CinemaCon: High hopes for 2011

Moore, Katzenberg have faith in upcoming slate

Paramount isn’t looking to the summer for mere box office salvage. It’s looking for another record-breaking year.

As in this one. Yes, we’re talking 2011 here.

Though year-over-year B.O. receipts are sagging toward a 20% decline, Paramount Pictures Vice Chairman Rob Moore and DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg took the CinemaCon stage Monday night and declared, unequivocally, that 2011 would end up an improbable comeback story.

“I couldn’t be more confident that the summer of 2011 will go down in history as the biggest ever,” Katzenberg said, echoing Moore’s sentiments that a boffo summer and strong fourth quarter would lift the box office to new heights.

With the weakling first quarter already on the books, that would be quite a comeback indeed. If anyone has the slate to do it, it’s Paramount.

Studio brought J.J. Abrams to the Caesar’s Palace Colosseum to introduce 20 minutes of “Super 8,” which, like the trailers we’ve all seen already, bore all the markings of producer Steven Spielberg’s most memorable, character-driven films. Marvel Studios prexy Kevin Feige unspooled never-before-seen footage from “Thor” and “Captain America,” while Jack Black held court in support of “Kung Fu Panda 2.”

The consensus after Paramount’s three-hour presentation for exibs, however, was that “Puss in Boots” – an offshoot of the “Shrek” saga set for a November bow – was the biggest surprise, showing a promising energy that could give new legs to the fading ogre-focused franchise.

Paramount didn’t even bother to trot out its heaviest caliber shot in “Transformers: The Dark of the Moon,” though Moore, speaking for director Michael Bay, swore it would be better than the critically panned 2009 offering. It’ll also be in 3D – something Bay promised two years ago he would never do – which gives it an even better shot at eclipsing the last “Transformers” film’s $800 million-plus global take.

Following Monday’s panels on the international biz, Paramount’s evening presentation and subsequent party marked the unofficial kickoff of CinemaCon, the exib confab formerly known as ShoWest.

But the Tuesday program is where things really get down to business, as Chris Dodd, the newly installed chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Arts Association, anchors CinemaCon’s “State of the Industry” address in the late morning. He’s joined by National Association of Theater Owners prexy and CEO John Fithian, along with slate presentations throughout the day by DreamWorks Studios, Disney, and the opening of the trade show floor.

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