Exhibition execs face several controversial matters, but “there’s peace in the homeland” in their relationships with studios, NATO‘s John Fithian said in his annual joint press meeting with MPAA‘s Chris Dodd at the CinemaCon confab. The lobby group heads always emphasize the positive, but this time Fithian sounds like he means it. He acknowledged that there’s been a friction in previous years — especially 2011 when there was what he calls a “very public food fight” over how quickly studios can release their films on home video. But now “we’re working together instead of fighting. …Since then it’s been dialogue and cooperation.” Dodd says his MPAA members agree that “the best experience for their product is in the theater.”
On one hot-button issue, texting in theaters, Fithian says that his members “have conversations every week” about whether to allow it under certain circumstances. But it’s unlikely that anything will change soon. When some execs said here two years ago that they’re looking at the matter, “They got barraged from moviegoers saying, ‘that is my last refuge of peace.’…Then the 17 year olds respond and say, ‘we have to be connected.’ ” The sense, for now, is that “the vast majority of our consumers go to the cinema to escape” with many looking at moviegoing as “a quasi-religious experience.” But Fithian says “it’ll be an evolving space. Let’s leave it there.”
The trade group heads conceded that 3D hasn’t lived up to its initial hype. “It’s not going to be the greatest thing since sliced bread, as people thought at one time,” Fithian says. Dodd adds that while the extra dimension helps in movies such as Gravity and animated films, “when you try to apply it everywhere you get a reaction.” Still, they say the format is here to stay — and could enjoy a resurgence if theaters invest in laser light projectors. The technology “dramatically increases the amount of light you can show on the screen,” Fithian says. And with greater distinctions between whites and blacks “you can make 3D jump off the screen.”
The NATO head says his members understand that as studios increasingly distribute movies on hard drives or via satellite “we’re very close to the end of film in the U.S.” Paramount, he says, has told theater owners that “they’re done with film releases domestically except for Chris Nolan” releases — since he likes films. But Dodd says that theaters unable to afford digital projectors won’t be left in the cold. “They’re sensitive to the fact that they have loyal theater owners” including many that are struggling. “They’re not going to turn down someone…I’ll probably get in trouble for saying that.”
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