AMSTERDAM — “I’d love to be there, but…”
That was the refrain from many stars and directors Tuesday at Cinema Expo in the prerecorded segments studios and organizers use when talent can’t make events in person.
Of course, such videotaped comments are de rigueur at industry awards ceremonies and various events for helmers and thesps who are “in the editing room” on their latest project, rushing it out or on the far-flung set of their next pic.
But on Tuesday, the canned comments via video flowed very freely indeed. It’s obviously easier to get stars to the flashier Las Vegas confab ShoWest than overseas to see exhibs.
Fox pulled out a glitzy presentation to pump a slate of 11 new pics, plus eight more from specialty arm Fox Searchlight: The studio played host to a cocktail party and a dinner for screenings of two pics — comedy “Borat” and Russell Crowe starrer “A Very Good Year” — and screened two World Cup matches between the movies to keep exhibs around.
“The Devil Wears Prada” helmer David Frankel introduced his clips in person at the RAI auditorium, as did “A Night at the Museum” helmer Shawn Levy and “Borat” creator Sacha Baron Cohen, who shticked it up for the audience’s delight.
However, prepared “I’d love to be there, but…” reels were presented for “Museum” star Ben Stiller, “My Super Ex-Girlfriend” helmer Ivan Reitman and “The Fountain” lead Hugh Jackman and director Darren Aronofsky.
Jackman did double duty, as he also made a taped speech for the earlier Nielsen EDI Intl. Gold Reel Awards, which go to U.S. pics that topped $100 million mark abroad. To give the assembled something to cheer, Jackman also confirmed he’ll topline “Wolverine,” a spinoff featuring his “X-Men” character.
DreamWorks Animation’s Jeffrey Katzenberg also made a taped address for the Gold Reels, saying he’d had to leave Cinema Expo to promote “Over the Hedge” in Germany with Bruce Willis.
But if celebs were thin on the ground in Amsterdam, high-profile execs were not, and MPAA chairman-CEO Dan Glickman told Cinema Expo on Tuesday that Hollywood and the European exhib biz need to form a united front to get more people going to movies, even if box office totals are peaking again this year.
It may have at first seemed odd that Glickman’s “industry address” was, in effect, an intro to the UIP urban drag racing pic “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift.” But the MPAA honcho used the film — lensed largely in Japan — to hammer home his point: Features using international locales, characters and themes can be the necessary tools to draw larger international auds to Hollywood-produced pics.
“Tokyo Drift,” a fish-out-of-water action drama that eschews stars for souped-up cars, opened at No. 3 two weeks ago domestically for Universal, but it raced up to No. 1 in its U.K. debut and has held that spot for two weeks. It also opened at No. 1 in Australia.
Perf of the film shows it’s not just Hollywood tentpoles but also midlevel pics that can work abroad.
This business “has truly become global,” said Glickman, adding this year Hollywood’s top three pics have raked in 67% of their grosses from nondomestic engagements. “Global releases are important. All of this is in the context that we must work together collaboratively” to get more people to the movies.
Glickman picked up on a theme recurrent this year at the confab: Though the numbers look bullish right now for Hollywood and its exhibition partners abroad, the business is cyclical, and the industry needs to build infrastructure and strategies to continue attracting clientele.
Related hot-button topics include digital cinema — seen as a way to draw more auds — and window shrinking, which exhibs view as a threat.
But Glickman, who was speaking on the one-year anniversary of MGM’s victory in its suit over file-sharing network Grokster, pointed to piracy as the “single greatest threat” to the movie biz. He said venture capital investment in the movie biz has spiked by 44% this year, in part because piracy is being curtailed as it’s addressed in courts around the world.
But he cautioned that $18.2 billion has been lost to movie pirates, according to a case study commissioned by the MPAA, and that 90% of piracy stems from audience members camcording pictures in cinemas and then illegally distributing them.
On Tuesday, Cinema Expo handed out a spate of Gold Reels, with Buena Vista, Sony/Spyglass, Fox, UIP and Warner Bros. all picking up kudos for their $100 million pics.
Nielsen’s prexy of international, Nick King, used the awards to assuage any worries that the monthlong World Cup would take a major toll on exhibs’ pocketbooks. Though Brit B.O. plunged 30% in the soccer tourney’s opening week, and German B.O. was off 56%, he said the Cup ultimately will take on average just 2% from U.K. business in the first six months of the year and 3% from Germany.