CinemaCon: 20th Century Fox Fires Back At NATO Chief For ‘12 Years A Slave’ Remarks

By | Thursday March 27, 2014 @ 11:39am PDT
Pete Hammond

On Tuesday during his annual address to delegates at CinemaCon, National Association Of Theatre Owners president John Fithian caused a stir with a real head-scratcher that has keptCinemaCon2014_badge resonating among theater owners and some studio executives when he stated he waited to watch this year’s Oscar-winning Best Picture 12 Years A Slave at home, rather than at a cinema, becauseCinemaCon 2014 - The State Of The Industry: Past, Present And Future And Universal Studios Presentation it was too “unequivocally intense.”  For the head of an organization that is meant to promote movie-watching in theaters, singling out the Academy’s choice for Best Picture (with that Oscar distinction traditionally a real magnet to bring customers into theaters) was an eye-opener, and execs at 20th Century Fox to whom I have spoken were furious with the NATO chief for even suggesting, however personal, that the preferred way to see the widely acclaimed Fox Searchlight release was to wait and see it at home. This morning, near the beginning of their studio presentation at Caesars Palace’s Colisseum theatre, Fox shot back. ”All of (our) films are meant to be seen in the best possible venue, the cinema, your cinemas and that includes movies that win the Oscar for Best Picture like 12 Years A Slave,” said 20th Century Fox distribution president Chris Aronson in his opening remarks this morning that contained that not-so-veiled reference and response to Fithian’s comments.

Related: CinemaCon: ‘X Men’, Other Women, Lots Of Girls And An Ape Steal Show

12-Years-a-Slave-posterOf course it is no secret that many Academy members were, like Fithian, reluctant to watch the intense film, either in a theater or at home on their screener. That’s one of the reasons Fox Searchlight launched their second-phase “It’s Time” campaign in order to encourage them to view the film that would eventually take the top prize for the studio. But coming from the head of NATO, these remarks really stung, especially since he so publicly supports strict windows between the theatrical release of a movie and when it can be consumed at home. One Fox exec to whom I spoke was, in a word, livid when he heard Fithian’s remarks. Another major theatre chain head who played several runs of 12 Years A Slave and still has it in some theaters (even though it first opened in October) was equally outraged by the suggestion that the film is too intense for their screens. Another said, “It’s like if you were the head of Macy’s department store and urged people to shop in their store, but to buy your underwear online.” Read More »

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CinemaCon: Chris Dodd And John Fithian Discuss Texting, 3D, And The Near-End Of Celluloid Prints

By | Tuesday March 25, 2014 @ 3:17pm PDT

CinemaCon2014_badgeExhibition execs face several controversial matters, but “there’s peace in the homeland” in their relationships with studios, NATO‘s John Fithian said in his annual joint press meeting with MPAA‘s Chris Dodd at the CinemaCon confab. The lobby group heads always emphasize the positive, but this time Fithian sounds like he means it. He acknowledged that there’s been a friction in previous years — especially 2011 when there was what he calls a “very public food fight” over how quickly studios can CinemaCon 2014 - The State Of The Industry: Past, Present And Future And Universal Studios Presentationrelease their films on home video. But now “we’re working together instead of fighting. …Since then it’s been dialogue and cooperation.” Dodd says his MPAA members agree that “the best experience for their product is in the theater.”

On one hot-button issue, texting in theaters, Fithian says that his members “have conversations every week” about whether to allow it under certain circumstances. But it’s unlikely that anything will change soon. When some execs said here two years ago that they’re looking at the matter, “They got barraged from moviegoers saying, ‘that is my last refuge of peace.’…Then the 17 year olds respond and say, ‘we have to be connected.’ ” The sense, for now, is that “the vast majority of our consumers go to the cinema to escape” with many looking at moviegoing as “a quasi-religious experience.” But Fithian says “it’ll be an evolving space. Let’s leave it there.”

Related: CinemaCon: MPAA’s 2014 Report Good News For Overseas: Slideshow

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CinemaCon: Theater Owners Consider A Weekly Discount Ticket Night

By | Tuesday March 25, 2014 @ 12:58pm PDT

CinemaCon2014_badgeThis “has worked for years in Latin America and Canada,” NATO chief John Fithian says — and could begin as an experiment in one U.S. state by the end of this year. “There are meetings this week about doing … Read More »

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CinemaCon: NATO Chief Calls For More Family Friendly Films, Spread Through The Year

By | Tuesday March 25, 2014 @ 10:44am PDT

CinemaCon2014_badgeThe 4.7% increase in Q1 admissions and 7.2% uptick in box office shows that it pays to have family friendly films in the early months, NATO‘s John Fithian told exhibition execs at the opening session for the CinemaConRead More »

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CinemaCon: Will Confab Be A Calm Moment Before An Exhibition Industry Storm?

CinemaCon2014_badgeIt sure looks that way as exhibition and studio execs prepare to head to Las Vegas next week for the annual confab. There are no obvious, explosive controversies to address this time out — which is unusual. Since 2011, when the meeting formerly known as ShoWest became CinemaCon, “some big issue has blown up,” Cinemark CEO Tim Warner tells us. “I hope that doesn’t happen [this year] because the business is going so good.” Says National Association of Theatre Owners CEO John Fithian: “Sometimes we go into these conventions we go into this with one or two issues, but that’s not the case this year. We’ll be talking about product supply and movies, and how it relates to product returns. We’ll also be talking about technology.”

Related: Deadline Big Media 77 – CinemaCon Preview Podcast

This all comes as the exhibition business is poised for dramatic, and possibly painful, changes as owners deal with consumers who say that ticket prices are too high, a creative boxoffice-moneycommunity that wants better projection and sound quality, studios that want a bigger share of the box office pie, and investors who demand higher dividends.

Cheerleading is to be expected at a trade show, and there’s sure to be a lot as execs look ahead to a tsunami of sequels that could make 2015 a blowout year for box offices. Paramount, Universal, Sony, Fox and Warner Bros will show their product reels. Disney will feature its Jon Hamm-starring sports-themed Million Dollar Arm. Not to be outdone, Lionsgate will feature its sports-themed comedy-drama Draft Day from director Ivan Reitman and starring Kevin Costner, while Universal swings back around with a screening of the comedy Neighbors about newlyweds with a baby who must live next to a fraternity house. And filmmaker Chris Nolan (Inception, The Dark Knight Rises) will take part in a discussion about his career. The late Tom Sherak will also be honored on Wednesday night at The Pioneers Dinner.

legoOn broad-stroke matters, exhibitors can pretty much cross off their top concern from last year: the dearth of family-oriented titles in Q1 followed by a summer onslaught. Exhibitors wanted family films spaced out better. “We had encouraged the studios to think about that more, and they did,” Fithian says. Family fare from this year’s early months included The Nut Job, The Lego Movie, Mr. Peabody And Sherman, and — this weekend — Muppets Most Wanted.

There’s also been progress on exhibition’s call for more small- and medium-budget movies. As the six big studios cut their output by 40%, Read More »

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Theater Owners To Netflix: You’re The One Trying To Kill Cinema

By | Saturday October 26, 2013 @ 4:36pm PDT
Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: NATO president/CEO John Fithian struck back at Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos, who today gave the keynote speech at the Film Independent Forum and charged theater owners with potentially killing the movie business by being inflexible with shrinking theatrical windows. Fithian said that if anybody is imperiling the time-tested movie going experience, it is upstarts like Netflix.

“Subscription movie services and cheap rentals killed the DVD business, and now Sarandos wants to kill the cinema as well,” Fithian said. As for Sarandos’ assertion that studios should offer their films on Netflix day and date with theatrical openings, Fithian said that “The only business that would be helped by day-and-day release to Netflix is Netflix. If Hollywood did what Sarandos suggests, there wouldn’t be many movies left for Netflix’s customers or for anyone else. It makes absolutely no business sense to accelerate the release of the lowest value in the chain.”

Netflix is just the latest party to join the ongoing argument over how movie distribution models should evolve, if at all. TV has grown nimble, with cable systems and networks making it easier than ever for audiences to catch shows so that initial air times are almost irrelevant. In the independent film space, multi-platform releasing continues to grow as a viable alternative to a theatrical model which requires a significant P&A spend. The major chains have largely refused to play ball, and often force multi platform distributors to “four wall” screens, instead of the revenue split formula that is usually the way distributors and theaters do business. Many have argued that it is inefficient for studios to spend huge P&A sums to open films in theaters, and then be forced to wait half a year or more, and spend more money to rebuild awareness for the DVD, VOD and pay windows for films that consumers have long since forgotten about. But the last time a studio tried to buck the system, as Universal did on the Brett Ratner-directed Tower Heist, the major film chains banded together and arm-twisted Universal to shut down a limited test that would have offered day and date VOD viewing at a premium price. The theaters are protecting their own business, after having gone to the expense of building and upgrading theaters all over the country.

Related: Netflix Shares Hit New Highs in Q3
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CinemaCon: Hollywood Produces Violent Films Because It’s “Cool” Theater Rep Says

By | Tuesday April 16, 2013 @ 1:47pm PDT

The analysis comes from NATO‘s John Fithian after he was asked at a press meeting why Hollywood produces so many R-rated films — despite Read More »

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CinemaCon: MPAA And NATO Chiefs Talk Up New Ratings Descriptors

By | Tuesday April 16, 2013 @ 1:22pm PDT

The film industry’s two chief lobbyists stayed on message at a brief press conference this afternoon that mostly dealt with the movie ratings initiative introduced this morning. The effort to clarify the reasons why … Read More »

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CinemaCon: NATO Chief Urges Studios To Produce More Family-Friendly Films

“PG-13 represents the sweet spot” for theaters, National Association of Theater Owners CEO John Fithian told a CinemaCon audience this morning. Last year there were only about a third as many PG films as R-rated ones, … Read More »

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Lack Of Family Films Accounts For Slow Q1 Box Office, Theater Industry Rep Says

Attendance takes off when there’s a diversity of films and it was “just not there” in the beginning of 2013, National Association of Theater Owners chief John Fithian said in a conference call to discuss the MPAA’s … Read More »

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MPAA’s Chris Dodd Says Ratings Should Be “Far More Transparent”: CinemaCon

By | Tuesday April 24, 2012 @ 1:46pm PDT

The former senator made the comment as he defended the trade group’s ratings efforts. They came under fire when the MPAA initially gave Bully, a Weinstein Co documentary about teenage bullying, an R due to characters’ use of profanity. The rating would have made the film off-limits for the very teens the movie was designed to help. (The producers ultimately cut a few of the words, and won a PG-13 rating.) Although Dodd says that the public should have a clearer sense of what goes into the decision making, he told reporters in a meeting that the people who make the judgments have “a thankless job” in a system that basically “works well.” National Association of Theatre Owners CEO John Fithian concurred. If the MPAA didn’t take on the assignment then it could result in government censorship or local ratings. That would result in havoc because “what people care about in LA is vastly different than what they care about in Omaha.” Although the ratings process results in lost ticket sales, “the alternative is far worse.”

Related: MPAA And NATO Chiefs Pledge Cooperation After Last Year’s “Sour Note” Read More »

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MPAA And NATO Chiefs Pledge Cooperation After Last Year’s “Sour Note”: CinemaCon

CinemaCon 2012The CEOs of the MPAA and the National Association of Theatre Owners used their opening addresses to the exhibition industry’s CinemaCon convention today to advocate a new spirit of cooperation between the embattled and often warring businesses. Last year’s convention “ended on a sour note,” NATO CEO John Fithian said, when word spread that three studios planned to launch a premium VOD experiment — they let DirecTV offer some movies two months after their theatrical release for $30 a viewing. That threatened to give audiences an incentive to stay at home, theater owners feared. But Fithian says that the experiment “was not a resounding success.” Now, he says, theaters and studios are “talking about how to grow the business together.” Christopher Dodd CinemaCon MPAAMPAA chief Chris Dodd also talked up the need to persuade audiences that “the movie-going experience remains something special, something to be savored and enjoyed, something so innovative and creative that it cannot be duplicated at home no matter how many boxes they have.” He also thanked theater owners for supporting a big issue on his agenda: legislation to combat movie piracy. The MPAA ended up with a black eye this year when it failed to persuade Congress to pass the controversial bills that would have empowered the government to block sites run by overseas pirates. “I urge you to continue to be a part of a thoughtful and rational solution to protecting intellectual property,” Dodd told theater owners. He added that he remains “committed to doing all I can to achieve a satisfactory resolution to the protection of intellectual property” and is trying to build bridges to the tech industry which opposed the bills.

Related: Sacha Baron Cohen Steals The Show At Paramount Presentation

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MPAA’s Chris Dodd & NATO’s John Fithian Face Sundance Wrath Over SOPA/PIPA

By | Monday January 23, 2012 @ 9:32pm PST

MPAA head Chris Dodd and John Fithian, president/CEO of the National Association of Theatre Owners, brought their lobbying on behalf of content creators to a packed house at the Sundance Film Festival today. Both admitted to the panel they were blindsided by the … Read More »

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Should The Feds Block Online Pirates? Lobbyists Intensify Debate Over New Bill

Some of Washington’s most powerful lobby groups ramped up their fight today over the Stop Online Piracy Act, which was just introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives. The Independent Film & Television Alliance echoed points that MPAA chief Chris Dodd made in a speech today — that the bill empowering the government to block overseas websites that traffic in copyrighted content would protect jobs. It’s needed to stop “drastic damage to the legitimate marketplace … measured both in films that cannot be produced and in lost returns on investment in films that have been,” IFTA CEO Jean Prewitt said.  National Association of Theatre Owners CEO John Fithian adds that the legislation “is an important step to protect the jobs of 160,000 movie theater employees and sustain one of the vital engines of the nation’s economic growth.” The plan also was supported by a collection of unions including the American Federation of Musicians, American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, Directors Guild of America, International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, and Screen Actors Guild. If the bill doesn’t become law, they said in a joint statement, then “rogue sites will continue to siphon away wages and benefits from members of the creative community, greatly compromising our industry’s ability to foster creativity, provide opportunities, and ensure good jobs.”

But Consumer Electronics Association CEO Gary Shapiro warned that if Congress passes the bill — also known as the Protect IP Act — then “the notoriously litigious content industry could simply accuse a site that it is selling a product that could ‘enable or facilitate’ a copyright infringement, thereby allowing accusations to shut down sites vital to the Internet economy.” He says that “could lead to mass shutdowns of websites and Internet-enabled services.” The group plans to bring several Internet venture capitalists to Washington tomorrow to make that case. Read More »

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3D Glasses Shakedown: Will Audiences End Up Paying If Studios Won’t?

Sony Responds To NATO’s Claim That New 3D Glasses Plan Is Myopic

The battle lines are starting to harden around who’ll pay for those lame-looking 3D glasses. I’ve learned that other studios might line up behind Sony’s decision to stop paying the average 50-cents a pair fee beginning in May. Rival studios tell me Fox is on board. “We’re studying our options, but haven’t made any decisions yet,” denied Fox Filmed Entertainment spokesman Chris Petrikin. Remember, Fox was first in line to try to stop paying for glasses back in 2009 when it released Ice Age. But then had to abandon that effort after theaters rebelled. Sony was technically correct today when it said in a statement that “there never has been” a formal agreement stipulating that studios would shoulder the cost of 3D glasses. But it’s easy to understand why exhibitors are stunned by Sony’s stoppage. Because it changes an understanding that’s been in place since 2005 when Disney’s Chicken Little kicked off the 3D movie phenom.

“It is a radical departure from what the practice has been,” National Association of Theater Owners President John Fithian tells me. Now Regal CEO Amy Miles warns that if studios end the practice then it could “result in fewer screens exhibiting 3D films”. That’s bad news for Hollywood, which plans to release 39 films in 3D next year, vs. 36 in 2011. Exhibitors might encourage consumers to bring their own 3D glasses. That may be the future anyway. But BTIG analyst Rich Greenfield says if theaters require payment for 3D specs on top of the typical 3D surcharge ($3.25 to $4 a ticket), then “the U.S. moviegoer will reject this as another way for exhibitors to milk them and further decrease their interest in 3D (and perhaps going to the movies in general)”.

The fight is over glasses manufactured for RealD which it, in turn, supplies them to theaters. RealD’s stock price was down -14.7% today on the Sony news. The 3D tech company won’t disclose Read More »

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NATO: Summer Box Office Sets Record With $4.4B

Washington, D.C. (September 7, 2011) — The National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) today announced summer 2011 box office reached a new record of $4.4 billion. Summer admissions were up an estimated 1.0% over summer 2010 to 546

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Theater Owners Fight Premium VOD In Canada, As Chris Nolan, Quentin Tarantino And Others Join Outcry

In a keynote speech at industry confab ShowCanada, NATO President & CEO John Fithian today urged Canadian movie theater operators to be vigilant in their focus on theatrical release windows. Challenging a recently announced proposal from four Hollywood studios to release movies early to the home on “premium” VOD, Fithian explained the dangers of the model. “Early VOD releases to the home could damage the movie industry in two significant ways,” Fithian asserted. “Early releases will reduce movie ticket sales, and will exacerbate movie theft by giving pirates an early pristine copy of movies.” Fithian also reiterated NATO’s call for the participating studios to release sales data from their experiment. “How can the industry evaluate the studios’ test if they continue to hide the facts.”

Fithian’s remarks at ShowCanada marked an expanded, global phase in NATO’s work to preserve the theatrical release window. Beginning with Canada this week, moving to Europe later in the month and onto Australia in August, Fithian will hold dozens of meetings with leading international exhibitors on the topic. “We hope that this early VOD experiment begins and ends in the U.S.,” Fithian continued. “But if not, we want exhibitors everywhere to be prepared.”

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NATO Asks Studios To Divulge P-VOD Data

The National Association of Theatre Owners today asked the Hollywood studios involved in DirecTV’s Premium VOD trial to release sales figures for the movies that have appeared since the service’s launch April 21. The films offered to DirecTV customers so far — at a price of $29.99 and a windows-shortening … Read More »

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Theater Owners: We’re Pissed, But No Boycott

Mike Fleming

Washington, D.C. (April 14, 2011)—The National Association of Theatre Owners does not and could not encourage its members to engage in any boycotts of any movies distributed by any company. Recent press reports to the contrary are completely false.

In an article published on April 13 in The Guardian, it was suggested that NATO indicated that cinema operators were prepared not to screen movies, and specifically referenced the coming Harry Potter film. No one from The Guardian contacted NATO before the original article was published. At our request, The Guardian did later change the article to remove the erroneous reference to the Harry Potter film.

Then later on April 13, the blog “Business Insider” entitled “Harry Potter 8 Dropped From Theaters?” suggested that NATO “is threatening to drop some of this summer’s biggest blockbusters” and that “screens under NATO are threatening to boycott upcoming studio releases, starting with Warner Bros. sure to be box office-gargantuan Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2.” Again, these stories, and others that have followed, are completely false and no one from the organizations responsible for the stories contacted anyone at NATO.

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