Exhib biz savors int'l gains as box office rebounds

It’s always a more pleasant affair rubbing elbows with fellow industryites when business is booming. And as 2012 worldwide box office continues to impress and technology continues to evolve, attendees at this year’s annual exhib conference CinemaCon, which kicked off Monday at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, seem to have regained some optimism.

“Everybody believes that the business is back on track,” said one

exhibber. “The mood certainly is much better than last year.”

Attendees spent the day focused on the biz’s international side, tubthumping the importance of growing markets like China and Russia, as well as some of the industry’s newest technologies.

During an afternoon panel on the international market, Millard Ochs of Warner Bros. International Cinemas focused on how theaters will evolve. “I think technology is going to be the biggest challenge for the industry over the next few years,” Ochs said.

Fernando Evole, CEO of Spanish chain Yelmo Cines, added: “Now that we’re in the digital era, I think we’re able to maximize that technology. But digitalization isn’t only about installing the technology in our theaters, it’s about understanding the moviegoing experience.”

Cinemacon demonstrations will concentrate on improving the theatrical experience through tech innovations such as Barco’s 4K laser projectors, followed by a panel discussion Wednesday, while today Warner Bros. plans to screen segments of Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit,” shot at 48 frames per second.

Prospects for 3D continue to be much talked-about among exhibition bizzers.

Fox Intl. co-prexy Tomas Jegeus referenced the success of “Titanic” 3D internationally (pic has cumed more than $225 million), though he added that 3D is largely still is product dependent — even overseas.

“What’s happening is that you’re seeing a stabilization of percentages,” Jegeus said. “It’s come down to the individual film.”

The panel also highlighted a growing region for 3D and overall: Latin America contributes 15%-16% of international marketshare, up from around 10% in past years.

Munir Falah, prexy and CEO of Cine Colombia, said screens in Colombia now are between 30% and 35% 3D-capable. That’s better than in some other Latin American markets like Brazil, where 3D screens currently are underrepresented.

Distributors and exhibitors worldwide are bracing themselves for the next must-have investment in technology — likely being demonstrated somewhere on the CinemaCon floor — but for now, they’re enjoying the biz upswing, as well as looking forward to this summer’s busy sked.

“We all go through cycles,” Ochs said. “You’re constantly reinventing yourself — you have to.”

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