Technology was central at CinemaCon

No repeat of last year's windows controversy

LAS VEGAS–Six studios, thousands of exhibitors from 62 countries and dozens of films packed up from a marathon CinemaCon that was long on presentations and short on confrontation — in particular, the prickly issue of windows, barely mentioned at Caesars Palace this year. For controversy, conventioneers had Peter Jackson’s 48 frames-per-second demonstration to chew on.

The high-frame-rate reel featured Tuesday during Warner Bros.’ presentation of “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” divided attendees, with some comparing the super-crisp imagery to high-def television, with lighting like “an old soap opera.” Jackson — who was adamant that Warners show the footage — has some eight months of post-production to address those concerns.

The 48 fps issue forced its way into discussions the following day, including a two-man panel of Martin Scorsese and Ang Lee, whose “Life of Pi” generated considerable excitement from exhibs when Fox screened extended footage from the 3D film on Thursday.

Though neither Lee nor Scorsese saw the “Hobbit” presentation, the two directors admitted that, as with any technological advancement, higher frame rates will require some time for moviegoers to accept.

That seemed to be a running theme at CinemaCon this year as companies rolled out their newest gadgets, including Barco’s 4K laser projector, which exhibs got a taste of Wednesday; and Dolby’s new Atmos sound platform, which demo’d Tuesday.

Weary bizzers began streaming out by Thursday, but on a much more upbeat note than at last year’s edition, the first with the CinemaCon moniker. That confab ended on a contentious note after news broke in Variety that several studios would offer $30 rentals of some pics, shortening the theatrical window to just two months. While this year’s confab broke no further news on shortened windows, the issue wasn’t completely ignored.

John Fithian, prexy-CEO of the National Assn. of Theater Owners (the org behind CinemaCon), commented on windows in his state of the industry address, saying, “Studio and exhibition leaders have engaged in very constructive dialogue. The goal — to discuss as partners new methods of selling movies that can expand the market for everyone.”

Instead, the tech front was the biggest opportunity for open dialogue between exhibs and distribs.

Along with the 48 frame rate debate, 3D continued to provoke discussion. Attendees were given a pair of 3D glasses seemingly before every presentation and panel — and just about every meal.

But 3D entered new territory when helmers Scorsese and Lee advocated that the format be used for more than big-budget, f/x-driven tentpoles.

“Yes, you have to have a different mindset for 3D (vs. 2D), but ultimately, it’s going to be like color,” Scorsese said. “I think you just have to accept it as storytelling.”

After a turbulent couple of years for the studio, Universal came back to Las Vegas in style, first reminding exhibs of its history in a polished reel — narrated by U topper Ron Meyer — that touched on a century of Universal films.

Universal Pictures chairman Adam Fogelson, candid and engaging in his first turn presenting a studio slate, introduced an impressive array of stars to the stage, from “Snow White and the Huntsman” stars Charlize Theron and Kristen Stewart to the new face of the “Bourne” franchise, Jeremy Renner.

All six studios put on slate presentations for the first time in a decade, making for a grueling schedule that left little room for much else. Relativity and Focus Features hosted gatherings, as did Lionsgate-Summit, which also screened “What to Expect When You’re Expecting.”

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