Not one to shy away from ruffling some feathers, John Fithian, prexy of the National Assn. of Theater Owners, may have gone too far when he admitted during his keynote speech Tuesday at CinemaCon to purposefully avoiding Fox Searchlight’s Oscar picture winner “12 Years a Slave” in theaters.
Speaking in front of the packed Colosseum at Caesars Palace, full of exhibitors and studio execs, Fithian said “12 Years” was the only Oscar best picture nominee he didn’t watch in the theater.
“It’s not that I didn’t consider the movie worthy of watching. Quite the contrary,” Fithian explained. “’12 Years a Slave’ constitutes one of the most important movies of our generation. It’s simply that, for me, the movie was too unequivocally intense to watch in a cinema, so I waited and watched it at home.”
Fithian added that the personal admission was meant to illustrate the power of the movies in a theater.
It wasn’t a good enough explanation for Fox executives, some of whom walked out of the presentation because of the comment.
But it wasn’t just Fox that was miffed by the faux pas. Fithian’s remark perplexed plenty of other confab delegates, who couldn’t understand why, if the intention was to spotlight the power of the moviegoing experience, Fithian wouldn’t spotlight going to the movies for a film like, say, “Gravity” as a uniquely powerful cinematic achievement.
Lesson learned, hopefully.