Oh Dear, New York Times Not Impressed By ShoWest

By Patrick von Sychowski | April 7, 2009 3:51 am PDT


Don’t take our word for it, the New York Times has taken a long hard look at ShoWest and noted that it is not what it used to be. In fairness to both NYT and ShoWest the article’s author Brook Barnes does an admirable job of giving a balanced portrait of a complex relationship between studios, exhibitors, vendors and the organisers of the event. It is worth reading the whole piece to get a proper overview, but a flavour can be had from this bit:

…there are signs everywhere that the event’s once-infamous sizzle has been snuffed out. Gone are the trade show vendors handing out free hot dogs. Gone is the parade of megawatt stars. Gone are some attendees: the number of registered conventiongoers is 2,400, a 15 percent decline from last year.

Booth rentals are down by 5 percent, although Mr. Neuhauser emphasized that a number of first-time renters have made up for others who have left.

Universal issued a statement saying cost cutting was behind its decision. “We looked hard at conventions and felt it was necessary to cut in that area,” the statement read, in part.

While trimming their spending on ShoWest, some studios say they will remain loyal. “We’re not hosting an event that involves much pageantry or really any food,” said Jeff Blake, chairman of Sony Pictures’ worldwide marketing and distribution. “But we still see this as an important opportunity to let exhibitors know what we have coming.”

Nowhere is there any mention of the show being taken back by NATO in two years’ time. Nor are there any implications discussed for the likes of ShowEast (unlikely to survive without its bigger West Coast sibling), Cinema Expo (challenged by a new cinema trade show in Brussels), CineAsia (constantly moving and seemingly too small to last), though chances are that ShowCanada will survive because, well, why shouldn’t Canada have its own cinema show?

Meanwhile over at NYT’s excellent Hollywood blog Carpetbagger, there is a summary of some of the highlights from the show, mainly the trade show. We wwere not the only ones to notice a plethora of trade show booths with a green (environmental) theme this year, as well as the usual dizzying assortments of concession treats:

– Environmentally friendly concession packaging. An outfit called Bagcraft is pushing its new line of EcoCraft popcorn containers (brown, old fashioned-looking bags), while Packaging Concepts is bragging about EcoSelect, it’s line of biodegradable – and leak-proof! – popcorn bags.

– New junk food. Perhaps coming soon to a theater near you: Slushocity machines, which freeze carbonated beverages into various flavors (slogan: “you are what you slush”); Golden Grahams Treats bars, new from General Mills; and Chile Lime seasons for popcorn, described by its manufacturer, Kernel Season’s, as being “on trend with national flavor profiles and caters to the growing Hispanic demographic.”

I will personally never forget my first ShoWest, unsuspectingly getting dragged into a 15 minute demonstration of the miracle that was spray-on substance made from oranges to remove chewing gum from carpets. I was too timid to explain that I was just a cub reporter/analyst for a statistics based media research publication with zero purchasing influence over my nearest fleapit, let alone cinema chain. I got the full demo, though sadly not a free sample of the Orange Miracle product.

We may all think that ShoWest and the exhibition business is all about Rachel McAdams and Zac Efron flashing their million dollar grins from the stage as they accepts the award for cinema’s ‘breakthrough performer/star of the year‘, but after everyone has left the multiplexes someone still has to scrape the gum off the carpets. And for that reason cinema trade shows will be around for a long time still.

Patrick von Sychowski
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