CinemaCon: 20th Century Fox Fires Back At NATO Chief For '12 Years A Slave' Remarks

On Tuesday during his annual address to delegates at CinemaCon, National Association Of Theatre Owners president John Fithian caused a stir with a real head-scratcher that has keptCinemaCon2014_badge resonating among theater owners and some studio executives when he stated he waited to watch this year’s Oscar-winning Best Picture 12 Years A Slave at home, rather than at a cinema, becauseCinemaCon 2014 - The State Of The Industry: Past, Present And Future And Universal Studios Presentation it was too “unequivocally intense.”  For the head of an organization that is meant to promote movie-watching in theaters, singling out the Academy’s choice for Best Picture (with that Oscar distinction traditionally a real magnet to bring customers into theaters) was an eye-opener, and execs at 20th Century Fox to whom I have spoken were furious with the NATO chief for even suggesting, however personal, that the preferred way to see the widely acclaimed Fox Searchlight release was to wait and see it at home. This morning, near the beginning of their studio presentation at Caesars Palace’s Colisseum theatre, Fox shot back. “All of (our) films are meant to be seen in the best possible venue, the cinema, your cinemas and that includes movies that win the Oscar for Best Picture like 12 Years A Slave,” said 20th Century Fox distribution president Chris Aronson in his opening remarks this morning that contained that not-so-veiled reference and response to Fithian’s comments.

Related: CinemaCon: ‘X Men’, Other Women, Lots Of Girls And An Ape Steal Show

12-Years-a-Slave-posterOf course it is no secret that many Academy members were, like Fithian, reluctant to watch the intense film, either in a theater or at home on their screener. That’s one of the reasons Fox Searchlight launched their second-phase “It’s Time” campaign in order to encourage them to view the film that would eventually take the top prize for the studio. But coming from the head of NATO, these remarks really stung, especially since he so publicly supports strict windows between the theatrical release of a movie and when it can be consumed at home. One Fox exec to whom I spoke was, in a word, livid when he heard Fithian’s remarks. Another major theatre chain head who played several runs of 12 Years A Slave and still has it in some theaters (even though it first opened in October) was equally outraged by the suggestion that the film is too intense for their screens. Another said, “It’s like if you were the head of Macy’s department store and urged people to shop in their store, but to buy your underwear online.”

20th_century_fox_logoFithian , who didn’t mention any  other kinds of films he finds too intense to watch in a theatre, did praise the film in his remarks which were anything but off the cuff and even included a graphic showing the announcement of nominations for Best Picture. “It was the only movie of the nine nominated for Best Picture that I didn’t watch on the big screen,” he told theater owners whose livelihood depends on getting people to see these movies in theaters. “It’s not that I didn’t consider the movie worthy of watching. Quite the contrary. 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.” So far the film has grossed about $175 million in cinemas worldwide, with $56 million domestic and about $5 million since winning the Oscar.

We may not have heard the last of this controversy, even as the convention comes to a close later tonight. More on the Fox presentation coming up.

  1. John Fithian is one of the following things:
    A. An idiot
    B. A secret shill for Google/iTunes/Amazon/pirate sites
    C. A racist
    D. All of the above
    It is beyond comprehension that the President of the National Assoc. of Theater Owners should advocate watching the Best Picture winner at home! Instead of in a theater! How can this guy keep his job? Seriously! This guy is supposed to be a champion for theaters. 12 Years a Slave looks incredible and works best on the big screen. I’m so sick of jokers like this guy. He’s spitting on all the craftspeople who worked on this film, not to mention its subject matter, and not to mention the theater owners (for whom he should be a spokesperson). Someone needs to give this guy a reality check. It honestly sounds like he didn’t watch it because of it’s too black for him and has a black director. I bet this cretin has watched plenty of “intense” films by/about/for white people on the big screen. How can someone is his position advocate watching any movie at home? Fire this heathen. Oy.

    1. Overreact much?

      Why do you need to throw race in to this?

      Those looking to be offended will always find reasons to be offended.

  2. I sell shoes. I advocate all people in states beginning with the letter “M” go barefoot. I wish I could say the fundamental idiocy of this guy is astonishing. It’s not. The movie was less than 2 hours. Slavery was over 200 years. Get over yourself and do your job.

  3. Oh come on. I can’t believe this. On what planet does it make sense that the NATO president advocates that people watch the Best Picture Oscar winner at home instead of in theaters? What a joke.

    1. Well he was doing what a lot of my friends (black) were doing. They wouldn’t see it in the theater and chose to wait for DVD.

      I don’t see anything wrong with being honest and upfront. The movie has made a boatload of money, so it doesn’t matter does it? If it failed, then that would matter.

      1. “I don’t see anything wrong with being honest” – that’s because you’re from chicago and not hollywood. In Hollywood we expect you to do a job and he failed.

  4. Calm down, Fox. The guy’s simply saying that the movie is so intense he might have been embarrassed by his public reaction. It’s a compliment.

  5. yawn– about the comment he made. yawn- about the ridiculous claim that this is an “important “movie. Most overrated, overhyped movie I’ve seen (notwithstanding the exceptional performances) by Lupita, Fassbiner, and Ejiofor. Badly written, and at times, poorly directed.

    1. Pedro…. the poor direction and words were part of the performances you so loved…not a big fan of Ridley’s writing but it worked this time…and McQueen’s direction is what made it so intense.

  6. I thought it was his way of complimenting the film and acknowledging the horrible power of slavery.

  7. Good for him, for telling it like it is.

    It’s about time someone in this godforsaken industry spoke the truth.

    He’s not suggesting anything; he’s merely offering his own experience. Do you really think EVERY theatre owner watches EVERY movie inside a theatre? Do you honestly believe theater owners do not ever buy or rent DVDs or watch streaming movies? The idiocy of the general public never ceases to amuse me.

    I, personally, avoid movie theatres these days for the following reasons:

    1. Noisy audiences
    2. Texting moviegoers
    3. Expensive tickets and concessions
    4. Long lines
    5. Crying babies
    6. Children kicking seats
    7. Parking challenges (not to mention the additional expense)
    8. Perfumed ladies
    9. Late arrivals
    9. People standing in front of viewers during subtitled movies
    10. People fidgeting with candy wrappers, plastic baggies and other crinkling materials

    1. So tell us, do you just stay away from movie theaters, or do you also avoid the opera, symphonies, sports stadiums, grocery stores, places of worship, post offices, restaurants, gas stations, libraries, medical offices, places of business retail establishments and the like? All have noisy people, lines to stand in, many opportunities to be tolerant of others, as they are tolerant of you, crying babies, not to mention all peoples with vulgar language and those in need of a bath, long lines at parking lots, lines to get on elevators and escalators, multiple parking challenges, texting people, and people fidgeting with various and sundry noisy, crinkly things.

      1. Okay, so you want to compare apples to oranges? Be my guest.

        Firstly, I have NEVER been to an opera or legit theatre performance where I have experienced ANY of the annoyances listed. And, yes, I have been to many operas as well as theatres, both grand and intimate.

        Secondly, movie theatres, once the lights go down, are expected to be quiet for every audience member to fully enjoy their individual moviegoing experience. Sure, emotions and reactions are often expressed aloud, but that’s part of the experience; the annoyances in my list are NOT!

        Are you really comparing darkened movie theatres to sports stadiums? Do I really need to list the differences?

        All the other places you mention are not places of focused entertainment, so I don’t even know where to begin.

        But I will admit that I do avoid post offices, grocery stores, places of worship and medical offices. And I hate going to restaurants.

    2. These are a bunch of cliches! What movie theater do you go to? Can you imagine seeing GRAVITY at home and not in a theater? I can’t. or AVATAR? Or other epics??

      And he’s being criticized rightly by industry people – not general public

  8. Foolish over-reaction to a poor choice of words. Nothing more. If TCF is that worried about cinema-going, it had better see to it the the DVD/streaming/paycable window stays long and wide.

  9. That was a mind-blowing statement for a man in his position. I still can’t believe he said that. If it is too intense to watch then that would also be the case watching it at home, I would imagine. If you can watch it at home, you also can in the cinema. I recall that the movie The Passion of the Christ was also very intense and certain scenes were tough to take not to talk about Schindler’s list. I wonder what he would have to say about where these movies should be watched. If I couldn’t watch a movie in the cinema, I couldn’t watch it at all. Nothing changes watching it at home.

    1. I beg to differ.

      Some movies, like tearjerkers, I feel more comfortable watching at home, where I can blubber like a baby, without feeling embarrassed by people asking, “Are you okay?” or “Do you need a tissue?”

      Other films may be so intense that I would rather express my emotions or body language in private. Maybe I don’t want other people in the theatre seeing me squirm in my seat or fidget during an unsettling or, otherwise, discomfiting scene.

      1. what movie theater do you go to where people are watching each other and not the screen?

        what he said goes in direct contradiction of his job. he should be fired.

        1. In answer to your question: just about every one!

          I usually sit in the back row (to avoid seat-kickers), where I always notice heads turning, as audience members look to see the reactions of other audience members, especially during an “intense” movie.

  10. “PASSION OF THE CHRIST” was an extremely intense film. And while it did not win an Oscar I would love to know if John Fithian viewed this film in the theatre. It sounds like it time for him to step down.

  11. I’m waiting for 12 Years a Slave on DVD (or streaming, I’m looking at YOU Netflix!) because it sounds overly one-note and not really worth schlepping to a theater for. Maybe if they’d bothered to tell the whole story – including the complex process by which Northrup was rescued, and his subsequent career as a best-selling author/abolitionist speaker – I would have thought otherwise.

    The only movie I saw in the theater this year was Gravity – the one that seeing it on a big screen definitely makes a difference. But for most of the worthwhile movies, they’re just as good at home, and the superhero extravaganzas, eh, who cares.

  12. My personal feelings about 12years aside, if Fithian wants to express his personal opinion about the Oscar Best Picture winner in private, in a bar, at his home, fine. But to do that in front of a group of theater owners, is moronic. John, do your job or become president of the Residential Flat Screen buyers association. He’s an idiot, plain and simple. Set up, or step aside.

  13. This man’s job is to encourage people to see movies in theaters. That he made this statement in a public forum suggests very poor judgment on his part, no matter what his motives are. Fox has a right to be annoyed.

  14. It’s pathetic how many oscar voters, and now john within, have been able to proudly say they haven’t seen 12 Years A Slave. They should all be embarrassed.
    Of course it was an “intense” film, but did “Gravity” not have it’s intense moments too? Have they never seen a horror movie in their life?
    It’s your job to watch movies. It’s not a hard gig. Do your damn job.

  15. To be perfectly honest, I found DALLAS BUYERS CLUB a lot tougher to sit through than 12 YEARS (I do admire both films).

  16. This nato guy has been nothing but a total suit all the years he’s been there. Guys like him make a whole lot of $$ – no cares in the world – and life goes on. Then he shows his true moronic self by making a comment like he made. Amazing that somebody we would think is smart and savvy – is truly a clown, and classless.

  17. Sebelum anda lanjut ke halaman lain, ada baiknya anda membaca reviews kami terlebih dahulu hehehe

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