Cinema Expo’s 2010 honorees

A salute to people and companies who think creatively

Cinema Expo’s kudos salute people and companies who think creatively about everything from creating toons to luring audiences to the multiplex.

Lauge Nielsen, Pathe

Chain thrives by turning moviegoing into a special night out

Pathe Theatres B.V., the Netherlands’ largest cinema chain, is a modern digital beacon in a country flooded with small, independent exhibitors.

It operated at a 33% market share in the region at the close of 2009, but thanks to a takeover of Minerva cinemas in April 2010, it now has closer to 40%.

Managing director Lauge Nielsen believes admissions for the chain are high (around 11.5 million) because, besides providing digital projections on at least one screen in each cinema, the exhib makes events out of film screenings.

“Girls Night Out,” for example, lures ladies to screenings of pics like “Sex and the City 2.”

“By making a special event out of a film, it becomes a social gathering,” says Nielsen. “Mix this with free drinks and a goody bag for a modest price and you have a success – at least in Holland.”

He adds live events are also a lure. “It’s much easier to motivate Dutch audiences to come and see something in the cinema that is happening at that very moment in time.”

David Kosse, Universal Pictures Intl.

David Kosse has got the “universal attitude,” and it’s clear other industry experts agree.

Not only has the international prexy for Universal Pictures led the company to some of its best years at the box office — UPI hit $1 billion in 2007, $1.714 billion in 2008 and $1.2 billion in 2009 — but he’s managed to turn U’s international leg into not just an export market for American films but a place to forge international co-production deals in local markets.

Under Kosse’s tenure, UPI has inked co-production deals with Timur Bekmambetov’s Bazelevs Prods. in Russia and France’s Studio 37 and One World.

Kosse says an international eye has “always been in my DNA.” Having kick-started his career in 1997 as head of international marketing for film, TV and video at PolyGram Filmed Entertainment, he left to set up U.K.-based independent distribution company, Momentum Pictures, in April 2000, which has grown now to become Blighty’s second-largest independent distributor.

Kosse then headed Universal’s London operation and facilitated the dissolution of Universal-Paramount’s international joint marketing and distribution venture UIP, before he moved to the executive UPI role in 2007.

“I’ve always viewed the international marketplace as a more complex market rather than just a place to sell American films,” says Kosse. “And international has become so big that it’s now a critical mass.”

Tim Bevan, whose U.K. shingle Working Title has enjoyed a fruitful partnership with UPI throughout the years, said Kosse has one of the most well-rounded distribution minds in the biz.

“David’s experience is 360 degrees in the movie industry,” says Bevan. “He’s worked in homevideo, independent distribution and studio distribution. He understands the foreign marketplace from a studio point of view and an indie standpoint, and he has seen the foreign and domestic marketplace start to even out and grabbed it.”

For the future, Kosse says he wants to continue to “heighten the view of international in the eye of the corporate parent.”

“International is still at its infancy in terms of what it can be to the entertainment business,” he says. “And we’ll spend the future looking to increase that.”

Chris Meledandri

Chris Meledandri learned the global potential of toons the best way possible: through success.

When the original “Ice Age” became a surprisingly big hit overseas, Meledandri and his team at Fox’s animation division, Blue Sky, began to focus on international playability of future toons.

“What comes with that is tremendous responsibility and tremendous inspiration,” Meledandri says. When trying to create films that resonate around the world, he says, “you think very deeply about the content at the heart of the film.”

Meledandri, who helped build the studio’s toon division into a force to be reckoned with, left the studio in 2007 to found Illumination Entertainment, a family production company co-owned by Universal.

Company’s first toon, “Despicable Me,” bows next month.

Not too shabby for an accidental animation chief. Asked to help out on Fox family films soon after he joined the studio because he had exec-produced “Cool Runnings” for the late Dawn Steel, “I then found myself getting pulled into animation,” Meledandri says. “It was a very steep learning curve.”

He soon discovered how stimulating animation can be. “To be at the center of all that collaboration is just invigorating,” he says.

20th Century Fox Intl.

“Ice Age 3,” “Avatar” led boffo year at box office

Twentieth Century Fox Intl. was a shoo-in for this award thanks to its box office gold ticket “Avatar,” which took $876 million in 31 territories in Europe.

Pic took $158 million in France, $144 million in Germany and $139 million in Blighty.

“It has been a remarkable year for all of us on so many fronts,” co-presidents of Fox Intl. theatrical distribution Paul Hanneman and Tomas Jegeus said, “but clearly attaining the records of highest grossing animated film of all time in ‘Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs’ and highest grossing movie of all time in ‘Avatar’ — and in the same year — are achievements we are extremely proud of. ”

Previously, under EDI’s Reel Awards at Cine Expo, films that had exceeded $100 million were awarded. But Simon Burton, vice president of business and development, international, said that Rentrak now gives the award “for the highest grossing film in Europe for the previous 12 months.”

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