Formerly known as ShoWest until it was renamed in 2011, CinemaCon is the trade show held by The National Association of Theatre Owners at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. Looking at their identification badges, I noticed attendees ranging from recognizable national theater chains to a drive-in theater from Buffalo, New York (although that was recognizable to me also being a former resident and frequent visitor). There were also people associated with equipment makers, trade publications, and various businesses involved with the showing of movies.
Tuesday, April 21
On the trade show floor, there were obvious items being promoted such as projectors and movie screens and snack treats, items that come to mind about theaters. Before one knows it, they might find a booth with companies offering janitorial supplies or floor lighting. These products and others might not come to mind what thinking about going to the movies, but they are no less essential in running a theater.
There were also ballrooms set aside for discussion panels and demos. I attend one for Dolby Atmos, an audio system that not only incorporates numerous speakers around the audience but above them as well. Film clips were presented showing off how much more the immersive audio experience can be as objects move and are placed around the soundfield. The most impressive was the bass rumble during a clip from ‘The 33’, which both sounded and felt like one was experiencing a massive event.
The Caesars Palace’s Colosseum Theater was where the studios made presentations. 20th Century Fox screened Spy starring Melissa McCarthy. Director Paul Feig came out to speak beforehand. He talked about wanting his films to be a party and entertain audiences. He didn’t set out to make a James Bond spoof so he made sure Spy had real action and stakes.
I was told that by being allowed to enter as press I wasn’t allowed to review the movies screened, but I saw plenty of press and others attendees giving opinions on social media. Not sure what to make of it, but I will say from the audience reaction to Spy, Feig seems to have succeed with his goal. Fox then hosted a party with free food and drink that plenty of folks didn’t let go to waste. Feig spoke here as well.
Wednesday, April 22
Disney presented trailers for Ant-Man, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur. They also mentioned, in conjunction with Fathom Events, a June 16 screening of Inside Out with a live Q&A, a look at Pixar Studios, and a short film, “Lava.” They then screened Pixar’s Inside Out in the new format Dolby Cinema, which brings together Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos. The Colosseum theater had to be fitted with the proper equipment.
Respecting the embargo, the film went over quite well, although I am surprised by the subject matter. The trailers (understandably) don’t reveal the theme of the story is much better suited for adults. I am very curious how this is going to go over with kids who may not have enough life experience to understand and appreciate it. The colors shone in very bright hues and the audio experience was immersive, so this Dolby Cinema worked well.
Afterwards, there was a tech demo to better show off Dolby Vision, which offers a higher dynamic range. The new laser projectors deliver a contrast ratio of 1,000,000:1, which is difficult to get one’s head around. This was best demonstrated by allowing the projectors to project the color black. What people are accustomed to seeing on theater screens in the dark is a black affected by the reflective screen it is projected onto plus the minimal light in the room. When the DV projector was engaged, there was a loud gasp throughout as the entire theater, myself included, as the entire screen noticeably went as dark as night. To quote Nigel Tufnel, “It’s like, how much more black could this be? And the answer is none.”
Later, I was shuttled to an offsite theater in order to experience Screen X, a 270-degree immersive view that expands the content off the screen and wraps up the walls. Since 2012, there are 75 screens that offer it in South Korea, where it is mainly used in advertising. There is one film currently in post and another has gone into production to take advantage of the format.
Screen X would be great for watching concerts and at home for serious video game players, but not sure I see it for a movie yet. The colors on the sides are slightly off from what they are supposed to match on the front screen. The placement of the theater’s exit signs was an issue during the presentation as they stood out while the material was shown. Plus, I am not sure I’d want a larger field of vision for a movie because that means there’s more opportunity to miss information presented. Might work for action films now that I think about it. Unfortunately, the $200,000-$300,000 cost to upgrade a theater doesn’t seem to make much fiscal sense.
Back at the Colosseum Theater, Sony Pictures’ Chairman Tom Rothman led the presentation of an interesting roster of titles for the rest of 2015 and beyond. Robert Zemekis discussed The Walk, a fictional telling of Philippe Petit’s 1974 tightrope walk between the World Trade Center buildings. This material was already covered in the very good 2008 documentary, Man on Wire, so not sure why they are bothering. Chris Columbus is here for Pixels starring Adam Sandler, which will hopefully be better than it looks. Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk is Ang Lee’s next project. It is going to shot in native 3D at 120fps, which is nearly triple the frame rate Peter Jackson used for his Hobbit trilogy.
For the Halloween season, there will be a couple of children’s films: Genndy Tartakovsky’s Hotel Transylvania 2 and Rob Letterman’s I. Winter will see the science fiction film The 5th Wave and Concussion with Will Smith as the doctor who finds evidence the NFL doesn’t want its fans and player to know. One of studio’s biggest hopes is pinned on the next James Bond installment, Spectre. In addition, there were trailers for Aloha, Ricki and the Flash, and Perfect Guy, and an announcement that Phil Lord and Chris Miller are making an animated Spider-Man movie.
Unable to get into Thursday’s presentations by 20th Century Fox or Universal Pictures, I headed home with a better appreciation for what movie exhibitors have to go through as they compete for the consumer’s entertainment dollar and fascinated by the new technologies that may be used in that endeavor.