Owners warm to Pillsbury products, 3-D screens

While it’s always odd and extremely geeky that folks cheer when the Dolby logo appears at the start of screenings, it should be no surprise at ShoWest, a confab that celebrates films as well as the technology behind them.

And the confluence of showbiz, technology and hunger certainly yielded some quirky nuggets at this year’s gathering:

  • More emphasis was placed on camera and cell phone security than at any preem in L.A., as if someone might be eager to pirate Dan Glickman‘s keynote address. Even when people were just waiting for a speech to start, guards were out in full force, making sure everything was turned off.

  • The National Assn. of Theater Owners has quietly abandoned its plan to shut down cell phone signals in movie auditoriums. “We found out that blocking signals was technically illegal,” NATO prexy John Fithian admitted. “We prefer to do messaging and usher sweeps.”

  • Last year, taquitos. This year, brownie bites. Pillsbury made a splash showcasing new food groups for movie fans: warm donuts, chocolate-chip cookies and brownie bites. There’s always gotta be something new, and concession companies were running out of things to make sour.

  • Some theater owners may have done a double take when NATO and ShoWest gave Ang Lee and James Schamus an award for releasing “Lust, Caution” with an NC-17 rating.

For most exhibs and studios, the NC-17 sets off alarm bells. NATO, however, argues that if more distribs embraced the rating, it would lose its stigma.

  • At ShoWest, more than one exhib seemed to confirm what some in Hollywood already suspected — that the loss of original programming on TV because of the writer’s strike resulted in an uptick in theater attendance.

A small theater circuit in New England even planned to offer a Thursday-night discount if the strike continued.

And while no one will ever be able to prove the strike correlation, January and February did see record domestic B.O. tallies.

  • Picturehouse was every little girl’s dream studio at the confab, giving out American Girl dolls at its swag suite in the Bellagio. The live-action pic based on the doll line stars Abigail Breslin and should be huge with the tyke set.

  • Speaking of little girls: Based on how many times people praised the Hannah Montana 3-D concert movie, you’d think Miley Cyrus was the hottest thing to hit the industry since popcorn. Actually, she is. The money the movie generated on such a small number of screens in such a short time was a delicious thing to ponder as exhibs look for something new.

But not as delicious as warm donuts.

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