Last week, exhibitors re-emerged from the shadows of the past 18 months at the industry’s CinemaCon conference. The industry’s largest convention reconvened at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, with approximately 50% of the turnout from past conventions during “normal times”. It’s an accomplishment that the event was held this year at all, after having been cancelled in 2020 at the onset of the pandemic and pushed back in 2021 from its traditional dates in late March/early April to the last week in August. Though somewhat diminished – international exhibitors were virtually non-existent – the vibe was a mixture of camaraderie, relief from having survived the pandemic, and optimism that the future holds a slow, but steady recovery for the sector.
Studios renewed their vows to support theatres with exclusive theatrical window in 2022 and beyond, which has taken center stage as the most important, long-term concern for exhibitors. MGM confirmed that they were remaining locked in to their fall release date for the James Bond spy thriller “No Time to Die”, having been delayed four times but now at last only six weeks from its 10/8 premiere in theatres. Other studios rolled out a slate of new trailers as well as partial and full screenings for upcoming major titles including “Spiderman: No Way Home”, “Ghostbusters: Afterlife”, “The Matrix 4”, “Top Gun: Maverick” and “Mission: Impossible 7”.
NATO’s John Fithian and MPA’s Charles Rivkin delivered high-profile keynotes. In their remarks, they highlighted the contribution theatres make to the U.S. economy. Rivkin spelled out, “We employ more than 741,000 people across the entire country [and generate] $16 billion in export revenue, and a positive balance of trade with nearly every country on the planet.” Fithian added, “Simultaneous release [to theatres and online] DOES. NOT. WORK. For anyone. A steady flow of strong movies released with exclusive windows is essential to exhibition’s recovery, and to the profitability of the entire movie ecosystem.” He also pointed to studies that indicate that exclusive theatrical releases protect studios from immediate and rampant piracy during a film’s initial release window.
See also: How Movie Theater Owners Are ‘Learning to Live With COVID’: A Report From CinemaCon (The Wrap)