John Fithian, president and CEO of the National Association of Theater Owners, will speak about film releases from 2017 at the CinemaCon 2018, the official gathering of the National Association of Theater Owners, on April 24, 2018 at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.

Chris Pizzello / The Associated Press

The metaphors came quickly and easily at this year's CinemaCon.

The National Assembly of Theater Owners (NATO, yes, they all heard the jokes of the Warsaw Pact) is a four-day frenzy between Hollywood and the movie screen operators of the world. Every party is there, deep inside Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas, to convince the other that it's a business of tremendous innovation-one that's prepared to learn from the mistakes of the past. She is immune to the waves of disruption that shake the entertainment landscape and most people, especially able to deliver what the audience wants, as it wants.

All this made the moment when CinemaCon started with a nod to Jordan Peeles Us too perfect in its imperfection. When Mitch Neuhauser, managing director of CinemaCon, happily went on stage dressed as one of Peele's red-faced villains, I could not help but grimace, while exhibitors and executives cheered in a movie that fails over part of humanity's to deal with the fact that their time on this earth is over.

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From left: Black Widow / Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) and Captain America / Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) in Avengers: Endgame.

null / Marvel Studios

It was a moment of allegorical oblivion that echoed the following morning, when NATO chief John Fithian made a bloody move from the wheels of history like a speech – "a robust theatrical release lends to a film that CAN NOT be replicated! "- in the midst of an obvious, ongoing crisis (paramedics treated a woman who had not fallen five feet off the stage, she's okay). CinemaCon closed with the audience for which they wanted to make their decision Terminator: Dark Destiny, a movie that eradicates the continuity of the previous three terminator Sequels that serve as a practical lesson on how to care the most about those whom Hollywood has said have a thumb in the eyes: moviegoers.

Sure, the movie world has good reason to be naughty. The US box office reached a record high of $ 11.9 billion in 2018, an increase of 7 percent over the previous year. And the stupid blockbuster lineup this year – including Avenger: Endgame, Toy Story 4, Frozen 2 and Star Wars: Episode 9 – could be just as disgusting … just for Walt Disney Pictures.

But streaming is increasing dramatically worldwide. The Motion Picture Association of America announced last month that 613 million people subscribe to online video services by 2018, an increase of 27 percent over the previous year. And for any well-known brand expansion (how many Spider-Men can the public take, all turns out, it turns out), Hollywood is still getting lazy wannabe franchises (Robin Hood, Mortal Engines, solo, Pacific Rim: Riot), whose desperate stench only further unsettles the audience.

If the CinemaCon 2019 confirmed anything, the magic of the theater experience – however indescribable and true – could save films. Just because the film industry refuses to move away from a franchise-driven and anti-innovation strategy, it is approaching its own court day. Then come with me, if you want to live.

The stupid blockbuster lineup this year – including Avengers: Endgame, Toy Story 4, Frozen 2 and Star Wars: Episode 9 – could bring Walt Disney Pictures a lot.

null / Marvel Studios

Whisper to a stream

The first guess that this year's CinemaCon would be less of a hermetic industry bubble than a pure BioDome was the lack of a word: "Netflix." Although the streaming giant is likely to attract more global attention than all the major Hollywood studios put together – 139 million subscribers worldwide, with the release of 90 original films this year – and thanks to Alfonso Cuaron & # 39; s it has secured Oscars reputation RomanyAlmost nobody in Vegas referred the streamer by name.

This is due to a longstanding stalemate between Netflix and exhibitors about how long it would take for a movie to go from big to small screen. Netflix wants to make its films available to subscribers a week or two after the theater or the same day. The exhibitors believe that such a short window excludes their business (the average time between traditional theatrical and digital platforms is 97 days, according to NATO). This has resulted in Netflix simply providing theater space where it can cope with price contenders Roma. And reports show that the company will do the same for this year's epic and costly drama The IrishmanDirector Martin Scorsese's first Netflix film and the company's biggest bet so far for Best Picture and thus cultural dominance.

Instead of tackling this problem directly, however, CinemaCon played a game of madness, a charade that felt like the conspiracy to Netflix's own thriller bird box: Strap on a blindfold, hope for the best and pray that you do not accidentally see the horrors that surround you.

"Cinema: It's a word we've heard a lot lately," said Tom Quinn, co-founder of up-and-coming US distributor Neon, during the opening ceremony of CinemaCon. "Some in our business have tried to use it for themselves. Those who have are not here this week. "

Sure, Netflix was not publicly present at CinemaCon. Meanwhile, distributors, executives, and analysts filled Caesar's steakhouses and cigar bars with rage at the sheer volume of money left on the table thanks to the relentlessness of both the streamer and the NATO members.

The Lion King (2019).

Disney

If the two factions could reach a middle ground – such as a 30 or 40-day theater window instead of 90 – everyone would benefit. Cinemas would receive the original, diverse and zeitgeist content that the audience at home devours. Netflix would get the prestige of the theatrical exhibition as well as the unique experiential chemistry – that "electric feeling of seeing a movie on the big screen for the first time," as Universal Pictures boss Donna Langley put it.

Not that anyone would admit something like that. Not when theatrical chains are suspicious of the box office receipts from 2019, which are currently around 20 percent higher than in the previous year. And not when they wonder what Netflix has planned – and what threats half a dozen are threatening other Streamer, including giants like Apple TV + and Disney +. The latter's extension to streaming is particularly important as Disney positions itself as the best friend of a multiplex.

"This is a billion dollar issue," said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at comScore. "Today, Disney is creating content in the cinemas that can be used for the streaming service of the street. But where will it all fit at some point? "

Walt Disney Distribution Franchise Management, Business & Audience Insights chairperson Cathleen Taff speaks in front of the studio part of Walt Disney Studio during the CinemaCon Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures special presentation at the Colosseum Caesars Palace.

VALERIE MACON / AFP / Getty Images

While Disney's streaming service has not been realized yet, Netflix is ​​a harsh reality. The Streamer is far from perfect – its audience numbers are cluttered, its devotion to pure growth unsustainable, its inclination to bury interesting titles, but it does get a game that has lately been of little interest to Hollywood. That's why the name of the company in Las Vegas rarely came up with explicit bitterness.

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"The first 17 questions are related to Netflix. This is a really big industry with all sorts of amazing content creators distributed in many different ways and consumed in many different ways, "Fithian told reporters during a tense interview session. "It's surprising to me that most of the prestige on CinemaCon and all your questions … relate to Netflix."

However, NATO has clearly considered or answered the Netflix question. Prior to CinemaCon, the organization released a study commissioned by Ernst & Young, which found that Americans who watch movies more often also consume more streaming content. "For each race and age group, average streaming hours per week were higher than respondents who visited a cinema nine or more times compared to those who attended a theater once or twice," said Fithian. "Streaming and theater not only exist, they reinforce each other."

Producer Jonas Rivera of Pixar Animation Studios discusses the upcoming movie Toy Story 4 during the Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures presentation at CinemaCon 2019.

Chris Pizzello / The Associated Press

Or it may be that people who like movies tend to watch a lot of movies. And if theater owners and Netflix could put an end to their relaxation, the multi-faceted "magic" of the collective movie viewing could become more than ever for creators and consumers.

But then actress Helen Mirren came to CinemaCon to promote her thriller The good liarannounced to the audience that "I love Netflix, but [expletive] Netflix, "the crowd of exhibitors went wild and the conversation fell back to the same mentality that no one serves. Least of all audience.

"I'm back, again"

For all Hollywood has to offer to serve the cinema – "viewers will turn up for great original films by brilliant filmmakers," said Universal Langley. The general message from CinemaCon to the audience seemed to be: sit down and shut up. While Netflix produces and buys original and varied mid-budget dramas to attract subscribers who are hungry for non-franchises, it has released new films by Dan Gilroy, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Tamara Jenkins, Joel and Ethan in the last six months , Nicole Holofcener, Steven Soderbergh and a guy named Orson Welles – Hollywood Studios are doubling their fame.

Linda Hamilton in Terminator: The Dark Destiny.

Paramount Pictures.

In addition to a new one terminator (the sixth), prepare for a new one Top Gun, a new G.I. Joe, a new Quiet place and Coming 2 America, And that's exactly what's missing from Paramount Pictures. With the recent acquisition of $ 71.3 billion from 21st Century Fox, Disney is also an intellectual property, and the new, improved super-conglomerate used CinemaCon as a winning round to announce plans for more plans for the company planet of monkeys, Kingsman, Avatar and Foreigners Franchise (not all in the same movie … at least not yet). This does not include Disney's Marvel and war of stars Brands, but also the increasingly frequent trips to the Disney vault, where any classic cartoon can be converted into a live action remake, as this year's triple threat of Dumbo, The Lion King and Aladdin (The last one looks like pure nightmare fuel).

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Even the smaller, so-called original films feel familiar. STX Entertainment chairman Adam Fogelson described the reputation of his studio as[disrupting] the traditional industry standard "and a 2019 lineup that" will close noticeable gaps in the marketplace ". But productions like My spy (a mashup of The pacifier and Kindergarten cop) The gentlemen (another tough guy-and-style joint by Guy Ritchie) and Bad mothers (that would be a continuation of A Bad Moms Christmas) felt as fresh as the air in the CinemaCon press room. Meanwhile, Lionsgate had the quirky idea of ​​renaming himself "A home for artists to thrive." hell boy Restart and the third John Wick Movie. (Before you yell at me: the John Wick Franchise is great fun, but, c'mon.)

Between the previews of cracking tent poles and the promise to exploit even more intellectual property for decades – there was audible gasp in Caesar's & # 39; Colosseum when Disney unveiled its upcoming release calendar so it was littered with branded items. hopefully nods original films for different audiences.

Mackenzie Davis in Terminator: Dark Fate.

Paramount Pictures.

Two of the four films shown in their entirety to the CinemaCon audience are Gurinder Chadha's drama Blinded by the lightand Nisha Ganatras comedy Late night, both immediate crowd pullers – stars from India and filmmakers of Indian descent. Universal Pictures has also preferred presentations for diversity comedy Littlewith the main role Black-ishMarsai Martin, and Yesterday, with newcomer Himesh Patelas well as Lena Waithe and Melina Matsoukas & # 39; Black Lives Matter-contiguous drama Queen & Slim,

"We are a melting pot, and this crucible has a tremendous interest in learning about diversity and inclusion," said Rolando Rodriguez, chief executive of the American chain Marcus Theaters. "The reason you do diversity and inclusion is not just the right thing, it's the right thing for businesses."

In another case, where Hollywood put money on the table by sticking to the past, diversity still seems more of a blurry promise or a programming mistake than a sincere commitment. Warner announced the success of Jon M. Chus 2018 rom-com Crazy rich Asiansbut it felt better to have known franchise deals like Godzilla: King of the monsters and Todd Phillips joker as its diversity forward offerings like the YA Immigration Romance The sun is also a star, The same marketing prudence was felt at Paramount, Lionsgate and Disney, with the latter focusing almost exclusively on the reputation of white bread (exception: the Kumail Nanjiani main comedy) Stuberthat Disney did not develop, but gained when it absorbed Fox).

The success of Crazy rich Asians, Go out, Hidden figures and Us has proven that the market eagerly awaits a flood of diverse productions. CinemaCon, however, only offered a trickle.

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"In the United States, for example, there are 60 million Latinos," said Moctesuma Esparza, whose production and distribution company Maya Entertainment targets the American Latino market. "If you give the audience something, they can relate to where they see themselves." We will all earn much more money. "

Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham in Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw.

Universal pictures

RISE OF THE MACHINES

If exhibitors can not rest assured that the content will be improved immediately, they will do anything to improve every other aspect of the movie experience. No matter how unnecessary.

A few floors from which Dwayne Johnson, Halle Berry, and Arnold Schwarzenegger made quippy appearances for their sequels, CinemaCon devoted itself to another level to showcase the latest screen, sound, seat, aisle, carpet, and hot dog technologies. Do you want ScreenX auditoriums that offer 270 degree panorama? How about MX4D, where you can experience everything from water jets and neck clits to "Seat Poppers"? There are also innumerable ways to serve processed meat with concessions, including Roller Bites ("See Delicacy") and too many variations of Churros and Pretzels (but not disappointing, a Churetzel that I have now copyrighted).

The upgrades were so overwhelming that they tipped from innovation to stupidity. You can not get it at home … but would you like to take it somewhere? The industry's last big trick, 3-D, showed diminishing returns. The MPAA recently announced that the global 3D market would have fallen 20 percent in 2018. The next trend is then: Premium large format systems with Sony in a game that was previously dominated by Imax and Dolby. Go big, but do not dare to go home. It is not surprising that cynicism was difficult to find on the CinemaCon exhibition grounds.

"We are in an ever-evolving industry driven by consumer behavior that asks us to ensure that we can deliver a great movie experience," said Carl Rijsbrack, chief marketing officer of theater tech giant Cinionic. "Whether it's brighter resolution or larger screens or better sound, we're on a constant path of evolution to make sure we go a step further."

Idris Elba and Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham at Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw.

Universal pictures

However, this kind of development is accompanied by a higher price – risking driving the public, already frustrated with the modern interests of the filming. For example, an adult ticket for a screening at one of Cineplex's new Screenine locations in Canada costs $ 18.99. And a ticket to Cineplex's hyperrealistic, immersive entertainment experience called D-BOX? That goes for $ 24.50.

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Last year, on the last night of the CinemaCon 2018, I did a very stupid thing and left at 11 o'clock in the afternoon. Screening of Avenger: Infinity War in a Vegas multiplex. The seats were comfortable, the picture sharp and the tone crystal clear. But watching the movie was a chore. It was an aggressive sales pitch on behalf of Disney and as if resigning myself just sitting there. I left the theater with sleepy eyes and used the feeling of not being appreciated – and certainly not under a "magic" magic of communal theater experience.

I could have gone out this year in Vegas Shazamthe newest superhero movie or Pet Semetary, the latest horror reboot. Instead, I spent my last night at the CinemaCon 2019 on my hotel bed and connected my laptop to the big screen TV in my room. My seat was comfortable, the picture was good, the sound clear enough. And then I saw Netflix.

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