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CinemaCon Kicks Off With Fox Tribute, Netflix Jabs

CinemaCon kicked off with a subtle dig at Netflix and other streaming services. In his introductory remarks during the opening night presentation, Neon co-founder Tom Quinn lauded studios’ dedication to cinema with a slight jab at the streaming giant.

“Cinema,” Quinn started as he took the stage at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas. “It’s a word we hear a lot lately. Some in our business have tried to co-opt it for their own gain. Those who have are not here this week.”

CinemaCon unfolds at a time when the exhibition community is at odds with Netflix over how long their movies stay in theaters exclusively. Traditionally, Hollywood studios run their movies in cinemas for 90 days before making them available on home entertainment platforms. But as streamers position themselves as major players in the moviemaking space, the debate surrounding windows has intensified.

Quinn didn’t call out Netflix, but he told a packed crowd of theater owners, “Maybe cinema comes in many forms. Maybe cinema is evolving. The one thing that has remained constant is the magic of cinema always and forever begins in your cinemas.”

Mitch Neuhauser, managing director of CinemaCon, sounded a somber note Monday night. He took the stage, clad fully in “Us” cosplay — gold scissors and all — to praise the record 2018 box office, and remind audiences about a seismic change in the industry. Disney’s historic $71.3 billion acquisition of 20th Century Fox was finalized roughly two weeks ago, leaving a major hole in the distribution landscape.

“I stand here on behalf of our team and the exhibition community to say, we wish Disney …nothing but the best,” Neuhauser said. “Their pipeline of product is going to grow. It’s going to bring in incredible business to your theaters. We’re here to support them in every possible way.”

The mega merger also resulted in hundreds of lost jobs on the Fox lot. Among those who Neuhauser specifically called out for his years of work in the exhibitor community was Fox distribution chief Chris Aronson and his team. Aronson was let go as part of the merger.

“It’s extremely bittersweet because we lost friends at 20th Century Fox who have been incredibly supportive of our efforts since the beginning,” Neuhauser continued. “They’ve been true partners in the truest sense of the word. I’d like to tip our hats to Chris Aronson and his incredible team for what he’s done. We wish you the best, and we’re going to be with you however we can.”

CinemaCon runs through Thursday. Studios including Disney, Universal, Warner Bros., and STX will tease their upcoming slates to hype theater owners.

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