The schedule for CinemaCon this year is very full, with a record ten film companies participating. The support from the studios is recognition of the importance of this event. Each studio will have the opportunity to highlight their slate of films for 2017 and give the delegates a great opportunity to leave Las Vegas with a taste of what’s to come through the remainder of the year. This is why CinemaCon is still the granddaddy of all conventions for the motion picture industry.
One of the topics sure to be in play is virtual reality (VR). It is certainly the talk of the entertainment industry, but how important will it really be for the cinematic experience? Only time will tell if it will be a reality or a short-lived fad. Nearly all the studios are tackling this new technology and the opinions are quite divergent.
Hopefully, when CinemaCon is over some of these questions will be answered. Universal and IMAX will be setting up a demo of virtual reality for their upcoming thriller The Mummy. National Amusements had a VR display in one of their theatres for Fifty Shades Darker and Sony has done similar displays for Resident Evil: The Final Chapter.
Three companies have already set up virtual reality centers in theatres. IMAX is at the forefront of this technology with their cinematic experience by the Grove in Los Angeles; mk2 has a theatre in Paris, and Samhoud Media is doing likewise in Amsterdam.
Some additional light will be shed at CinemaCon on Thursday when the International Cinema Technology Association presents “Virtual Reality Cinema: A New Way to Experience Entertainment.” Three major studios including Universal, Fox and Sony will be participating and will talk about what they are doing, what they have learned, where VR it going and what the future will bring. It should definitely be enlightening.
Each year at the Las Vegas convention, there is an undercurrent of important issues that are talked about behind closed doors. One year it was plans to show the movie Tower Heist simultaneously in theatres and on pay-cable; last year it was The Screening Room and its intention to make movies available for home viewing at the same time they are in theatres, for a $50 rental fee; and this year it’s about shortened theatrical windows that would see new movies released in homes sooner than after 90 days of a commercial release. Discussions have begun between major studios and exhibitors about offering movies in a premium-VOD window soon after their cinema run. Studios know that change is coming but have realized that they should control their own destiny and be the ones to make this happen—considering who controls content, this makes a lot of sense.
Regal feels that if it “grows the overall pie,” this could be good for the industry. As long as it creates incremental revenue and does not cannibalize the theatrical experience, it makes sense to investigate. Cineplex is in no hurry to see the shortened theatrical distribution window, but at the same time as Netflix transforms how movies are released, they “favor any new home distribution windowing by the studios not cutting into their theatrical business.”
No one wants to kill the golden goose, but moving forward film companies must be careful and wise when meeting to make certain that exhibition is protected.