The CEOs of the MPAA and the National Association of Theatre Owners used their opening addresses to the exhibition industry’s CinemaCon convention today to advocate a new spirit of cooperation between the embattled and often warring businesses. Last year’s convention “ended on a sour note,” NATO CEO John Fithian said, when word spread that three studios planned to launch a premium VOD experiment — they let DirecTV offer some movies two months after their theatrical release for $30 a viewing. That threatened to give audiences an incentive to stay at home, theater owners feared. But Fithian says that the experiment “was not a resounding success.” Now, he says, theaters and studios are “talking about how to grow the business together.” MPAA chief Chris Dodd also talked up the need to persuade audiences that “the movie-going experience remains something special, something to be savored and enjoyed, something so innovative and creative that it cannot be duplicated at home no matter how many boxes they have.” He also thanked theater owners for supporting a big issue on his agenda: legislation to combat movie piracy. The MPAA ended up with a black eye this year when it failed to persuade Congress to pass the controversial bills that would have empowered the government to block sites run by overseas pirates. “I urge you to continue to be a part of a thoughtful and rational solution to protecting intellectual property,” Dodd told theater owners. He added that he remains “committed to doing all I can to achieve a satisfactory resolution to the protection of intellectual property” and is trying to build bridges to the tech industry which opposed the bills.
Industry leaders also used the opening sessions to cheer-lead. Fithian decried the “25-year-olds on Wall Street” who grew bearish about exhibition when box office sales plummeted early last year. “Whenever we havew a down period our critics blame everything except the movies.” But all’s forgiven now. The NATO chief said that domestic box office sales are up 6.1% from Q2 last year to now. He praised Hollywood, which is out in full force at CinemaCon to promote upcoming releases. Fithian also said that the industry is prepared to reap the benefits of its $2.5B bet on digital cinema. About two-third of all screens now have digital projectors, and the transition — as well as the demise of celluloid prints — could be complete by the end of 2013. He also urged theater owners to check out exhibitors promoting the next stages in the evolution of digital cinema: faster frame rates, and laser projection.
(Photo: Getty Images)
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