.  I am grateful and thankful. Thank you so much for having me here."

Rounding out the preview clips was the world premiere trailer of 'The Devil’s Double', and footage from 'The Abduction' (Fall of 2011), 'The Warrior', and 'The Hunger Games' (March 2012).

Later in the afternoon, Warner Bros. presented The Big Picture, showcasing exclusive footage from the studio’s exciting 2011 lineup including 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2', (to be released in 3D on July 15) that marks the finale of the most successful franchise in motion picture history; 'Dolphin Tale', 'New Year's Eve', ' A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas,' and 'Final Destination 5'.

Appearing live on stage to introduce clips from their films were director Todd Phillips for Hangover Part 2; Director Martin Campbell and stars Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively for 'The Green Lantern'; Director Seth Gordon, stars Jason Sudeikis, Jason Bateman and Charlie Day for 'Horrible Bosses'; writer/directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa and star Steve Carell for 'Crazy Stupid Love'.

It was announced that Warner Bros. was the only studio to exceed the $1 billion mark for ten consecutive years.  Seven of their films grossed $100 or more. Inception made $826 million worldwide and is the highest grossing non franchise film in the company’s history.

In addition to Cameron Diaz and Morgan Spurlock, actors and filmmakers honored with awards this year were the following recipients who received their award during the Final Night Award Ceremonies hosted by Billy Bush of Access Hollywood.  Grammy nominated singer Natasha Bedingfield, one of the celebrities who worked with fledging young filmmakers as part of Coca Cola's Sprite refreshing Film Program, supplied the musical entertainment at the Gala Final Night Party which took place at Caesars Palace Pool of the Gods.

Below are some quotes from the honorees during the press conference and/or at the award ceremonies.

Male Star of Tomorrow: Chris Hemsworth – The star of Thor said he auditioned six or seven months before he was cast and has signed on for three installments of the upcoming franchise. The Australian hunk, who grew up in up in the outback said he worked with a dialect coach to cover his down under accent.

Female Star of Tomorrow: Rosie Huntington-Whiteley – The supermodel turned actress, who co-stars in the latest installment of the Transformer series opposite Shia LeBeouf as Carly, his new girlfriend, said  “As a model you are self conscious of your body.  As an actress you have to lose all that. Transformers was a new experience. To lose myself in explosions and get involved with stunts is great. I like to get my hands dirty and try everything. This is my first movie. I never thought I would make a movie and never anything like this.  Its is important (for me) to stay in the now.” Upon receiving the award she said,” I hope I live up to the title (referring to her award)."

Female Rising Star of 2011: Julianne Hough (who TV audiences know as one of the dance pros on Dancing With The Stars and is also a recording artist) - When asked about starring in the upcoming Footloose remake she replied, “I'm really proud of it, this updated version. I am really excited.  I also want to do drama, comedies, action; I want to do it all. I know it is so cliché to say this is my dream come true, but it is true. I am so grateful and excited for the future and being a rising star in you guys’ eyes.”  “I am still pinching myself. This is unreal. I am so blessed and fortunate,” she later exclaimed in her acceptance speech.

Male Rising Star of 2011: Jason Momoa – "For the role of Conan, I had to take spcial training. I put on 20 lbs., train 7 hours every day, worked out non stop along with 2 or three hours of sword training. I never saw the original Conan film. I was three years old when it came out. But, I submerged myself into the role. I was trained by the same guy who did the Matrix and Bourne Identity. I had three stunt doubles but did 75% of the work."

CinemaCon Visionary Award: Tyler Perry -   “Madea was inspired by my mother. What gives me great joy is the memories she left me. Medea is a PG version of my mom.  All I ever tried to do was to inspire and entertain.”

Male Star of the Year: Ryan Reynolds –  “I never worked on a movie that was effects driven like this (The Green Lantern). I was blown away by the film the first time I saw the trailer.”  Ryan said he is now working on a film in Capetown called “Safe House”.

Career Achievement Award:  Helen Mirren – When asked if it is true Russell Brand (whom she co-stars with in Arthur) has a crush on her, she responded, “In some other world. If it is so, it is reciprocated. I think this film (Arthur) will be one of my favorites. I thought I would make this role my own. Gielgud did his. Now Mirren did hers.”  In her acceptance speech she added, “This is an incredible honor, an achievement of my career…getting the role with Russell…see what I had to put up with."  She went on,  "I got my movie education as an usherette in a little movie theatre.  I loved the education about cinema it gave me.  Years ago I won the “Rising Young Star” award from theatre owners. Now I have bookends”.

Comedy Star of the Year: Russell Brand – He dissed the press room reporters but stopped for a photo op in the next room at Pure Nightclub before hitting the Colosseum stage to accept his award. He basically rambled on but this is some of what he said. "I must thank the exhibitors because without you my work would be nothing but a narcissistic loop playing over and over in my head".  In his typical “Brand” of comedy, the comedy star behaved like the wild and crazy bad boy that audiences find amusing before leaving the stage.

Action Star of The Year: Vin Diesel – “I approach every character with the same integrity. Fast 5 is coming out April 29 and it is the tsunami of action films. There will be great surprises that will set the press ablaze,” Diesel said with enthusiasm. Regarding his co-star Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, “The role was initially designed for Tommy Lee Jones. The Rock took the role to a new level. We could not have picked anyone better than Dwayne.  He has a firm place in this franchise.”  “Wow”, Diesel said later as he accepted the award, “As a kid growing up in New York, I didn’t get a lot of these.”

Breakthrough Performer of the Year: Blake Lively – “It is an amazing honor being here. I feel like they paid people to give me an award.”

CinemaCon Hall of Fame Award:  The Harry Potter film franchise, which made $6.4 billion worldwide at the box office.  Accepting the award were producers David Barron and David Heyman. They thanked all the directors and cast who grew up as years went by, then jokingly added, “Our only regret is that we didn’t get Mirren to join the cast.”

That about covers the highights of CinemaCon 2011.  Or, as they say in Hollywood...that's a wrap!


Star Studded Photo Gallery

Blake Lively

Photo credit: Stephen Thorburn

Cameron Diaz

Photo credit: © 2011 Ryan Miller

The Cast of 'The Help', Octavia Spencer, Bryce Dallas Howard, Viola Davis and Emma Stone

Photo credit: © 2011 Ryan Miller

Chris Hemsworth

Photo credit: Stephen Thorburn

Colin Farrell

Photo credit: © 2011 Ryan Miller

Helen Mirren

Photo credit: Stephen Thorburn

Hugh Jackman

Photo credit: © 2011 Ryan Miller

Jason Momoa

Photo credit: Stephen Thorburn

Jason Segel and Amy Adams

Photo credit: © 2011 Ryan Miller

Jerry Bruckheimer

Photo credit: © 2011 Ryan Miller

Julianne Hough

Photo credit: Stephen Thorburn

Larry The Cable Guy

Photo credit: © 2011 Ryan Miller

Natasha Bedingfield

Photo credit: Stephen Thorburn

Rob Marshall

Photo credit: © 2011 Ryan Miller

Rosie Huntington-Whitely

Photo credit: Stephen Thorburn

Russell Brand

Photo credit: Stephen Thorburn

Ryan Reynolds

Photo credit: Stephen Thorburn

Tyler Perry

Photo credit: Stephen Thorburn

Vin Diesel
Photo credit: Stephen Thorburn

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