The Flick Chicks

Judy Thorburn

03/19/06 ShoWest 2006

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Judy Thorburn

"Keeping Movie Goers Happy" - The Focus of 2006 ShoWest

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“KEEPING MOVIE GOERS HAPPY” - THE FOCUS OF 2006 SHOWEST

By Judy Thorburn
Photos by Stephen Thorburn

As in prior years, Bally’s and the Paris Hotel in Las Vegas was the setting for ShoWest, the annual trade show and convention that is the single largest gathering of movie industry professionals and theatre owners in the world. The 2006 edition of the four day event took place on March 13-16 and included a massive trade show on the convention room floor where vendor/exhibitors showed off the latest in comfort seating, concession goodies, and the latest in technical innovations.  The schedule of events included the usual breakfast, luncheon and dinner receptions, seminars, preview screenings and award ceremonies culminating in the Final Nights Banquet and Awards Ceremony where an outstanding group of Hollywood stars and filmmakers were honored for their art and contribution in box office sales.

This year the main topic being discussed everywhere was in keeping the movie going audiences happy by continuing to insure what they experience on the big screen, in a darkened theatre, is unmatched by any other entertainment form. Dan Glickman, President and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America spoke at various times throughout ShoWest about the importance on how to respond to an on demand world that is impacting preferences of audiences.  In 2005 domestic theatre attendance was down. Glickman was adamant in saying, “The trend must be reversed.  70% of consumers say it (the movie theatre) is the ultimate way to see a movie. Americans will come if they have value…more accessible, higher quality, all modern technology.  We need to give people what they want - safety, comfort, convenience, concierge services, clever way to buy tickets, on their cell phone, court other industries like restaurants and give audiences a bargain for their buck”. He added, “Everyone must perform their perspective roles. But, compelling, entertaining stories is the key to success. The play is the thing. I believe that very strongly. Understand what movie consumers want; what motivates them to go to the movies and what causes them to stay home. We are establishing a national movie week and the first will be in next March.” Glickman then asked theatre owners to think about providing value.  “The truth is Hollywood tells superb stores like no other, by bringing words to life that only exist in our mind. Movies matter to people, by providing great personal pleasure. It is cheaper than going to a psychiatrist.” Also the advancement of high definition digital technology has enhanced the movie going experience immensely and will “suck people in” since “seeing is believing”.  Of course, equipment cost for theatre owners is the one issue that needs to be worked out with filmmaking partners before implementation can be fulfilled. 

Glickman went on to say “For the first time ever, the MPAA staff, working closely with NATO is undergoing such a research project that will foster an environment that will thrive and commit to value and rewards of the movie going experience.” Another important subject that continues to plague the industry is the ongoing fight against the morally and illegally wrong practice of piracy. Two thirds of the country has adopted laws for creative property that deserves protection with the enforcement of such laws, litigation and education.  A web based training program can be found at www.fightfilmtheft.org. Movie theatre employees are encouraged to visit this site.

At the Opening Day Ceremony, Tom Cruise’s co-producing partner, Paula Wagner (War of the Worlds, Mission Impossible 2) was host of the Salute to $100 Million Films of 2005. Wagner was excited to express her personal feelings about why she is involved in the movie making process.  “Films transport me to another time and place, an experience you cannot get at home.  There is magic in the moment going into the theatre. Nothing can compare to that event”, she said. Proud to be involved with War of The World she stated that Tom Cruise, her co-producer on the film has made more films that grossed over $100 million than other any other actor in history.  Clips were shown from the list of 2005’s $100 Million films that included a story about a gorilla, a little chicken, or a married couple that happen to be assassins; just a few among a compilation of films that crossed all genres…. War of the Worlds, Chicken Little, I Robot, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, The Wedding Crashers, I Walk The Line, Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, King Kong, Hitch, The Pacifier, Batman Begins, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, 40 Year Old Virgin, Fantastic 4, The Chronicles of Narnia, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. 

J.J. Abrams (creator of TV’s Lost, Alias, Felicity) was a surprise guest and I was surprised to see that he is so young, probably in his early thirties, given that he has built up such an impressive resume.  As director of the upcoming action thriller Mission Impossible 2, Abrams presented two tense and exciting scenes from the film which stars Cruise and recent Best Actor Oscar winner, Phillip Seymour Hoffman as the villain. “Presenting this (footage) to ShoWest is the cherry on the top,” he said. “This is my first movie as director. I know TV well. I can tell you, now that I have done this, movies kicks TV’s ass. Making this was the best fun I ever had. I am grateful to (stars) Tom Cruise, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Keri Russell, who worked with me on Felicity.” He added, “It is important for me to make movies that are character driven, not just spectacle.”

The International Day Luncheon was co- sponsored by IMAX Corporation and Nielsen Entertainment where the slogan was the applicable “Think Big””.  Luncheon attendees were privy to footage from upcoming blockbusters specially formatted for IMAX screens throughout the country. They include V for Vendetta, Poseidon, and Superman Returns. Three upcoming 3D films are the animated Ant Bully, Open Season and Happy Feet.  Director James Cameron was also on hand to present fellow director and friend, Guillermo Del Toro with the award for International Achievement in Filmmaking. Cameron described Del Toro, the director of such cult classics as Mimic, Cronos, The Devil’s Backbone and box office hits, Hellboy and Blade II, as “the bull, strong of heart, strong of soul and strong of character”, who makes films that are “luminous, wonderful, sometimes terrifying, disturbing, but never forgettable”. We were shown a clip of his latest film; a fantasy thriller called Pan’s Labyrinth that will be released later in the year, and it looks awesome. Later, the Exhibitor of the Year Award was presented to Lotte Cinema, the top multiplex circuit in Korea. Described as a pioneer to impress the world, their motto is “a great company filled with love, happiness and impressions”.  Lotte Cinema sets a higher standard by offering a plethora of available options to its patrons like no other entertainment complex.

Of course, a highlight of this year’s ShoWest was Monday night’s An Evening of Independent Films at the Century Orleans Theatre complex, which featured preview screenings of five films and a food filled lobby reception.  Former presidential candidate Al Gore appeared in person at the screening of “An Inconvenient Truth”, a Paramount Classics documentary about Gore’s lifelong commitment to reversing the effects of global warming.  The other films were Focus Features “On A Clear Day”, about a 55 year old man’s attempt to swim the English Channel, Fox Searchlight’s “Confettti” about engaged couples competing in a contest for the most to-die-for wedding, Lionsgate Films’ “Hard Candy”, a psychological thriller about a 14 year old girl and the 32 year old man she meets on the internet, and the two I chose to see which were thoroughly satisfying - Miramax’s delightful “Kinky Boots”, inspired by a true story about a failing British shoe factory that is brought back on its feet (pun intended) when a drag queen is recruited to design shoes that fill a surprising niche, and Sony Picture Classics, “Friends With Money”, a poignant and funny ensemble piece starring Jennifer Anniston, Frances McDormand, Catherine Keener and Joan Cusack.

But those weren’t the only preview screenings.  The following morning I headed over to the Theatre des Arts at the Paris to catch Lionsgate’s Akeelah and the Bee, a heartwarming drama about a 12-year-old girl from South L.A. with a gift for spelling. It stars ShoWest award recipient Laurence Fishburne and ShoWest Rising Star of the Year, Keke Palmer who was present at the screening to accept her award.  Later that evening Walt Disney Pictures and Pixar Animation studios showed the first animated feature being released since their merge titled’ Cars”, a fast paced comedy adventure set inside the world of cars, voiced by an all star cast that includes Owen Wilson, Paul Newman, Bonnie Hunt, and George Carlin.

Pixar’s founding member, Academy Award winning director, John Lasseter was in the house to reveal his latest feature and accept the ShoWest Pioneer of Animation Award for being “a pioneer in the advanced evolution of animated features and continuing to raise the industry standard year after year.” I couldn’t make that presentation and screening, or the showing of New Line Cinema’s “Take The Lead” that stars Antonio Banderas in dance mode.  But, Wednesday afternoon I attended Picturehouse’s “A Prairie Home Companion”, a fictionalized movie account of Garson Keillor’s award winning radio show, directed by Robert Altman with another all star cast such as Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, Lily Tomlin and Lindsey Lohan and Keillor playing himself, just to name a few. And, I was in the audience for what we were told was an 85% completed, still in progress movie, Dreamwork’s delightful animated feature “Over the Hedge” about a group of woodland animals who awake from a long winter’s nap only to find that suburbia has invaded their natural habitat.  Before the flick, Dreamworks bigwig, Jeffrey Katzenberg praised ShoWest award recipient John Lasseter, who delivered Toy Story, as being “the father of animation. The brilliance and genius of John as a storyteller is amazing. He is a great inspiration, having made 20 CGI animated films in 10 years and grossing 80 billion worldwide”, said Katzenberg.

I couldn’t wait to see what MGM, the newly re-organized studio, had up its sleeve for the coming year. Suffice to say at the MGM sponsored Final Day Luncheon attendees were told “The Lion Roars Again” and that the “remodeled” company remains steadfast in theatrical distribution to make their business successful. Clips were shown from the upcoming slate of films for 2006. The impressive list goes like this:  Lucky Number Slevin with Bruce Willis, I Can Never Be Your Woman with Michelle Pheiffer and Paul Rudd in an older woman, younger man romance, Fragile, starring Calista Flockhart, the long awaited Clerks 2 with Ben Afleck and Rosario Dawson, The Flock starring Richard Gere and Claire Danes, Awake with Jessica Alba and Hayden Christenson, John Madden’s Killshot, Young Hannibal about Hannibal Lector’s formative years, Stormbreaker with Alex Pettyfer, and Van Wilder 2 with Kal Penn.  A Sizzle Reel gave us a first look at late 2006 or early 2007 MGM releases which include a psychological thriller, Mr. Brooks starring Kevin Costner, Joseph Fiennes in The Darwin Awards, Breaking and Entering with Jude Law, and a film that marks Desperate Housewives star Eva Langoria in her first major film role. 

Wednesday marked the presentation of the First Annual Yahoo! Big Idea Chair Award For Excellence in Studio Integrated Marketing. Wedding Crashers received the award for having the most original and effective marketing campaign aimed at creating moviegoers’ interest and connection to a particular film.  Runners up and just as innovative were the campaigns for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, King Kong, and War of the Worlds.

Thursday afternoon Warner Bros. studios hosted “The Big Picture…Goes Vegas” which meant those with a screening ticket (me included) were privy to an appearance by some of the directors and see exclusive footage from their films Poseidon, Superman Returns, Lady in the Water, and the multi-star voiced, animated penguin flick Happy Feet, four event films of 2006.  Translated that means a must see for audiences, a very special film expected to have a great opening.  Director Wolfgang Peterson spoke about the making of the disaster movie, Poseidon exclaiming, “I am very, very, very passionate about it being made for the big screen.  You’ll hold your breath, hear the crashing of waves….with big screens, our big scenes.” (Yes, that is exactly what he said). He went on, “I try very hard to get the audience inside the movie… the ultimate journey through hell, madness - a terrifying and really scary experience. It is a New Years celebration on a cruise ship when everything turns upside down, literally. It really elevates the genre of disaster movie. Unbelievably scary, it takes everything out of you. But, in as movie theatre we are able to sit still and safe. Peterson added “5 sound stages at Warner lots were built upside down and right side up.  Ninety thousand gallons of water were dropped using technology just developed.  This was ILM’s biggest, most challenging film. It took 18 days and 18 nights to render a two and a half minute long shoot, the most expensive in history. After seeing this, Titanic passengers got off easy!”  If those who actually died on the Titanic could hear that remark, I doubt they would find that amusing.

Director Bryan Singer introduced the new Superman Returns movie that stars Brandon Routh, who won the role of the man of steel after a worldwide search. Singer supplied a bit of trivia stating that it took 16 costume changes before picking the right one for the character. Superman Returns is scheduled to open on July 4th weekend and costars Kevin Spacey as Lex Luther.

M. Night Shyamalan, the director of Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Signs, and the Village was introduced as a unique spirit with intelligence, charisma, spirituality that truly makes him unique. His latest, The Lady in the Water stars Paul Giamatti and Bryce Dallas Howard and Shyamalan said, “This story is about a grown man who wants to let go and believe like a child again.” The idea originated “when I was telling a bedtime story to my kids. They would cry when I said it was the end of a chapter. It resonated on some level.”  As regard to projects offered, “The deal is, I will make a movie, but it must be where my heart is at the moment. If that’s cool, then I can continue the journey with the studio”. Before showing the 10-minute footage, the director said  “ I chose that section from the first reel of the movie because it reminded him of when I first fell in love with E.T. and stumbled across magic in my backyard.”

When it came to the long awaited press conference before the Final Night Gala Banquet and Awards Ceremony, not every recipient made it into our room for a quick question and answer segment. Vince Vaughn and Hugh Jackman left us hanging and disappointed. But, most of the stars took the time to stop and chat for a moment.  Laurence Fishburne offered an interesting response when asked about the advice he would give to other actors. He stated “nothing, unless the person was in the room. I must know something about that person.”  What attracts him to a role? He replied, “If the role speaks to me. A commonality, the tragic, things that move an audience is the biggest joy to me.”

Natalie Portman said she took the role in V for Vendetta because it was “art mixed with literature. I had great admiration for the original graphic novel.” In preparing for her role, ‘The graphic novel was an amazing place to start, (then there is) the storyboard and I read the history of Guy Fox and Menachim Begin’s book.” As for the difference between making independent films and huge movies, “ With V I spent lots of time (alone) reading and watching movies between takes.  For Garden State, the cast stayed together and partied together.”

Former American Idol top twelve contestant, Jennifer Hudson said that this last year “has been a roller coaster dream come true.” Her favorite singers are Gladys Knight, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas and the music from Godspell.

M. Knight Shyamalan spoke about his Lady in the Water star, Paul Giamatti saying “He is a rare actor that can make us feel exactly what he is feeling.”   In regards to his new film, “There are humor and fairytale aspects to Lady in The Water, but always with lots of suspense running through it”.

The new Superman, Brandon Routh stated “It was challenging for me to take this role after Chris (Reeves) died. It was a little intimidating. I also worked out and put on 22 lbs. of muscle for the role – upper body mass that I didn’t have.” It was interesting to hear about the parallels between Brandon’s life and the fictional comic book character. Both grew up in a small Midwest town (Roth was raised in Iowa), with small town values and Brandon experienced the easy-going life like Clark inhabits. “The isolation Clark feels is something I could pull from”, added Routh.

What is remarkable about 12 year old Dakota Fanning is that she possesses the intelligence, poise and eloquence of a mature woman along with her incredible acting talent. Many adults can learn a thing or two from her. Dakota told us that she is home schooled, and when asked about her favorite co-star she said “ I bonded with all my co-stars.  But, I talk the most with Kurt Russell, who gave me a horse as a gift after we made Dreamer.”

Project Greenlight Producer Chris Moore, who was a panel judge for the Coca Cola Refreshing Fimaker’s Award accompanied recipient Rosemary Lambert into the pressroom, along with chimps Cody and Sable, the stars of her winning commercial film idea, The Reel Monkey. The chimps had everyone laughing out loud with their adorable, yet unpredictable behavior, especially when one made noises into the microphone.

Entertainment Tonight’s Mary Hart was emcee for the closing night banquet and award ceremonies. And she couldn’t have been a better host with her enthusiastic personality and vibrant tone. 

 
Mary Hart

The following is a list of the Final Night Award Honorees and highlights from their acceptance speech.

Supporting Actress of the Year, Dakota Fanning:

“I can’t express how much this means to me to be honored tonight. I remember taking my little sister to a movie, 102 Dalmations, and tried to make her first time very special. It’s an amazing honor to do that in my job.  I am grateful anytime I can thank everyone who makes movies with me. My parent’s first date was at a movie theatre seeing Stealing Home and I hope my first date will also be at the movies where the only dud will be the milk duds!”


Dakota Fanning

Distinguished Decade of Achievement in Film, Laurence Fishburne: “It is a great pleasure (for me) to be in Las Vegas. I am truly humbled to receive this award and very privileged to work with extraordinary people in my lifetime.” He went on to acknowledge Joel Silver, producer of the Matrix and added, “I am immensely gratified and will continue to do work that is satisfying.”


Laurence Fishburne

Female Star of Tomorrow, Jennifer Hudson who makes her film debut in the movie adaptation of

The Tony Award winning musical “Dreamgirls”:

“You have to believe and stay true to yourself.  This proves that a true dreamer’s dream never dies. This is my first ever award and I will cherish it forever.”


Jennifer Hudson

Male Star of Tomorrow, Brandon Routh: “This is a great honor to be welcomed into the ShoWest family and get this award.  I love movies and am extremely proud and grateful to be part of the Superman legacy.”


Brandon Routh

Director of the Year, M. Night Shyamalan: Speaking about early inspirations,  “I went to see Raiders of the Lost Ark when I was 12. It was electric. Part of this fabric of life, these threads of connections, emotions of the story passes through the story like a quilt. (These are) amazing moments that you don’t feel alone.” About movie making- “It’s great telling a story to strangers.” He relayed how incredible it is that his movies leave a lasting impression like no other medium and gave an example:  “I met a man in Paris who was on his honeymoon and he showed me a tattoo on the back of his neck of the symbol from my movie Signs.”


M. Night Shyamalan

Comedy Star of the Year, Vince Vaughn:  Staying in comedy mode he quipped, “When I was a small boy in Illinois a gym teacher believed in me”. Then he added, “I used to sneak into movies. I want to apologize. I feel terrible now that I am on the other side.”


Vince Vaughn

Female Star of the Year, Natalie Portman:  After graciously accepting her award she related how funny it was that being in 400 cities and 7,000 interviews, she wound up at ShoWest where a chimp kissed her neck.


Natalie Portman

Male Star of the Year, Hugh Jackman:  He spoke about being in Las Vegas in 2001 for the huge line up of stars luncheon and recalled standing next to Clint Eastwood. Jackman then gave everyone a treat with an exclusive clip from his upcoming new movie, X Men-The Last Stand that comes out on Memorial Day. It looks fantastic!


Hugh Jackman

The program mentioned that The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe was to receive a special Consumer Choice Award for Favorite Movie of 2005 as voted by the readers of USA Today. However, that presentation failed to occur during these ceremonies, for whatever reason.

 

A special recognition goes out once again to Joseph Girouard, director of marketing and promotions for Johnny Brenden’s Brendan Theatres. A Brendan movie complex is located inside Las Vegas’s own Palms Hotel, Joe’s home base.  I believe this is the third year in a row Joe has been honored for his creative marketing strategy.  This year he received the ShoWest/NATO Marketing Achievement Award for Overall Promotion and Showmanship for his Star Wars: Episode III- Revenge of the Sith promotion sponsored by Pepsi Cola at Brenden Theatres Modesto 18 in Modesto, California.

Once more, congratulations Joseph Girouard for a job well done, and ditto to ShoWest for another successful Hollywood/Las Vegas connection.

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