ShowEast to weather Wilma

Confab goes on despite storm threat

The ShowEast must go on.

That was the word Sunday from organizers of the annual exhib confab, even as Hurricane Wilma readied to slam Florida south of Orlando, where ShowEast is skedded to run through Thursday.

Industry attendees said over the weekend that they were monitoring the weather and planning accordingly. ShowEast co-managing director Mitch Neuhauser posted a message on the confab’s Web site Sunday, saying the storm should not “have a major impact” on the show. Original estimates were that it would draw 2,500.

Meanwhile, inside the Orlando World Center Marriott, topics expected to generate some stormy debate this year include the ongoing industry brouhaha over the ever-shrinking distribution window.

National Assn. of Theater Owners topper John Fithian is skedded to issue a joint address with Motion Picture Assn. of America head Dan Glickman on Tuesday. The two are expected to reassure exhibs that a much-publicized B.O. slump has been overanalyzed and is cyclical in nature rather than a sustained threat to the industry.

But it remains to be seen whether Fithian will use his portion of the presentation — dubbed “Preserving the Movie Marketplace: What’s Being Done to Improve the State of the Industry” — to reinforce his org’s strong opposition to any schemes that might shrink the windows between a film’s theatrical, DVD and TV releases.

The windows issue came to the fore this year after an announcement in April from Steven Soderbergh and Mark Cuban & Todd Wagner’s 2929 Entertainment that the “Ocean’s Eleven” helmer would create six pics for 2929 to release simultaneously in theaters, on DVD and on the unit’s HDNet cable venture.

The move ruffled major exhibs: Most major chains quickly replied that they have policies in place not to play pics released with such window-shattering strategies in mind.

A few months later, in August, Disney honcho Bob Iger suggested in an address to Wall Streeters that the Mouse House agreed there’s a need to shrink the amount of time between a pic’s theatrical, DVD and TV rollouts.

Fithian lashed out in a subsequent address to exhibs, calling such plans a “death threat” to the industry and reassuring them that Disney would not change its distribution strategies any time soon.

On the digital cinema front, ShowEast could yield news from major studios in their efforts to further fund d-cinema implementation. Earlier this month, Fox said it would provide its films to Christie/AIX, a joint venture between Christie and AccessIT, as part of Christie/AIX’s ambitious plan to install up to 4,000 d-cinema systems around the U.S. and Canada. Like Fox, Disney is paying Christie/AIX to distribute and screen its pics digitally; similar agreements are expected from the other studios.

As the studios and exhibs seek ways to bring auds into theaters, a big push will be made at ShowEast to show off digital 3-D technology. Anchoring that effort, Disney will screen its animated pic “Chicken Little” for exhibs, using the Real D Cinema platform and Dolby Digital Cinema Playback System.

Other upcoming fare skedded to unspool this year to whet exhibs’ appetites includes Fox’s “Walk the Line,” Sony’s “Zathura,” Sony Pictures Classics’ “The White Countess,” Picturehouse’s “The Notorious Bettie Page,” Universal’s “The Producers,” Warner Bros.’ “Rumor Has It…,” Paramount’s “Last Holiday” and the Weinstein Co.’s “Derailed” and “Mrs. Henderson Presents.”

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