30 April 2022
We’re sending out this week’s newsletter later than our usual Wednesday publication schedule because we were attending CinemaCon in Las Vegas since last Sunday and wanted to bring you all the highlights. Trying to capture all the ceremonies, industry panels, studio presentations and overall sense of this year’s conference in our weekly Marquee editorial is a daunting task. Unlike last year’s pandemic suppressed event, which saw a fraction of the attendance, CinemaCon 2022 was a return to form in so many ways.
Rolando B. Rodriguez, Chairman of the National Association of Theatre Owners and CEO of Marcus Theatres, set the tone and theme of this year’s event when he began the week by having attendees chant “We are back” before the state of the industry presentation from the Motion Picture Association and NATO. The sentiment seemed to be genuine and shared by both exhibitors and distributors at CinemaCon. Unlike last year’s gathering, when the big question was whether day-and-date theatrical releases would become the norm, NATO President and CEO John Fithian declared the simultaneous release strategy officially dead. It helped that Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav stated that he sees no need “to really collapse the entire motion picture business on streaming” and IMAX CEO categorized day-and-date releases as “an experiment that’s over.”
This might be why all five major studios, Lionsgate and Neon brought their upcoming release slates to the Coliseum at Caesars Palace and said time and again that their titles would be shown in movie theatres first. A specific release window length was never mentioned, but it was a far cry from last year when the only sure thing was uncertainty over every aspect of the business. Some studios, such as Universal Pictures and Paramount Pictures brought entire movies to show.
We’re asked not to discuss the films shown during CinemaCon, though we’re probably safe in telling theatre operators to stock up on popcorn for the release of “Top Gun: Maverick.” The movie is everything audiences could want and it hits all the right notes. It was worth the wait and all the rescheduling. Pixar’s “Lightyear” also looks to be a big hit based on the 30 minutes shown during the convention. And we haven’t even touched on the “Avatar” sequels. Everything looked amazing on the Coliseum screen where it was projected in Dolby Vision.
Against that backdrop the trade show was buzzing, especially for concessions, food and beverage vendors, but also for equipment manufacturers. The F&B companies have admitted business is picking up an headed toward 2019 numbers. The same goes for technology providers who report backlogs on orders due to supply chain constraints. For the foreseeable future, the wait times on new equipment could be measured in months and financial quarters, rather than weeks.
It’s easy to see why so many of these suppliers and service providers kept the CJ Wire humming this week with loads of announcements, from Arts Alliance Media announcing their vision for the future and new agreements to Christie purchasing Cinergy software from DCIP to Fandango signing new exhibitors to IMAX expanding in Japan. Harkness Screens used CinemaCon to produce their own video featuring yours truly.
We’ll be publishing our coverage of this year’s CinemaCon over the next days and weeks, so keep an eye out for the stories. In the meantime we are busy cutting together a video of the interviews we conducted during the show with many of the prominent companies that were present in Vegas. Look for it sometime next week. Speaking of which, be sure to register for the CJ Cinema Summit on 5 May, when our UK team will be live at Twickenham Film Studios in London.
Russia’s cinema trade body has warned that around half of the territory’s cinemas are under threat of closure following the economic sanctions against the country due to the ongoing war in Ukraine which saw Hollywood halt the release of new films. The Russian Association of Theater Owners is appealing to the Russian state for aid, pointing to a dramatic fall in revenue, with films from other markets not able to make up for the shortfall. The association has also warned against the illegal screening of films without license or agreement.
According to the trade body the number of cinemas operating in Russia has fallen from 2,161 sites with 5,709 screens in January of this year to just 3,633 screens by 18 April, which is a drop of 36.4%. Box office and attendance figures for March 2022 dropped 44% and 49% respectively compared to the same month the previous year and 54% and 59% compared to March 2019. “A critical lack of repertoire in the next two months will lead to a drop in cinema revenue by more than 80% and will lead to the closure of at least 50% of cinemas,” the Russian Association of Theater Owners said in a statement.
The trade body points out that the industry currently employs around 35,000 people. It also warns that the closure of cinemas will lead to “the cessation of life of the entire film industry.”
Cinemas in several large Ukrainian cities have started to reopen, but with restrictions in place in light of the ongoing war with Russia. The two largest Ukrainian cinema chains Multiplex and Planeta Kino are operating cinemas in a few key cities, though some cinemas have been destroyed by the war and cannot be reopened. As well, there is only a gradual flow of new film titles. The returns on cinema is part of the gradual normalisation of life in parts of Ukraine where the Russian invasion either failed (Kyiv area) or parts that were subject to remote rocket attacks (Lviv).
Cinemas have initially offered films that were either playing at the start of the latest invasion on 24 February. These include films such as “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” “Venom 2: Let There Be Carnage,” “House of Gucci,” “Uncharted” and “Sing 2,” as well as older titles such as “Green Book” and “Gentlemen.” Negotiations were ongoing to make “The Batman” the first major new title to screen.
The CEO of Planeta Kino, Natalya Baydan, was quoted as saying that the aim is to re-open cinemas in all cities with a population greater than one million, with one exception: “Kharkiv is questionable — I don’t know when we can open there, the situation is difficult: there are still active battles and shelling not far away.” Baydan remained in Kyiv throughout the latest Russian invasion. She notes that security measures have been in place in Ukrainian cinemas since the first Russian invasion of 2014, with numerous bomb hoax scares, leading to evacuations. Ukrainian intelligence service SBU informed the cinemas that such calls were received from the territory of ORDLO (Russian occupied Ukraine). These hoax calls were said to have become especially frequent towards the end of 2021.
A raft of local Chinese film releases have been pulled from the significant 1 May release, with almost half of the country’s cinemas still closed due to COVID restrictions. A total of eight films have so far postponed their release in a blow to hopes of recovery for the world’s largest cinema market. The news comes as restrictions begin to ease somewhat in Shanghai, but at the same time cinemas close in parts of capital Beijing.
The 1 May holiday in China is one of the country’s key holidays for cinema releases, when local films are given prominence. But only just over half of the country’s cinema open – with many operating under restrictions – several film distributors appear to have taken fright. The films that have been withdrawn are: “Meet You”, the animated films “The Awakening of the Mini World” and “I Am Tyrannosaurus Rex”, with “Keep You Safe”, “Brother, Hello”, “Prosecutors”, “Hello, Beijing”, “Pig Man Movie: Ocean Diary” having previously announced plans to postpone their release.
The news comes after a disappointing Qingming Festival boxoffice. Average national cinema attendance rate for China in April was just 5%, with few films managing to achieve 10% or more. With the absence of major Chinese titles, it was Hollywood films such as “Fantastic Beasts: the Secrets of Dumbledore” that were released to fill the gaps. While the number of cinemas open has crept over 50%, analysts beleive that the number needs to be above 70% for the cinema business to be sustainable.
There are, however, still several Chinese titles that are going ahead with a release for the 1 May holiday, including “I Really Hate Long-distance Relationships,” “Fight Out, Mom,” “As Long as You Live Better Than Me,” “Everest Captain,” “Bad League,” “Little Boy” and the seventh installment of “The Fantastic Adventure of a Mermaid and The Adventure of a Stupid Bird” will all be released on May 1st.
Meanwhile the first cinemas have closed in in the Dongshi District in the east of Beijing. The fear is that with COVID restrictions easing in Shanghai, the Chinese capital could see an outbreak that would place it under lockdown. Already China’s second largest cinema operator Dadi announced on 15 April that it would permanently close several of its cinemas. Equally worrying is that several local film productions have halted, meaning that there could be a shortage of domestic films next year.
Beijing Youth Daily
Premium Large Format
Oma Cinema and India’s largest and most premium cinema company, PVR Limited, have entered into an exclusive agreement at CinemaCon 2022.
Oma Cinema was created by renowned French architect Pierre Chican, who has designed some of the most cutting-edge cinemas in France over the last 30 years. Inspired by the design of the great theatres and opera houses, Oma Cinema’s unique tiered balconies, or “pods”, enable viewers to enjoy a unique, sociable, cinema experience while enjoying a perfect view of the screen.
Chican, Founder and President of Oma Cinema, said “We are excited to bring about the unique and proprietary concept of cinema pods to India with this exclusive tie up with PVR. Our designs ensure that each pod within an auditoria is unique and designed to perfection. The world of films and fantasy has now another feather in their cap.”
Celluloid Junkie is the leading online resource dedicated to the global film and cinema business. The Marquee is our newsletter focused on motion picture exhibition; keeping industry professionals informed of important news, the latest trends and insightful analysis