Lynton talks theatrical windows, digital conversion

Sony Pictures chairman and CEO Michael Lynton kicked off ShoWest on Monday with a call to arms for healthier snacks.

Lynton addressed the crowd at the Paris Ballroom in Las Vegas, saying, “Healthier options to your existing menu (in theaters) is the right thing to do for our industry, for audiences and for our country.”

Citing a recent poll of moviegoers, Lynton said a majority of parents would buy healthy snacks if they were offered, with 42% of those polled saying they would visit theater concessions more often.

Lynton added clout to his plea, announcing support from the Alliance for a Healthier Generation lead by co-heads President Bill Clinton, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and American Heart Assn. prexy Clyde Yancy.

TV personality Dr. Mehmet Oz also put in a word for the cause via a pre-recorded message.

“Everyone enjoys popcorn and a soda at the movies,” Mehmet said. “But there are healthier alternatives.”

Lynton also commented on the growing debate over shortened theatrical windows and the need for digital conversions of theaters.

Lynton called for a “candid and cooperative” relationship with exhibs, most of whom were in the room.

“We don’t want to open windows in a way that closes yours,” Lynton said to the audience. “We’ve all got to be open to experimenting with new and different windows, taking advantage of new and different technologies.”

Shortened theatrical-to-DVD windows have become a hot button issue since Disney announced it would tighten windows on two tentpoles a year, starting with “Alice in Wonderland.”

In the wake of threatened boycotts of “Alice,” studios began negotiating with exhibs to find a mutually-agreed on time period. Lynton acknowledged, though, that further experimenting with windows will be inevitable given the downturn in the DVD business and the need to fight piracy.

Still, Lynton stressed the importance of theatrical releases, saying, “We don’t make movies for televisions, for iPods, for cell phones or computers.”

With box office revenues up and 3D adding to exhibitors’ coffers, he made a case for theatrical runs.

“The most important window … is the theatrical window,” he added with applause from the crowd. “People want to see movies in theaters… Simply put, going out to the movies is more fun than ever.”

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