CinemaCon in Vegas promotes box-office success, movies, stars

Benjamin Watts of IGN tries out an interactive Spider-Man' display at the CinemaCon trade show ...

The days of getting to stream a movie the same day it hits theaters are over.

Opening CinemaCon’s first full day, John Fithian, president and CEO of the National Association of Theatre Owners, declared a victory in his industry address.

It wasn’t so much his organization’s oft-stated rallying cry that movies belong in cinemas that swayed studios, but a less publicized culprit: piracy.

“I am pleased to announce today that simultaneous release is dead as a business model, and piracy is what killed it,” Fithian told a cheering audience inside the Colosseum at Caesars Palace.

In touting the box office successes of “Spider-Man: No Way Home” and “The Batman,” as well as “Sonic The Hedgehog 2” and “The Lost City,” Fithian promised better days for the moviegoing industry.

“There are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about what is ahead of us,” he said. “The slate of films in 2022 and beyond is robust and full of massive box office potential.”

CinemaCon, the group’s annual gathering, was canceled in 2020 and scaled down for an off-cycle version last August. In pre-pandemic days, the convention drew around 5,000 attendees from more than 80 countries.

On the surface, it’s a bit like Comic-Con without the cosplay, a place where some of the biggest stars in the world can show up to flog their upcoming movies and give a boatload of interviews, all in the name of building buzz.

In recent years, studios used CinemaCon to debut the first footage of future Oscar winners Joaquin Phoenix in “Joker” and Rami Malek in “We Will Rock You.” In 2016, Sony flew Tom Holland from the Hollywood Boulevard premiere of “Captain America: Civil War” so he could present its scenes showing his introduction as Spider-Man — while the movie was still screening at the premiere — and announce a little film called “Spider-Man: Homecoming.”

The four-day event is a place for movie theater owners and their employees, from national powerhouses to mom-and-pop operations, to connect with studio representatives, as well as make deals at the industry trade show.

Panels this year include “Blockbusters or Bust” and “A Guide to Emerging From Chaos and Navigating the Fast-Approaching Future of Work,” as well as one promising to answer the question “How do we get people back into the moviegoing habit?”

CinemaCon began Monday evening as Sony teased the next “Ghostbusters” and “Venom” movies and brought out Bad Bunny, who’s bringing his “World’s Hottest Tour” to Allegiant Stadium on Sept. 23 and 24, to announce he’ll be headlining a “Spider-Man” spinoff focusing on the antihero El Muerto.

The convention, which also includes presentations by Disney, Universal and Warner Bros., as well as the smaller Lionsgate and Neon, continues through Thursday, when Paramount is hosting the first public screening of “Top Gun: Maverick.”

On the subject of piracy, Charles Rivkin, chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association, used the occasion of World Intellectual Property Day to dedicate most of his address to what he called “the existential threat of piracy” and the “real-life mobsters” behind it.

Rather than relying on shaky cellphone recordings obtained in theaters, pirates can rip pristine copies of new movies minutes after their digital debut. The longer such piracy can be thwarted, the more money studios and theater owners make.

Elsewhere in the executive session, Rolando Rodriguez, NATO’s chairman as well as president and CEO of Marcus Theatres, asked those in the Colosseum to stand as the house lights came up. He then led them in chanting, “We are back! We are back! We are back!”

Awkward? Why, yes. Yes it was. But it was full of passion — something the exhibition industry is going to need as it emerges from the pandemic.

Contact Christopher Lawrence at clawrence@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4567. Follow @life_onthecouch on Twitter.