Last week, for the first time in three years, the cinema industry was able to gather in Miami for ShowEast. The annual North American trade show known for its heavy Latin American presence had been preempted for the past two years due to the pandemic. Last year’s event was pushed to November before a new wave of COVID forced organizers to call it off.
While this year’s event may have been slightly lighter in attendance, like all industry conferences these days, it had more to do with tight corporate budgets than viral apprehension. And though the trade show floor had fewer vendors, having only been added over the past month, it was well trafficked despite the usual scheduling conflicts with studio presentations and the film screenings which distinguish ShowEast from other such events. Indeed there were five film screenings from the major studios, as well as a documentary about musical icon Johnny Cash from Fathom Events.
However, besides the constant chatter about who might replace John Fithian as the head of the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) when he retires next May, was its stellar series of panel discussions and educational programming. Even the usual recap of the year’s box office achievements was given a different spin with Mike Polydoros of PaperAirplane Media presenting a month-by-month review of 2022 returns with Paul Dergarabedian of Comscore and Sarah Whitten an entertainment reporter with CNBC.
The trio demonstrated how while the number of major releases may have dropped in half during some months from pre-pandemic levels, box office rarely fell as much from 2019 levels. This can, in part, be attributed to higher ticket prices and blockbuster films making up the difference. Still, while box office will increase this year over 2021 to about USD $7.5 billion, the forecast is that the magical USD $11 billion annual take won’t return until 2025.
Of course, if you were to ask Rolando Rodriguez, the retiring President and Chief Executive Officer of Marcus Theatres, the industry shouldn’t be looking back at the record setting box office of 2019 as some sort of Holy Grail. “When we continue to compare ourselves to 2019, I think that’s an obsolete comparison,” he said during the global roundtable panel at ShowEast. “Restaurants, everybody else is comparing themselves to 2021 not 2019. We, as an industry, compare ourselves to 2019, which makes us look very difficult. Well, if you compare us to 2021 we’re pretty darn good.”
Alejandro Ramírez Magaña, the CEO of Cinépolis, who was on the panel with Rodriguez and Mark Viane, President of International Distribution at Paramount Pictures International, also countered the general perception that streaming services are hurting movie theatre attendance. He reminded attendees that a recent NATO survey showed that people who watch streaming content go to the movies more often. “I think it’s been proven that films which have a theatrical, robust theatrical window, not only can do very good business, but also perform better in their own streaming platforms,” said Ramírez Magaña. You know, the Batman was a very important case in point, I mean, grossed over $800 million on the global box office. And then it also had the best performance up to that moment on HBO Max. “Movies that release in theaters have a better performance on streaming platforms in all three metrics; acquisition retainment and engagement. So not only can studios make billion dollar movies, like Paramount proved with ‘Top Gun’ or Sony with ‘Spider Man,’ but then those movies perform better in subsequent windows. So you can actually extract the most value because having the movies on the big screen is what creates word of mouth, what creates public opinion, what triggers conversations, and that’s invaluable marketing.”
Speaking from a studio perspective, Viane agreed, “There’s no doubt that going theatrical is definitely the driver. Certainly for our company, for Paramount Plus. It is now a very proven model that the amount of signups and the ability to keep people is truly driven by the theatrical message, the marketing message that we put out. We make it an event, and therefore it becomes an event on a streaming service.”
How streaming services have disrupted the cinema industry may not have been a leading topic at ShowEast this year if ten days earlier Netflix hadn’t announced plans to release Rian Johnson’s “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” for an exclusive one week theatrical window in November. While seen as a positive step by many exhibitors, not everyone in the industry is entirely pleased.
While acting as master of ceremonies for the ShowEast Awards Ceremony on the final evening of the conference, Chris Aronson, President of Domestic Distribution for Paramount Pictures, joked that the event was being shown day-and-date on streaming services. “Except we won’t know or report how many people attended or watched,” he said in a, flat matter of fact tone, to knowing laughter. “Because apparently that’s how we do things now. Right Spencer?” It wasn’t the last time during the evening Spencer Klein, head of distribution at Netflix, would be the victim of gentle ribbing.
And while this may seem like a negative moment, it was really all in a good fun, as ShowEast confirmed the industry was working together in an effort to recover from the pandemic. There is no way for us to summarize all the valuable insights which came out of the sessions during the conference, but keep an eye on Celluloid Junkie over the next week or two as we will be covering them in detail.
In the meantime, we’re getting ready for the META Cinema Forum taking place in Dubai starting 25 October. If you want to learn more about that event, or the cinema industry in the Middle East, be sure to watch last week’s CJ Cinema Summit where some of the industry’s biggest players joined us as guests.
Smart Solutions for the Best Performance
Dolby Auditorium Packages are engineered exclusively for the best cinema performance. Our products are quality tested in multiple configurations in our own engineering labs to ensure the highest quality and reliability.
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