Outgoing MPAA chairman gives final address at ShoWest

In his final farewell as outgoing chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Assn. of America, Dan Glickman delivered the ShoWest convention address, ushering in a new era for the confab, which passes to the National Assn. of Theater Owners next year as CinemaCon.

Glickman, along with NATO prexy and CEO John Fithian, spoke to the crowd of industryites and exhibs, highlighting topics ranging from record-breaking box office to the 3D explosion.

“We have more people going to the movies and more folks going more often,” Glickman said. “The quality and diversity of films is what keeps folks coming back.”

“Add this powerful 3D era, and I predict the best is yet to come at the box office,” he added.

Glickman ended his six-year tenure as the MPAA topper on a high note, joking before the event: “This may not be my last time at ShoWest. John has promised to invite me every year.”

His departure marks a regime change at the MPAA, with prexy Bob Pisano taking over as interim CEO.

Still, Glickman described his tenure during a box office boom as having a “Hollywood ending.”

During a video presentation, the confab spotlighted 31 films that grossed more than $100 million last year, seven of which were in 3D. These films helped propel box office revenue past $10 million for the first time ever, with an 11% boost from 3D compared to 2% in 2008.

Fithian credited digital conversion and 3D as a major drivers for the increased B.O.

“Going forward, the remaining movie slate in 2010 looks just as good as the record-breaking product we had in 2009,” he said. “And one important element of our growth, digital 3D, will explode this year.”

Currently, there are a total 39,380 screens in the U.S., and 3,378 of them are 3D-equipped.

While Fithian admitted 3D does not work for every film, he credited the recent funding agreement from the Digital Cinema Implementation Partners (DCIP) as a major step forward in digital conversion, a prerequisite for 3D screens. He said some 2,500 3D-equipped screens could be installed by the end of the year.

Fithian, who has remained quiet on the topic of shortened theatrical windows, addressed the issue, saying, “the distribution patterns of commercial product have continued to migrate across all 12 months of the year.”

He advocated for a case-by-case fluctuation of windows “where theatrical sales and home video sales can both benefit through particular seasonal scheduling.”

“We are confident both that the current theatrical release model will continue into the foreseeable future, and that intelligent decisions will be made on individual pictures,” he added.

Tentpoles like Disney’s 3D “Alice in Wonderland” could benefit from a year-end launch date.

Glickman championed 3D technology, saying, it will create “new opportunities for creators to share their works with the world.”

In addition to 3D developments, Glickman addressed significant issues during his time with the org, including industry globalization, piracy and ratings.

He described the later as a valued tool for parents and said that the re-launch of filmratings.com should “add some transparency, shining a light on how the (rating) process works.”

The MPAA has received flak about the consistency of film ratings, and while Glickman admitted “the system isn’t perfect,” he welcomed input from parents and other organizations to help “maintain the viability and credibility of the ratings system.”

“Moving forward, it’s critical that we remain open to change,” Glickman said. “Our kids are smarter, more tech-savvy and sophisticated than we were a generation or two ago.”

“We should continue to examine ways to keep the system relevant and contemporary,” he added.

Before joining the MPAA, Glickman served in Congress and as the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture. His next post will be as prexy of Refugees Intl., starting in April.

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