Showbizzers adhere to old rites of spring

Spring rituals in the entertainment biz continue to resist the blandishments of technology-enhanced new media.

While content is now more participatory, personalized and peripatetic, the rites associated with the old media are in no danger of banishment.

Three of the biggest such rites unfold in May, and though some predict their usefulness or relevance will fade, the numbers don’t yet bear that out.

The Cannes Film Fest will attract 24,000 attendees, including a hefty contingent of Hollywood execs there to prime potential blockbusters like “Superman Returns” and “World Trade Center” for international consumption.

Even if everyone with a digital videocamera can now make a movie and post it online, mass-market experiences — like going to see “Mission: Impossible: III” at a moviehouse — are still likely to aggregate substantial worldwide auds. And though monetary transactions over the Internet are now secure and efficient, who wouldn’t rather sip a drink on the terrace of the Carlton while agreeing to a deal sketched on a napkin?

On the TV side, too, little has changed.

Pundits for years have decried the annual upfronts, in which the U.S. nets tout their fall lineups for ad buyers. The stars are paraded out to reassure the skeptics. All this while young people increasingly consume media when, where and however they want, on a growing array of gizmos.

But seats to the upfront presentations in New York are nonetheless hard to come by. And ad buyers are still expected to fork out $9 billion to tie up spots on those nets.

Then, literally on the heels of the upfronts, 1,200 foreign TV program buyers will hit Hollywood for the annual L.A. Screenings.

This ritual, too, could easily be outmoded by technology; episodes of series can easily be downloaded by buyers anywhere in the world and deals consummated as easily as on eBay. But no, execs would still rather traipse from one studio to another to view new series, gauge the competition and dicker over the deal.

Apparently, it’s still a people biz, where face-to-face interaction works the magic.

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