CinemaCon: Day 1 - Preview
Pioneer of the Year
As CEO and a co-founder and director of DreamWorks Animation, Jeffrey Katzenberg has overseen 22 feature films, including such franchise blockbusters as “Shrek,” “Madagascar,” “Kung Fu Panda” and “Puss in Boots.” Under Katzenberg’s leadership, “Kung Fu Panda 2″ became the company’s first feature directed by a woman, Jennifer Yuh Nelson, and the studio became the first to produce all of its feature films in 3D.
Noting that “China and Russia are leading the way” in international growth, he says animation has always spoken “a universal language. CG animation has made these films even more visually extraordinary. And, in recent years, animation has been ideal for exploiting the immersive possibilities of digital 3D. All of this has added up to amazingly consistent performance of animated films around the world.”
Looking ahead, Katzenberg reports, “We recently embarked on creating Oriental DreamWorks in China, which we expect will expand beyond films to become a major presence in a wide range of Chinese entertainment venues. And, we are currently working on a number of technology initiatives that could alter the very definition of our company.”
Intl. Filmmaker of the Year
Appropriately enough for someone receiving an “international” award, Timur Bekmambetov was born in the former Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic and at 19 moved to Tashkent, in the former Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic, to study theater and cinema set designing. In 1994 he founded Bazelevs Group, an advertising and film production, distribution and marketing company, and went on to direct several successful films in Russia. He made his Hollywood directorial debut with 2008’s “Wanted,” and since then has also produced a number of films in the U.S. and Russia, including “9,” which he co-produced with Tim Burton and Jim Lemley; the Russian- language action movie “Black Lightning” with Universal Pictures; and “Apollo 18″ with the Weinstein Co. Bekmambetov is directing and producing “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter,” also produced by Burton and Lemley, and says the future of the film business “lies in digital distribution, a direct freeway from the creators to the cinemas and audiences.”
Intl. Achievement Award in Exhibition
As CEO of Australia’s the Hoyts Group, Delfin Fernandez presided over the company’s centenary in 2009 and its near-completed digital transition. Building upon what has made Hoyts successful for more than a century while constantly embracing the future is a hallmark of Fernandez’s stewardship. Under Fernandez, Hoyts has converted 80% of its screens to digital; acquired two cinema circuits; distributed the “Twilight” franchise in Australia and New Zealand; and purchased Oovie, Australia’s answer to Redbox. Innovations in premium with La Premier and Director’s Suit and bigscreen concepts with Xtremescreen and Imax, loyalty and sales programs, F&B, transactional systems and interactive media have regularly rolled out since Fernandez moved to Australia in 2005.
‘Hoyts remains successful because we never rest on our laurels,” Fernandez reports. “We’re always on the lookout for new ways to improve our facilities, our offer and the way we serve our guests to give them the ultimate entertainment experience.”
With Hollywood increasingly focused on international markets, Jack Ledwith, senior vice president of international distribution at Universal since 2007, is a key player. He joined Universal in 1996 as director of international planning and analysis, and has worked on such international blockbusters as “Jurassic Park,” “Mamma Mia!,” “Inglourious Basterds” and the “Bourne,” “American Pie” and “Fast and Furious” franchises.
The international market will continue to grow,” he predicts. “China is building five new movie screens a day. And every time a big movie opens in Russia, it sets a new record as the biggest opening ever in that market. There are still parts of the world that don’t have cinemas. International is a frontier for new technology and new audiences. Digital technology and 3D allow filmmakers to create new ways of making movies and audiences new ways to watch them.”
Bert Nathan Memorial Award
Hollywood doesn’t just export movies. It also introduced the world to the lucrative concession industry, thanks to Charles Cretors, who invented and patented the first popcorn machine in 1893, thus starting the whole concession industry. Since then, “the U.S industry has gone global,” says Shelley Olesen, vice president sales and marketing at Cretors.
With more than 20 years at Cretors, Olesen worked her way up through the ranks from western regional sales representative to her current position, in which she directs the company’s overall domestic and international sales and marketing effort. Looking ahead, she says: “Our company is in a growth mode and the growth is global. Opportunities lie in the continued development of domestic and international markets. Our customers’ needs have always been at the heart of our equipment innovation and that will continue as we expand our line of supplies and help our customers problem-solve through innovative engineering and design.”
NATO Marquee Award
Ted Pedas, along with his brother Jim, started in the music business in the late 1950s when they founded Colt 45 Records. They parlayed their early hits and success into a movie theater business, the Circle/Showcase circuit, which they later sold to Cineplex Odeon. In the mid 1970s, they acquired an interest in Cinema 5, which released European and independent films. Moving more into distribution and production, in 1984 Ted and Jim with Ben Barenholtz formed Circle Releasing Corp., distributing foreign and art films — among them “A Letter to Brezhnev” and “Blood Simple,” the first Coen brothers’ film. The two Pedases next formed Circle Films, which produced the Coens’ “Raising Arizona,” “Miller’s Crossing” and “Barton Fink.”
I’m very optimistic about the future of movies and theaters,” says Pedas. “There’ve always been threats — first TV, when thousands of theaters closed, then video, cable, and now it’s streaming and handheld devices. But there’s no substitute for the real thing.”
Ken Mason InterSociety Award
Born and raised in Pomona, tech guru Pierce is a consultant working in Digital Cinema and was previously senior veep, technology, Universal Pictures.
“I am a strong proponent for getting the right image and sound in the theater to allow our filmmakers to deliver great stories and make the technology transparent to the audience,” says Pierce, who joined U in 1995 and established the New Technology Department for the studio in 2000. Responsible for the technical launch of DVD for Universal and the studio’s Digital Cinema activities, he established the joint project with Universal and Panasonic for DVD dis
c authoring and High Definition Telecine Transfers, and was part of SRI Intl. (Stanford Research Institute) for over 13 years.
Looking ahead, he notes, “Digital technology can now exactly duplicate film — and make it even better.”
With a career spanning over four decades, Tharp started out with General Cinema Corp. and went on to serve as the head of distribution at DreamWorks before joining Paramount in 2006 as president of domestic distribution.
For Tharp, who’s overseen such hit franchises as “Transformers,” “Paranormal Activity” and “Jackass” for the studio, “the major change has been the slow but steady conversion to digital. More and more filmmakers are shooting digitally, which allows far more flexibility in terms of post and visual effects.”
“On the exhibition side, there were just 600 digital screens worldwide in 2007, and now we have close to 70,000. And that also gives you more flexibility in programming.”
He cites the studio’s “Paranormal Activity” campaign, “where we chose a dozen college markets and ran late and midnight shows, along with the regular shows, and discovered this huge interest.”
“So a movie never scheduled for a theatrical release ended up grossing over $100 million — because of the technology.”
Intl. Box Office Achievement Award
Also being honored today at CinemaCon is Paramount Pictures, which receives the Intl. Box Office Achievement Award, thanks to the grosses for “Hugo,” “Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol,” “No Strings Attached,” “Rango,” “Super 8,” “Transformers 3,” “True Grit” and the DreamWorks Animation titles “Kung Fu Panda 2″ and “Puss in Boots,” as well as the Marvel titles “Captain America” and “Thor,” among other Par pics.
• Summer’s tentpole walking