In a sentimental state of the industry session at CinemaCon, delegates paid tribute to the late distribution veteran Erik Lomis who died last month, while outgoing NATO head John Fithian was himself the subject of appreciation.
CEO and president Fithian, who has served as theatre owners’ head lobbyist in Washington for more than two decades and received praise from industry figures including James Cameron in a taped message, started his address by recounting a dream in which Lomis was in his corner urging him on in a boxing bout.
Returning to business, Fithian got straight to the point, talking up theatrical after reminding that 2023 BO is currently 35% ahead of 2022 at the same stage. “It is now more refutable than ever that theatrical is the cornerstone of the industry,” he told attendees at the Colosseum in Caesar’s Palace.
Fithian said the return on investment on streaming titles was “almost non-existent” and praised Apple and Amazon for planning to spend $bn a year in support of theatrical releases. He added there will be more than 100 wide releases on more than 2,000 screens expected this year compared to 71 in 2022, praised The Cinema Foundation led by Jackie Brenneman, and wished well his successor Michael O’Leary.
Charles Rivkin, chairman & CEO of Motion Picture Association (MPA), focused on the group’s work with global partners and governments from Canada to New Zealand to Jordan to Ecuador to “create the right conditions” to encourage global production. The executive added he will be leaving the convention early to host a visit by South Korean president Yoon Suk Yeol in Washington this week.
Referencing Brett Goldstein’s character in Ted Lasso he said, “The MPA is kind of like Roy Kent. We’re here, we’re there, we’re every-effing-where.” He also spoke of high investment returns per currency unit from the UK (nearly eight-fold return for every pound invested in the UK film sector) and in Australia a nearly six-fold return per Australian dollar spent.
Paramount president of domestic distribution Chris Aronson paid tribute to Lomis, saying: “May Erik’s light shine brightly.”
Smile director Parker Finn introduced a 2022 theatrical highlights reel at the start of the session and recounted how an enthusiastic response to his horror film at a test screening convinced Paramount executives to switch plans for the film from streaming to theatrical.
“That communal experience watching the film on the big screen had undeniable power.” Smile has grossed more than $217m worldwide and Finn now has a first-look deal with the studio.
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