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Dan plans for a 9% solution

Glickman has o'seas focus

LAS VEGAS — On international day at ShoWest Monday, exhibs and studio reps focused mainly on opportunities in markets such as Russia, South Korea, China and Vietnam rather than dwelling on the disappointing 2005 numbers.

But the stats were there in MPAA topper Dan Glickman’s keynote address: Overseas box office was down 9%, with particularly big drops in established markets such as Germany, Japan, Spain, France and Italy.

Nonetheless, Glickman made clear that opening new markets and combating piracy are top priorities for him and his org as Hollywood looks for growth overseas.

“The simple fact is that the international market is where the action is for the film industry,” he told a crowd largely made up of foreign exhibitors.

His comments echoed those at a morning panel featuring studio reps and overseas exhibition execs at which Russia was cited repeatedly as an example of both the potential and the problems in overseas distribution.

Mark Zoradi, prexy of Buena Vista Intl., said Russian exhibitors are often a prime source for high-quality pirated pics, leading him to have to weigh the benefits of releasing films early in the cycle in Russia against the costs piracy could have on other markets.

As in the U.S., overseas exhibs expressed concern about shrinking windows. One audience member from a chain in Ireland asked whether studios still supported the exclusive theatrical window. Fox exec Paul Hanneman said his studio is absolutely committed to it.

Reps on the panel from UIP, Fox and Disney agreed, though Zoradi added a note of caution: “Our studios are all part of big companies that want to maximize the value of their $100 million-plus investments,” he said. “Yes, we want to support the theatrical window, but as the market changes, we have to make sure consumers keep coming back.”

Panel members also discussed the growing importance of local-language product; the pressure the World Cup is putting on summer release dates this year as studios try to avoid opening overseas in June; and the effect of long pre-show ad reels on attendance.

ShoWest officially opens today with an opening ceremony featuring addresses by Glickman, National Assn. of Theater Owners prexy John Fithian and DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg. For the first time, MPAA released 2005 domestic industry stats before the confab, meaning Glickman will be focusing his speech on the industry’s future rather than on the dismal 2005 numbers (Daily Variety, March 10).