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Judy Thorburn

CINEMACON 2013 Showcased Industry Pros, Latest Technology and Upcoming Blockbusters

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judy-thorburn-editorCINEMACON 2013 Showcased Industry Pros, Latest Technology and Upcoming Blockbusters

By Judy Thorburn

The third edition of CinemaCon, the annual convention of NATO (National Association of Theater Owners), the largest gathering of theatre owners and managers from around the world, took place at Caesars Palace over the course of four days, Monday, April 15 to Thursday, April 18, 2013. More than 5,000 movie industry members attended the convention.

Along with a trade show floor that featured the the latest technological innovations, theatre seating, food concession goodies and more that enhance the movie going experience, the annual highlight for attendees is the opportunity to get a sneak peak at some of the most highly anticipated films from the major studios' upcoming slate, attend the screenings of several full lengths films and to catch special in person appearances by big name stars and filmmakers.

Among the list of stars that showed up to plug their upcoming movies were Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jordana Brewster, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Sun Kang and Gina Carano,(Fast & Furious 6), Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, John Cho, and Alice Eve (Star Trek Into Darkness), Adam Sandler, Kevin James, David Spade and Salma Hayek (Grown Ups 2), Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer (The Lone Ranger), Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy (“The Heat”); Morgan Freeman and Isla Fisher (“Now You See Me”); Liam Hemsworth and Elizabeth Banks (“The Hunger Games: Catching Fire”); Harrison Ford, Hailee Steinfeld and Asa Butterfield (“Ender’s Game”); Ben Stiller and Kristen Wiig (“The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”); and many more.  Several of the stars were also honored with an award in a specific category.

As last year, hot topics included discussions about more and more movies being released in 3D, and the newest innovations: immersive audio sound and groundbreaking laser projection. Speaking of sound, the typical movie theater sound system operates at around 4,000 watts but CinemaCon attendees got a chance to experience the immersive Dolby Atmos technology which delivered heart pounding 495,000 watts of sound inside Caesar's showroom. Another important topic in the industry is “Women and Movies” which was addressed at a most informative and frank luncheon panel discussion on Thursday.

On the trade show floor, 4DX demonstrated what can be described as a multi sensory experience that they hope will hit it big in cinemas across the world.  Instead of a 3D theme park ride, theatre audiences get to experience motion, wind, scent and occasional mists while seating in 4DX seats that move left and right, tilt back and forth and bounce up and down to accompany the on screen action.

That said, continuing its annual theme of “celebrating the movie going experience” CinemaCon 2013 kicked off Monday evening with “Paramount Pictures' Exclusive Presentation Highlighting the Summer of 2013 and Beyond.” 

Paramount's upcoming slate includes:  Labor Day, Anchorman: The Legend Continues, Noah, Hercules, Nebraska, World War Z (June 21, the sequel to Hunger Games titled Hunger Games: Catching Fire,the next installment of Paranormal Activity (Oct. 25) and Pain and Gain. With over 35 films scheduled to be shown in IMAX in 2013 Paramount has partnered with IMAX for Christopher Nolan's sci fi film, Interstellar and Michael Bay's next installment of Transformer, both to be released in 2014.
 
Stars Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Alice Eve, John Cho, and producer Damon Lindelof were on hand to introduce an 18 minute sneak peak of their highly anticipated Star Trek: Into Darkness, which opens on May 17.  Director J.J.Abrams was a no show and we were informed that was because he was back in L.A. working on finishing the film.

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Chris Pine
Photo credit: Stephen Thorburn

Zachery Quinto CinemaCon 2013 22159
Zachary Quinto
Photo credit: Stephen Thorburn

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Alice Eve
Photo credit: Stephen Thorburn

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John Cho
Photo credit: Stephen Thorburn

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Michael Bay
Photo credit: Stephen Thorburn

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Damon Lindelof
Photo credit: Stephen Thorburn

Asked what it was like being Capt. Kirk again, Pine responded, “In this installment we see Kirk earn the (captain's) chair.  He sees all his vulnerabilities and we watch him mature”..

About his portrayal of Spock, Quinto said, “Playing Spock can be challenging and frustrating. It is erroneous notion that Spock has no emotions.  This time I explore his journey on learning how to honor his emotional life and how to be accountable to those he loves.”

When it was time for the trailer of World War Z to be shown, attendees were treated to a surprise in person appearance of its star Brad Pitt , who said he wanted to make a movie about zombies that his two boys would like.

Brad Pitt CinemaCon 2013
Brad Pitt

The Paramount presentation culminated with a full length screening of “Pain & Gain” starring Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, which was released in theaters Friday, April 19.

Director Michael Bay appeared in person to introduce his film. “My little movie was made with a mere $25 million and it takes me back to my roots”, he said.

On Tuesday morning, DLP Cinema presented “ A Salute to the Top Grossing Films of 2012”. Among last year's blockbusters were Disney's animated Brave, Wreck It Ralph, Lincoln and Marvel's The Avengers with The Hunger Games, Dark Knight Rises and The Avengers breaking $400 million domestically.

Other films that took in $100 million or more at the box office were Les Miserables, Twilight Breaking Dawn, Taken 2, The Bourne Legacy, 21 Jump Street, Ted, The Vow, Silver Linings Playbook, Magic Mike, Snow White & the Huntsman, Django Unchained, Skyfall, Journey 2: Mysterious Island, The Amazing Spiderman, Prometheus,Rise of the Guardians, Madagascar, Men in Black 3, Hotel Transylvania, Ice Age Continental Loop, The Hobbit and Life of Pi.

That was followed by the 2013 Marquee Award presentation which given to Amy Miles, CEO of Regal Entertainment Group, for her outstanding achievement, commitment and service to the movie industry.

“The Marquee Award is a tremendous honor to receive from my peers. And I am so proud of it because this award represents the many successes and accomplishments made possible by the entire Regal team,” Miles said in a news release. “It’s rewarding to know that the NATO membership wants to recognize Regal’s leadership with this award.”

Jeff Blake, vice chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment, presented the award to Miles, who he described as “one of the premiere executives in our business.” She has led Regal Theaters to record results. Her strategy and innovation and growth has earned her recognition,” he said.

Next up was Senator Chris Dodd, Chairman and CEO of MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America). “2012 was a truly great year for movies with $34.7 billion in global box office revenue”, he said. “Social media is driving traffic to movies and pre-ticket sales.” He then went on to talk about a new voluntary on line rating movie ratings campaign at filmratings.com which is aimed at parents.  The site offers a descriptive box and tools to educate and enable parents to make a more informative decision on what is appropriate for their children see.

Senator Dodd
Senator Chris Dodd, Chairman and CEO of MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America)
Photo credit: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Universal presented exclusive footage from its upcoming slate. Universal's Chairman Adam Fogelson said his studio was the only one in 2012 to have eight releases gross $100 million.  Scheduled for the Summer of 2013 are the big action film R.I.P.D. in 3D (July 19) starring Jeff Bridges and Ryan Reynolds; Two Guns (August 2) which teams Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg; Kick Ass 2 (August) with the addition of Jim Carrey; Despicable Me 2 in 3D (July 3) with Steve Carrell returning along with newly added Kristin Wiig and Al Pacino on board.

Fast and Furious 6 (which opens on May 24) producer Neal Moritz and the film's stars, Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Tyrese Gibson, Michele Rodriguez, Sun King and Gina Ferraro appeared on stage to help promote their flick. Before introducing an extended clip, the word  family” popped up as Diesel talked about working on the film.

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Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jordana Brewster, Michele Rodriguez
Photo credit: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

 “We are a family and really care about each other. That kind of relationship builds a brotherhood that translates on film.  We such a multi cultural cast and are called the most progressive force in Hollywood.” He went on to say “I believe Universal leads the charge in episodic storytelling....one of the reasons we keep getting more successful. The feedback from audiences is that we are a cultural event people have to be part of. We must be receptive of what the audience is telling us. Social media is telling us what they want.”, said the action star.

Later in the afternoon, Warner Bros studios, whose films earned $4 billion worldwide in 2012, presented “The Big Picture” showcasing the Summer of 2013 and Beyond.

Attendees were given a sneak peak of footage in various stages of completion, some in 2D and some in 3D. Filmmakers Todd Phillips, Zack Snyder and Guillermo Del Toro appeared in person to introduce footage from their upcoming releases.

Before showing a clip from Hangover 3, Phillips joked about his career as a Hollywood filmmaker saying his mother was not impressed and reminded him, “Your sister is doctor”. 

Zack Snyder presented the World Premiere of the new trailer for the latest Superman reboot,  Man of Steel (opening June 14). The film is “Full of emotion, action and the best superhero in the world. I want to give cinema fans a big movie”, he said.

Before introducing a clip from his latest film Pacific Rim (to be released on July 12) the Mexican born fillmaker Guillermo Del Toro stated, “This movie changed my life. It let me try a scope and palette I never did before. Immense scope and love are represented in this film.”

Baz Luhrman,appeared on video to plug one of the most anticipated films of the year, The Great Gatsby in 3D starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

Select scenes were also shown from The Conjuring (July 19), rough footage from 300: Rise of the Empire (August), We're the Millers  (August 9) starring Jennifer Anniston and Jason Sudeikis, Gravity starring George Clooney (October); Prisoners (which is still in production) starring Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllanhaal, Viola Davis and Maria Bello; The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug (December); Getaway and Seventh Son.

Wednesday morning Disney and its partners, Pixar, Marvel, Dreamworks and Lucasfilm, presented their highlights of Summer of 2013 and beyond which was followed by a special screening of Disney/Pixar's Monsters University, a prequel of Monsters, Inc.

The list of their upcoming films include Iron Man 3, Delivery Man (Oct, 2013), The Fifth Estate (Nov, 2013), Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy, Antman,  Good Dinosaur (May 2014), Finding Glory (sequel to Finding Nemo with Ellen DeGeneres reprising her voice over role), Inside Out, Planes, Frozen, Saving Mr. Banks, The Muppets, Maleficent, Tomorrowland and the fifth installment of Pirates of the Caribbean (Summer of 2015). Disney Nature will also release Bears on Earth Day 2014.

Before two extended clips of The Lone Ranger were shown, producer Jerry Bruckheimer, director Gore Verbinski and stars Armie Hammer and Johnny Depp arrived on stage to say a few things about their movie, which opens on July 3.  They described Tonto and the Lone Ranger as “a delicate partnership with diametrically opposed personalities with diverse ideas on justice.”

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Director Gore Verbinski, Johnny Depp, Armie Hammer, and Producer Jerry Bruckheimer

During Wednesday's luncheon, Director Sam Raimi was awarded the ‘RealD Innovation in 3D Award’ for for his work on Oz The Great and Powerful. The award was presented to Rami by RealD CEO and co-founder, Michael V. Lewis.  The ‘RealD Innovation in 3D Award’ recognizes extraordinary contributions to digital 3D that embody the pioneering and creative spirit the technology brings to life in cinema and other applications.

“OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL has set the bar in 2013 for both box office success and use of 3D to captivate audiences in a new and exciting way,” said Lewis. “3D played an instrumental role in bringing the Land of Oz to life, allowing moviegoers to feel as if they’ve stepped inside the land for a firsthand, immersive entertainment experience. We congratulate Sam on his achievements in 3D with this film.”

“Shooting my first 3D film was a great adventure,” said director Sam Raimi. “It allowed me to explore the depths of the world that my production designer and his team created in a way I had never thought possible.  I accept this award on behalf of the camera people, technicians, and artists on OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL, and thank RealD for this honor.”

Disney’s OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL is 2013’s highest grossing film having delivered more than $470 million worldwide in ticket sales to-date.

Elvis Mitchell, Film Curator at the Los Angeles County Museum, moderated a Filmmakers Roundtable featuring Guillermo Del Toro, Sam Raimi and Oliver Stone. Below are some highlights from the discussion..

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Elvis Mitchell, Sam Rami, Oliver Stone and Guillermo Del Toro
Photo credit: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Del Toro- “What's great is letting go in a group experience....affirmation that you belong, feel validated. There is nothing better when audience connects with notes, like a piano player.  The real reward comes from seeing your film with an audience. Indifference is the scary thing. A silent response is the real horror. I want to provoke an emotion, love or hate, to reaffirm that you are touching a nerve.  I want a walk out moment. Filmmakers must push buttons that are uncomfortable,  a must in a horror film.

Stone – “You must go out there and take a risk.”

Raimi –   “(I want to) set up suspense...what audiences are not expecting,. A horror movie is a group experience...a roller coaster with screaming that you get caught up into and form a bond with people in the theatre. The bar is always raised and adrenaline expectations raised. The more savvy audiences get, you have to show them you are not kidding. Do a big gesture, in whatever genre.”

Stone – “True horror is displacement of things that don't make sense. Life of Pi is an example of displacement...a boy on a boat with a tiger.”

Del Toro – “The ultimate goal for a storyteller...get excited about it (your film project) if you you are committed to it for years. I committed 8 years to Kronos and it was a beautiful experience to see it with an audience.”

Regarding special effects....

Del Toro – “If special effects don't serve the narrative purpose it doesn't fit.”

Stone – “The problem now is the copy cat routine. There is no difference between one action movie and another. It is repetitive and becomes a form of torture for the eyes. Style is important but content is king.  Old black and white films like La Dolce Vita, which wasglamorous. On the Waterfront moved me. There were no special effects.”

Raimi – “When we went from black and white to color it opened up a new world..transported audiences.”

What about the digital explosion?

Del Toro – “As a filmmaker you want options in telling a story you choose, like painting with more than only one brush.”

Stone – “I miss film”.

All three filmmakers agreed they still like going to see a movie in a theatre. Toro said, “It is still the greatest night out.”

Later in the afternoon, Sony Pictures, which had its biggest year ever at the box office in 2012, raking in $4.4 billion globally, with such blockbusters as Skyfall, The Vow, The Amazing Spiderman, Men in Black 3, and Hotel Transylvania, showed an advanced peak of its 2013 and beyond releases.

Clips from their upcoming slate included the remake of Carrie, After Earth, This is the End, White House Down, Smurfs 2, Alysium,  Captain Phillips, Battle of the Year in 3D, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2,  The Mortal Instruments City of Bones, This is Us (One Direction movie), Stalingrad in IMAX 3D, The Monuments Men, American Hustle and Amazing Spiderman 2 (May of 2014).

Adam Sandler, Salma Hayek, David Spade and Kevin James made a surprise visit to introduce a clip from their upcoming comedy, Grown Ups 2.

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Kevin James, Salma Hayek, David Spade and Adam Sandler
Photo credit: Ryan Miller/Getty Images

Wednesday evening, The Will Rogers Motion Picture Pioneers Foundation presented veteran Hollywood producer Kathleen Kennedy, President of Lucasfilm and Vice President of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), with its prestigious 2013 Pioneer of the Year Award for her philanthropic work. Actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt hosted the ceremony.  Special guest was actress Sally Field, who presented Kennedy with her award.


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Kathleen Kennedy
Photo credit: Stephen Thorburn

As an immensely successful film producer, Kennedy's resume includes over 60 memorable films such as ET, the Back to the Future franchise, the Indiana Jones franchise, and Lincoln.  

Sally stated, “While working on Lincoln in 2011, I felt Kathleen's presence on the set. In the male dominated business, Kathy has beaten the odds by being so much better than anyone else.  Her body of work represents  inexhaustible excellence.  Her films have made over $11 billion.  She belongs to an elite group of people who define filmmaking.”

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Sally Field
Photo credit: Stephen Thorburn

Actors Harrison Ford, Tom Cruise, Amy Poehler, Laura Linley, director Steven Spielberg, and Kennedy's husband Frank Marshall and their two daughters offered Kennedy congratulations via video clips.

Upon receiving her award, Kennedy said, “I feel incredibly honored to be recognized.  It means a tremendous amount to me.”

The dinner gala raised more than $700,000 to benefit the Will Rogers Motion Picture Pioneers Assistance Fund, an industry charity that helps movie industry veterans who are encountering an illness, injury or life-changing event.

Photo attached: “Kathleen Kennedy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Sally Field at the 2013 Pioneer of the Year Award ceremony on April 17 honoring Kathleen Kennedy at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. Credit: Ryan Miller/Capture Imaging.” All photos from the 2013 Pioneer Awards can be found on Getty Images here.
 
Thursday morning, 20th Century Fox unveiled its slate for Summer of 2013 and Beyond. Blue Sky Animation Studios (that gave us Ice Age Robots, Dr. Seuss's Horton Hears a Who, Rio) showed clips from the following animated flicks:  Epic (2014), Rio 2 (April 2014), and Peanuts (Nov 2015).

Dreamworks Animation SKG (in partnership with 20th Century Fox) offered a sneak peak of Turbo (July 17), Mr.Peabody and Sherman (2014), and How to Train Your Dragon 2 (2014).

Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy who teamed up for The Heat, were on hand to introduce a trailer  from their flick but first joked with each other about how they hit it off on the set.  The duo had the audience in stitches delivering some very funny back and forth banter.

Sandra Bullock Melissa MCarthy CimenaCon 2013
Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy
Photo credit: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Other clips shown from upcoming releases were The Internship (Summer of 2014), Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters in 3D, Runner Runner (Sept. 2013), The Counselor (Nov 15), Walking with Dinosaurs, the Movie in 3D (Dec.) and The Wolverine (July).

The presentation wrapped up with an extended early look at The Secret Life of Walter Mitty along with  a surprise visit by its writer/director and star Ben Stiller.  Kristin Wiig, Stiller's co-star in the flick, came out from behind the stage curtain complaining she wasn't mentioned, adding that Stiller told her the presentation was the next day.

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Kristen Wiig and Ben Stiller
Photo credit: Judy Eddy/WENN

At the final day luncheon, a panel on women and the box office was moderated by Janice Min,  editorial director of the Hollywood Reporter and featured Academy award winning actress and founder of Institute on Gender in Media, Geena Davis, Nina Jacobson (The Hunger Games), director Paul Feig (The Heat and Bridesmaids), Regal Entertainment CEO Amy Miles,and Vanessa Morrison, President of Fox Animation Studios.

The discussion centered on how men dominate the motion picture industry, and the need to make  more movies by women, with women, about women and for women.

The message sent to audiences is that women have less value than men. Statistics show that 11% of films have female lead characters. For every female lead in a movie, there are three male leads. And in crowd scenes, only 17 percent of the people are women and girls. If the number of female roles increases at the current rate, it will take 700 years to catch up to males.

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Janice Min, Geena Davis, Amy Miles, Paul Feig, Vanessa Morrison and Nina Jacobson
Photo credit: Stephen Thorburn

“It’s insanity. It seems like you have to go out of your way to leave that many women out. Playing in movies made me inspired by female characters, which has driven my commitment ever since. I think about women in the audience and what they think about, so I launched the Institute of Gender and Media in 2004 to change female portrayals and gender stereotypes, Davis stated.

Panelists Paul Feig, director of Bridesmaids and The Heat, Hunger Games producer Nina Jacobson and Regal Entertainment CEO Amy Miles all agreed with Davis that fear drives poor decision making on the part of Hollywood studios when it comes to featuring more female leads. Fox Animation Studios president Vanessa Morrison, said that isn't something she deals with because she’s in animation.

Feig said, “There is this little boy's vision of women. I find it disturbing. It is about trying to get men past what they are programmed. I was always shut down quickly when I wanted female leads. The pressure was enormous.”

Min recalled that prior to the opening of Bridesmaids in 2011 it was suggested that the R-rated female comedy could never work. "I was terrified, thinking that if I screw this up, no women are ever going to star in movies again," Feig stated. Bridesmaids, of course, turned into a box-office hit, grossing $288.4 million worldwide for Universal.Next for Feig is the buddy-cop comedy,The Heat (opening June 28) starring Sandra Bullock and reuniting Feig with his Bridesmaids star Melissa McCarthy.

“After I made Thelma and Louise, I thought there would me more female buddy movies, but no! I wish, after Bridesmaids, it could be true. But there is an overwhelming belief in Hollywood that women will watch men, but men won't watch women. Not true! I tell studios, make what you want to make.  Just put more women in it,” said Davis.

Miles,  the only woman to head a major theater chain, said women make 80 percent of all purchases, yet females only make up roughly 50 percent of those going to the movies.

Even with the success of Bridesmaids, Twilight and the Hunger Games with two lead female characters, most Hollywood films still are aimed at males, the panelists said.  Proof is in the pudding. The majority of 2013 summer films promoted at CinemaCon were heavy on action and violence.

"We just have to look at the history of Hollywood and how women have been left out to realize it is a decades-long trend," said Davis, noting that there were many more female protagonists in the early days of Hollywood than there are now. In 1920, 57 percent of the lead stars were women.

Jacobson, formerly president of Disney's film studio, said “Franchise fever has squeezed out variety and the lack of diversity, overall.  $200 million doesn't have to go towards things blowing up.”

How many weekends of the year are there when I wish there was something to see with my kids," she said. "The remedy for a lot of the issues that represent women in movies is also the same remedy for the marketplace."

Feig added, “We need more education through choice. I hope offering up more choice will come back into cycle. There needs to be more female stars. Studios need to take a chance, create situations that cast women in great roles.  Bridesmaids made Melissa McCarthy and Kristin Wiig stars.

Morrison said that within Fox, Elizabeth Gabler is president of Fox 2000,  Nancy Utley is  co-president of  Fox Searchlight, and Fox president of production is Emma Watts, which means there are more females making key decisions.

In terms of her own slate, like last year's Disney's Oscar-winning Brave,  Fox Animation's 2013 summer flick, Epic features a female protagonist. "Even in Ice Age, there's no stronger female voice than Queen Latifah's character Ellie," Morrison said.

According to the panelists, the media contributes to the problem.  Feig said that often female characters are the stereotypical wife who nags or the girlfriend who bugs.

The one topic most panelists refused to comment on was the upcoming film adaptation of the erotically charged best selling novel Fifty Shades of Grey.

When Min asked whether the upcoming movie would be the best or worst thing to happen to women in film, the panelists mostly remained silent. Davis looking stunned, said she was "speechless." Feig said he didn't read it, while Morrison said she was in animation. Miles reacted with a smile and shook her head, but had nothing to say.

Jacobson, the only one to comment offered up, "Female desire is a very complex subject. The book is  a testament to it. I don't know what will come from it. It is difficult to translate to screen and live up to the fantasies. Lots of people will go to see it. Is it good for women?  I will leave that up to another panel.

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Janice Min, Geena Davis, Amy Miles, Paul Feig, Vanessa Morrison and Nina Jacobson
Photo credit: Stephen Thorburn

Later in the afternoon, Lionsgate presented clips from its upcoming roster of films along with special in person appearances.  Comedian Kevin Hart hosted the presentation, and repeatedly plugged his upcoming film, Let Me Explain which opens on July 3.

Morgan Freeman and Isla Fisher stopped by to introduce a clip from their film, Now You See Me, which opens on May 31.

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Isla Fisher and Morgan Freeman
Photo credit: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Director Joss Whedon was on hand to talk about his movie, a re-envision of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing that he shot in black and white for 12 days at his house.  “I wanted to capture the feeling of live theatre.”, he said before showing a clip.

There were also clips from the horror film Your'e Next (Aug 23), Red 2 (July 19), Escape Plan (Fall of 2013), Diversion,  and the world premiere of the trailer for Ender's Game (opening in Nov, 2013) which was introduced, live and in person by the stars of the film, Asa Butterfield, Hallie Steinfeld and Harrison Ford. Ford said, “I was attracted to the film, not just for the scale. It is a human story that touches people's hearts. It is a very strong, emotional, exciting movie.”

In addition, Hunger Games 2 director Francis Lawrence and actors Liam Hemsworth and Elizabeth Banks were on hand to introduce the trailer.

Liam Hemsworth Elizabeth Banks CinemaCon 2013Elizabeth Banks and Liam Hemsworth
Photo credit: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Earlier in the day the press was introduced to the finalists of the 2013 Sprite Films competition in which young aspiring filmmakers from colleges and universities across the United States, were given the chance to write, produce, and direct original short films, plus a unique opportunity to obtain valuable on-the-job experience and to showcase their filmmaking abilities. The finalists chosen were Sam Bengtson and Sean Grasse from Columbia College Chicago;  Dean Coots and Michael Tahan from Elon University;  Noah Sterling and Megan Melrose from Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD); and Manhea Kim and Meja Shoba from University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

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Finalists of the 2013 Sprite Films competition with filmmaker Oliver Stone
Photo credit: Stephen Thorburn

As part of the competition their winning scripts will be produced into individual 60 second spots for the chance to win a $30k contract job with Sprite and The Coca-Cola Company. Fans will be able to view their Sprite Films sixty-second shorts on Sprite.com in August 2013.

During CinemaCon the finalists attended workshops and met one-on-one with acclaimed filmmaker, Oliver Stone, to discuss their film projects and future plans in the film industry, as well get some valuable tips.

CinemaCon came to a close Thursday night with the CinemaCon Big Screen Achievement Awards ceremony, hosted by Billy Bush inside Caesar's showroom, followed by an after party at Caesars pool. The festivities began with the presentation of the 9th annual Fandango Fan Choice Award with Lionsgate's The Hunger Games chosen fans favorite movie of 2012. Producer Nina Jacobson accepted the award.

Joseph Gordon Levitt kicked off the talent award ceremonies as the recipient of the Breakthrough Filmmaker Award for his directorial debut in Don Jon which he also wrote and and stars in.

This Year's Honorees

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Joseph Gordon Levitt, the recipient of the Breakthrough Filmmaker Award for his directorial debut in Don Jon
Photo credit: Stephen Thorburn

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Breakthrough Performer of the Year -Aubrey Plaza (star of the upcoming comedy, The To Do List in August)
Photo credit: Stephen Thorburn

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Cinema Icon Award -  Morgan Freeman (presently seen in Oblivion, and later this year in Now You See Me, Las Vegas, and The Last Knights)
Photo credit: Stephen Thorburn

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Lifetime Achievement Award – Harrison Ford (currently seen in “42” and the upcoming Ender's Game)
Photo credit: Stephen Thorburn

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Male Star of the Year – Chris Pine (star of Star Trek; Into Darkness and at the year's end – Jack Ryan)
Photo credit: Stephen Thorburn

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Female Star of the Year - Melissa McCarthy (costarring opposite Sandra Bullock in The Heat)
Photo credit: Stephen Thorburn

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Award of Excellence in Acting - Elizabeth Banks (The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, opening Nov. 22)
Photo credit: Stephen Thorburn

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Director of the Year - Justin Lin (Fast & Furious 6)
Photo credit: Stephen Thorburn

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Comedy Duo of the Year -Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson (reunited for The Internship, to be released in June)
Photo credit: Stephen Thorburn

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Male Star of Tomorrow -Armie Hammer (star of The Lone Ranger)
Photo credit: Stephen Thorburn

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Female Star of Tomorrow - Hallie Steinfeld (to be seen in Ender's Game, opening in Nov.)
Photo credit: Stephen Thorburn

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Rising Star of 2012: Asa Butterfield (also starring in The Ender's Game)
Photo credit: Stephen Thorburn

The evening's event was the topping on the cake for this year's CinemaCon and its celebration of the movie going experience. With all the newest innovations that immerse audiences like never before, going to the movies is an international past time that keeps getting better and better. On that note, I look forward to next year's, 2014 edition of CinemaCon and what the studios have in store.

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