LAS VEGAS — Buena Vista Intl. has enjoyed worldwide dominance at the box office two years running — posting more than $1 billion in international box office receipts for 1996 and tallying more than $2 billion in receipts worldwide — and the company has no intention of letting up, execs said Monday at a company- sponsored ShoWest luncheon.
Mark Zoradi, president of BVI, and Richard Cook, chairman of the Walt Disney Co. Motion Picture Group, foresee continuing growth in attendance.
To increase chances for success, the company looks for stories with worldwide appeal and concepts that will translate to more cultures, Cook said, “from Omaha to Okinawa.”
He singled out “Evita” as well as the live-action “101 Dalmatians.” He also predicted another Disney remake, “The Absent-Minded Professor,” would be very successful, as well as the company’s 31st animated film, “Hercules.”
He said Disney is also committed to co-productions and acquisitions in overseas territories, citing the company’s foreign rights to “AFO” and “Starship Troopers” as well as its successful German co-production “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.”
As part of the company’s “worldwide approach to the films we make and their marketing,” Cook said, tie-ins are very important, and he boasted of the company’s unprecedented 10-year exclusive agreement with McDonald’s.
Execs from the U.S., Japan, Taiwan, Germany, Ireland, Korea, South Africa, Holland, Spain, France, the United Kingdom and Australia were among those on hand as MPAA president Jack Valenti asked for a show of hands of reps from Asia and then announced, “You’re all invited to coffee at the White House.”
The only thing standing between the industry and continued expansion worldwide, Valenti said, was a “shortage of young men and women who can tell stories.”
Toward that end, the MPAA has initiated a huge program to educate young storytellers in nations around the world.
Moviegoing is up, he declared, despite the competition from free, cable and pay TV and computers. More people, he said, went to the movies in 1996 than in any year since 1959.
He credited the worldwide boom in modern theater building in Europe and elsewhere as the engine driving this growth. Attendance has skyrocketed in places like Britain.
Intl. exhibitor of the year
Heiner Kieft of Germany’s Kieft and Kieft accepted the Intl. Exhibitor of the Year nod, thanking ShoWest and NATO for its recognition of the importance of the international market and his company’s efforts. In a very brief expression of gratitude, he said he “was honored to share our work with you.” He was introduced by Decatron and Kinepolis’ Joost Bert, who last year was the first recipient of the nod.
Graham Burke, managing director of Village Roadshow Intl., also repeated the mantra that exhibs need to create an entertainment experience that gets people out of the home.
“People have been assembling in auditoriums since ancient times — they want to rub shoulders” in the common experience of entertainment.
Acknowledging the studio commitments of $50 million, $75 million and ever higher for quality films, Burke said, “It is important for exhibs to match the studio investment in quality (with presentation in a genuine) picture palace. We’re putting magic back into theaters, making moviegoing fashionable again.”
He said exhibs must market every film “like it was the last,” otherwise they’re doing themselves a “great disservice.”