John Fithian, Charlie Rivkin Talk Industry Rebound On CinemaCon Eve – Deadline

CinemaCon launches Monday at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, the second personal gathering of theater owners and Hollywood studios since August, and Covid. That edition was overshadowed by the Delta variant, ongoing theater closures, and changing release dates. Now the picture is significantly brighter. Domestic participation in confab, including a full number of study leaders, is at a pre-pandemic level (internationally still slightly softer given challenges in some markets). Moviegoing is on the rise and the release schedule looks full and solid. NATO President and CEO John Fithian and MPA Chairman-in-Chief Charles Rivkin asked questions from Deadline about the evolving landscape after Covid and the relationship between the two camps. (Some answers are compressed and edited for clarity.)

DEADLINE: Compare last CinemaCon with what you expect in the coming week. What has changed in the studio / exhibition ecosystem?

FITHIAN: This show comes at a really important and historic time in our business. We’ve been on-again-off-again with movies, the cinemas closed on and off, and right now, just started a few weeks ago, it’s when the whole board of movies was back the rest of the year. CinemaCon will show content from upcoming films, we will see directors and studios and talent talk about it, and by their very presence shows that they are on. There’s a lot of movie content coming from now until the end of the year. Young people came back, families showed up Sonic The Hedgehog 2 [this weekend, Bad Guys]. This is the end of the tunnel and the beginning of the light. It is a starting point for the resurgence of the industry.

RIVKIN: I think CinemaCon 2022 will confirm something we already know – that the film production and cinema industry is now returning from one of the biggest challenges we have faced in a century. On the study side, we see a strong recovery for production. Last year, nearly 950 films went into production, breaking even pre-pandemic records. We have seen an increase of 16% compared to 2019 and a jump of 40% compared to 2017. A large part of this recovery grew out of the strong and effective health and safety protocols that our collective industry implemented in the first months of the pandemic. to keep our workers as safe as possible and productions running.

DEADLINE: What gives you both the confidence to look ahead?

FITHIAN: The slate is quite stable. We do not see any further changes in the release schedule due to the pandemic. The effects of Covid were twofold: one was on the willingness of customers, the other was the product – so even after consumers were willing to return with Spider-Man: No Way Home, we missed movies in January and February due to delayed production schedules. Now consumers are ready to come back and the movies are done, in the can and ready to be shown. We have fought to get product and to open safely. We are not like a restaurant, a local business that can even serve food as soon as it opens. We must have everything open everywhere. We serve a global product that is back now.

RIVKEN: The theater market is on the rise again globally. Last year, the global ticket office was $ 21.3 billion, an increase of 81% over 2020, and the ticket offices in the United States and Canada more than doubled in that time frame, reaching $ 4.5 billion. Although these figures are still down from pre-pandemic levels, they suggest that there is still considerable room for growth. I think all studios and exhibitors should be optimistic about the future. Spider-Man: No Way Home was the third most lucrative American box office ever. That trend continued in 2022 with Batman secure the second-highest U.S. box office since the start of the pandemic. Globally, movies like Battle of Lake Changjin, Hello Mom, F9, and No time to die brought audiences to theaters in droves.

DEADLINE: Piracy. I know you want to talk about it. Can we get a preview?

RIVKIN: Piracy remains an existential threat to the creative community – period. It affects us all – studios, exhibitors and consumers. But as I will say during my talk on the industry on Tuesday, the Motion Picture Association and our global anti-piracy coalition, the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE), have made great strides in the fight against large-scale piracy. which poses that threat. ACE is now a 24/7 service with a formidable global reach that is capable of implementing response teams anywhere. We’ve removed sites around the world that offer thousands of movies and TV deals and receive millions of visits a month.

And we’re making progress – in North America, for example, from a maximum of 1,400 illegal websites and streaming subscription services in 2019, our anti-piracy campaign has reduced that number to just over 200. That number is still too high, but we’re heading in the right direction. We are proud that Amazon and Apple are both members of ACE’s Board of Directors, ensuring that they are both integrated partners in our fight against piracy.

FITHIAN: Piracy is a very big thing to talk about because the data that came out of the pandemic showed that simultaneous release of movies in cinemas and at home is the worst case. It’s one thing to have a pirated camcorder for a movie and try to release it. It’s another thing when a pure digital version becomes available. When pirates get hold of a digital copy, that’s when piracy goes crazy. Both sides are losing money. If you watch movies with windows and simultaneous release, the endurance of the former in the second, third and fourth week is dramatically better.

DEADLINE: What about special films? There is this drumming, yes, theaters will continue to mean something, but mostly for large franchises.

FITHIAN: I think the growth will come just as much for smaller budget movies as from blockbusters. The blockbusters when we got them during the pandemic seemed like. Spider Man, Ribbon. Specialty, mid-budget films that appeal to older audiences or families or niche audiences were harder to get to work. But then Sonic got families, Dog and Uncharted, which are not giant blockbuster movies, did business. I’m very excited about the mid-budget and specialty of Damien Chazelle’s Babylon to Steven Spielbergs The Fabelman family to A man named Otto with Tom Hanks and Olivia Wilde ‘ Just calm down darling – Four examples of films in the pipeline with directors who are very excited to bring them to the cinema with a large window. Older audiences and those with young children were the most challenged, but they are most excited to come back now. They wanted to be protected and were right to stay at home, but that’s not because they preferred it. Now their confidence returns. With the Duke and Downton Abbey: A New Era, we target movies for each demo.

Filmmaking also gives rise to filming. When people come for the first time, they see a whole lot of trailers and talk about what’s coming. Advertising inside the cinema is incredibly important to get people back. We have not had that opportunity due to stop and start and crash periods and no consistent delivery of products. We’re not all about the blockbuster. (Although this is a gigantic year for them, Doctor Strange, Top Gun: Maverick, Jurassic Word Dominion, Thor: Love and Thunder, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Avatar 2)

RIVKIN: Audiences yearn for and appreciate good storytelling, and there is room for everyone in this industry. This is not an either-or approach, but rather, good stories lift all boats. All parts of our collective industry are important – whether you are watching a franchise film on the big screen or an independent film at an art house or watching a film at home. All parts of our ecosystem thrive as a result of amazing stories told on screen.

DEADLINE: Can you comment on streaming and the relationship between the MPA and NATO?

RIVKIN: The MPA’s relationship with NATO has never been stronger. During the pandemic, our extended family – including the MPA, NATO, the studios, the unions and the guilds, independent filmmakers – worked closely together to get us through the worst. And we continue to work closely together on a range of issues that require our collective input and focus – be it economic incentives, pandemics or initiatives to eliminate the global piracy companies that threaten our industry.

MPA is screen magnostic, but we join NATO in recognizing the vital and undeniable importance of cinemas in delivering a unique cinema experience to audiences around the world. We believe that people should be able to enjoy good TV and movies on the screens they choose, and we appreciate that there is nothing like watching movies on a big screen. It is important to remember that streaming and theaters can and do thrive together. Data commissioned by NATO show that streaming platforms do not pull a significant number of cinema-goers away from cinemas because those who attended cinemas more often also tend to consume streaming content more often.

FITHIAN: Streaming is a very complicated discussion. People describe streaming services as cannibalistic at its core. We see streaming and theater as theoretical support for each other, and studies show that. The short-term problem now is that the streaming world is not about making money. They put content on streaming services because it’s the golden eye of Wall Street. It’s not about making the most money. If you debut a movie at the cinema and it does well and becomes established as a brand when it hits your streaming service, it drives more eyes and business. If you drop them on a service first, they will be lost. People can not find them. There are 10,000 options. What makes the film is the cinema release. Even studios with their own streamers are going to realize.

Apple and Amazon are different, they are not trying to make money on the movies. Amazon is trying to get you to buy groceries and use Prime Video.

But there are too many services. People will not pay for them all. The studies will [eventually go back] to the business model that makes them money. Not for pre-pandemic windows, but it should not be. The good news is that studios and theater owners are talking now.

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