CinemaCon 2012 is fast approaching and the excitement is building…

As April 23 approaches, I’m reminded of the first time I experienced an industry convention called ShoWest.  In 1989, I was charged with coordinating the transportation & staging of The Batmobile used in Tim Burton’s BATMAN to Bally’s Hotel/Casino in Las Vegas for the Warner Bros. Luncheon.

I was so excited because I had always heard of this unique event, which takes place once a year where the Studios show off their upcoming releases to theatre owners.  This, coupled with the fact that I was responsible for bringing BATMAN’s Batmobile to show the theatre owners was doubly exciting!

From 1989 thru 2001, my responsibility was to coordinate the staging of the Warner Bros. Luncheon in Bally’s Grand Ballroom.  It was an event that I never tired of and had the most fun (outside of staging my own publicity stunts).

The Warner Bros. Luncheon always took place on Wednesday and was the most anticipated event at ShoWest because the Studio was famous for parading their giant roster of movie stars for the theatre owners to see (and for some VIP exhibitors to meet).  No other Studio during that period could rival Warner Bros. for its star powered showmanship at ShoWest.  I remember in 2001, Warner Bros. was the only Studio to host a full sit-down banquet and introduced the theatre owners to the entire cast of OCEAN’S ELEVEN.  “This year, we ARE ShoWest”, was one WB executive’s proclaimation.

Terry Semel, WB’s Co-CEO, was always a great Master of Ceremonies and introduced the star-studded dais to the exhibitors.  Exciting clips of upcoming WB releases were shown but it was the movie stars that captivated the exhibitors.

One year, Robin Williams made a joke about Steven Seagal’s jacket, “I see Steven Seagal is wearing his couch!”, to which Seagal replied, “I’m gonna f*** you up when Terry’s not looking…”.

Another year, Sophia Loren joined Ann-Margaret,  Jack Lemon and Walter Matthau on the dais to promote the comedy GRUMPIER OLD MEN.  Walter Matthau’s loving tribute to Sophia Loren had the entire ballroom of over 3,000 people in awe.

The cast of the LETHAL WEAPON movies was always a hit to see on the dais.  And when Clint Eastwood would make his appearances, it always “brought the house down”!  Clearly, Clint is “The Man” who is still so loved by all theatre owners (and by everyone else for that matter).

NATO later sold the ShoWest rights to a private company and ShoWest began to lose its luster.  Year after year, it seemed the Studios became less enthused about ShoWest.

Then, in 2011 NATO took back this annual event and rebranded it CinemaCon.  Under the leadership of Mitch Neuhauser, NATO is hoping to restore the shine and excitement to the biggest Industry Event of the Year.  Judging from last year’s reception to the first CinemaCon from Studios and theatre owners, NATO is on the right track and the Phoenix Is Rising.