2019 CinemaCon Diary – An Introduction to the Annual Exhibitor’s Conference
Since I’m not sure the Beat has ever covered CinemaCon, and I’ve been covering it on and off for almost a decade and a half, I thought I would start things off with a little introduction, so you’ll know what to expect from these daily diary entries of mine.
Put together by the National Association of Theater Owners (NATO), the CinemaCon conference/expo has been taking place in Las Vegas for decades now, first as something called “ShoWest.”
For the next four days, CinemaCon takes over a good portion of the Caesar’s Palace Hotel and Casino to bring exhibitors and distributors i.e. those who book the movies, together, and it’s the first time many exhibitors will have a chance to see footage from the studios’ upcoming releases. This is fairly significant for moviegoers and movie lovers, because it’s these exhibitors who will decide what movies will play in their theaters and also what you will get to see if you’re not in a major market. So you can consider it to be more of an industry-centric Comic-Con.
What’s interesting about CinemaCon is that family films tend to play very well during the presentations but so do the raunchiest R-rated movies. Universal knew they had a hit when the footage from Seth MacFarlane’s Ted killed at CinemaCon and Todd Phillips’ The Hangover also showed some of its first footage to the exhibitors who ate it up.
This year, both Sony and Fox opted out of having a big presentation – Fox for obvious reasons, now being a part of Disney, Sony not so much — although this wasn’t the first year Sony skipped the conference. It’s a shame about Sony only because there’s a lot of excitement for the summer’s Spider-Man: Far from Home, but there’s a chance that showing anything from the movie before Avengers: Endgame may be considered a spoiler. Sony still had a lot of posters around the convention for Spider-Man,Men in Black International, Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and even The Angry Birds Movie 2. Sadly, we won’t be seeing new footage from any of them at CinemaCon.
Otherwise, you can usually guess which big movies the other studios will be pimping: Disney will be trying to change some minds about Aladdin, while promoting sure-fire summer hits like The Lion King and Toy Story 4. (A few years back, Disney showed an unfinished version of Toy Story 3 that killed at CinemaCon months before its release.) There’s a good possibility that Disney might show off some of its new Fox acquisitions and maybe tease Marvel’s Avengers: Endgame, but truth be told that movie already has so much anticipation, there’s no need to take up too much time at CinemaCon.
Meanwhile, Warner Bros. has Godzilla: King of the Monsters, which has a huge presence at this year’s CinemaCon, as well as Pokemon: Detective Pikachu, which might be a tougher sell… although we can probably expect Ryan Reynolds to make another CinemaCon appearance.
Paramount has Pet Sematary opening on Friday, but more likely, the studio will be highlighting the Elton John biopic Rocketman in hopes it will find as much success as last year’s Bohemian Rhapsody. Universal also has some sure-things like The Secret Life of Pets 2 and Fast and Furious Presents: Shaw and Hobbs, and CinemaCon is the perfect time to trot out the stars and make sure exhibitors are on board.
Amidst all the presentations and parties, there are quite a few screenings, including a number of movies that were picked up at recent festivals like Sundance. This year’s screenings include NEON’s Wild Rose, Lionsgate’s Long Shot, starring Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron, New Line’s Blinded by the Light and Mindy Kaling‘s Late Night– the latter two being Sundance premieres. (NEON is even throwing a huge country ‘n’ Western dinner party on Tuesday night for exhibitors just to make sure they remember the movie they see the night before.)
Things tend to start slowly at CinemaCon as Monday is considered “International Day” with a number of seminars, a luncheon and awards presented to the likes of Bohemian Rhapsody producer Graham King.
Another event of interest will be Thursday’s Filmmakers Panel, this year’s panel including Anthony and Joe Russo (Avengers: Infinity War), who are also receiving a CinemaCon award for “Directors of the Year” at the closing night awards ceremony. They’ll be joined by Olivia Wilde (Booksmart), Elizabeth Banks (Charlie’s Angels) and Dexter Fletcher (Rocketman).
As in past years, CinemaCon will wrap-up on Thursday night with the 2019 Big Screen Achievement Awards, which is an awards show used to draw even more attention to specific movies and get big name stars to the vent. The Russo Brothers will receive an award for Directors of the Year – might as well, since they’re there anyway – while Hellboy’s David Harbour is receiving the Action Star of the Year. Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron will be presented with Comedy Stars of the Year, probably not a coincidence since the Lionsgate comedy Long Shot will screen for exhibitors a few hours earlier. Linda Hamilton and the cast of Terminator: Dark Fate, which hopefully will also include the first footage from Tim Miller’s reboot. Jamie Lee Curtis, star of last year’s hit Halloween remake, will receive this year’s CinemaCon Vanguard Award, while Steve Buscemi is receiving the Cinema Icon Award.
I’ll be in Vegas for the entire week and hope to have four or five more “diary” entries with information about what was shown by the bigger studios with the Warner Bros. and Disney presentations being of special interest.
You can check out a sample of the posters and displays scattered around the convention center below: