H’w’d heads to Vegas

All six studios to present at confab

Before its second outing as CinemaCon — which kicks off today through Thursday at Caesars Palace — the annual exhib conference underwent significant changes, most notably a month-delayed start date to lure even more of Hollywood’s biggest summer product.

The National Assn. of Theater Owners, which is hosting the event, definitely accomplished that.

For the first time in more than a decade, CinemaCon, which was previously dubbed ShoWest, features a slate presentation from all six studios. What’s more, event organizers managed to book big names, including Martin Scorsese and Ang Lee, both of whom will speak Wednesday on a filmmakers panel.

Paramount will kick off this year’s dog-and-pony show at tonight’s opening-night gala. Here’s how the rest of the week shakes out:

• Warner Bros. sneaks its 2012 lineup, followed by industry addresses from the MPAA’s Chris Dodd and John Fithian of NATO.

• Disney presents Tuesday with a post-presentation dinner.

• Sony hosts its presentation and pre-event cocktail Wednesday.

• Fox and Universal, respectively, round out the presentations on Thursday.

This year’s heightened involvement, especially among studios, is a direct result of the confab’s new date — nearly a month later than previous installments — made to allow studios more time to finish footage from summer movies. In past years, some studios would turn up to tubthump their slate, but not all — at least not since the heyday of ShoWest.

As a result, attendance already is outpacing last year, which was 45% bigger than ShoWest 2010. Also, space on the trade-show floor sold out five months ago.

“What we’re seeing is a great domino effect of the success we achieved in 2011,” Mitch Neuhauser, CinemaCon managing director, told Variety. “We’d been in Bally’s-Paris for so long there were a lot question marks going in, but I think we answered those questions successfully.”

Neuhauser admits there are unavoidable issues carried over from last year — the biggest being that the trade show will still be split between three floors, necessitated by the venue. But Neuhauser added that organizers have gone to great lengths to make the conference center more delegate-friendly.

“The bottom line is, it’s all about the product,” Neuhauser said.

There must be some truth in that, because as one distribution exec said: “It’s exhausting, and it’s Vegas. But it’s a conference we all like to attend.”

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