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03-17-08 ShoWest 2008

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Judy Thorburn

Going Digital with and Emphasis on 3D was the Hot Topic of ShoWest 2008

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SCHEDULE OF EVENTS
Show Schedule
OFFICIAL PRESS RELEASES
ShoWester of YrFemale Star YRFemale Star of TMale Star of YrMale Star of T
Producer of YRDirector of YrCorporate SpnsrDecade of AchieBreakthrough Dir

Intl Exhibitor YrIntl AchievmntGroundbreakingSpecial EnsembleFrdm of Exprssn
Comedy Star YrFilm MarketingExcellence FilmVanguard AwardVisionary Award
ShoWest 2008ShoWest 2007ShoWest 2006ShoWest 2005ShoWest 2004

Special video interviews - Click on an image to play video

Judy Thorburn - The Flick ChickThe Flick Chick

Judy Thorburn
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GOING DIGITAL, WITH AN EMPHASIS ON 3D, WAS THE HOT TOPIC AT SHOWEST 2008


For four full days, March 10 – 13 Bally’s and Paris Hotel in Las Vegas, played host to the 2008 edition of ShoWest, the official NATO (National Association of Theatre Owners) convention/trade show, the largest annual convention for the motion picture industry. Every year, over 5,000  industry professionals including theatre owners and operators from more than 56 countries gather in Las Vegas to network, communicate, take advantage of educational seminars, find out about the latest products and services, the newest technologies, industry happenings and get a sneak peak at the most highly anticipated upcoming films from the major motion picture studios and distributors in the form of trailers. In addition, delegates are invited to advance screenings of several full length films slated to be released in the coming months. As an entertainment reporter and film critic, there was no way I was going to miss this event, which was my seventh year covering ShoWest.

For attending delegates, the most exciting highlight is the in person appearances of several acclaimed filmmakers and movie stars who are given awards and honored for their career achievement and impact at the box office. But, missing from this year’s ShoWest were informal panel discussions with stars and filmmakers and the afternoon fun and swag filled Schmooze-A-Rama networking event where reps from major studios in designated booths connect with their co-partners, the theatre operators in hopes of promoting their next box office blockbuster.

As with every ShoWest event, the daily schedule included networking breakfasts, luncheons, panel discussions with film executives, and dinner receptions. One of the topics that continues to be discussed is the ongoing efforts to fight and eliminate piracy, movie content theft that takes an amazing amount of business away from theatres through black market DVD’s and the internet. Ninety per cent of stolen product comes from illegal recordings in the theatre. Even though laws have been passed in Congress, it must be enforced on local levels by having theatre managers fight it with reward programs for employees who track and stop people from recording in the theatre.

The other hot topic discussed is the transition from analog to digital cinema with the emphasis on 3D that pulls in and immerses the audience into the movie experience like nothing else. On another positive note, digital and 3D technology makes it harder to pirate. Studio execs from Paramount, Disney, 20th Century Fox, and DreamWorks spoke about the production of a large number of 3D releases in the coming year and beyond. Describing the promise of the next generation of 3D, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Chairman of DreamWorks Animation stated “2009 marks the beginning of the next generation of 3D with a release of not less than ten 3D films.” With that in mind, he showed an exclusive sneak preview of DreamWork’s animated MONSTERS VS. ALIENS presented in Read D 3D. The studio executives all agreed that 3D is the wave of the future and that there is a virtual tidal wave of 3D content on the way. Customers are willing to pay more for the premium 3D experience in the theatre that is far superior to anything in the home. The results speak for themselves.

Jeffrey Katzenberg and Mike Myers
Jeffrey Katzenberg with Mike Myers

Photo credit: Stephen Thorburn

Monday was International Day which meant the focus was on the growth of cinema on an international basis. Australia, Russia, India, China, and Viet Nam were talked about as growing markets during the day’s seminars and one of the challenges is how to catch the international marketplace up on digital cinema and getting them to invest in 3D technology.

During the International Day Luncheon the following awards were presented: International Exhibitor of the Year: The Greater Union Organization, the largest cinema exhibition company in Australia, accepted by Ross Entwhistle; The ShoWest Digital Cinema Award for Excellence in Marketing: presented to Joost Bert of Kinepolis for the “Kiss” campaign, that utilized commercials on TV and in theatres based on kisses to send the message of Kinepolis theatres embracing digital cinema and the 3D experience.

The International Achievement Award in Filmmaking was presented to the writer/director Sergi Bodrov, of Academy Award nominated film MONGOL (to be screened as part of the Evening’s Showcase of Independent Films. Before introducing Bodrov, Bob Burney from PictureHouse stated that the filmmaker is “known for his humanistic perspective and craftsmanship”. Upon receiving his award, Bodrov joked about knowing the result of this ceremony, unlike being nominated at the Oscar and waiting to hear if you are the winner or not. On a more serious note, he went on to say, “In making Mongol over 600 people including the stars and background extras were used on screen. Four translators were needed. Filmmaking lasted 25 weeks which I divided into 2 segments, but I spent four years of my life working on the film.”

Sergei Bodrov - International Achievement Award in Filmmaking
Sergei Bodrov - ShoWest 2008

Photo credit: Stephen Thorburn

Monday night was “An Evening of Independent Films” presented in the Cinemark Orleans Theatre located west of the Las Vegas Strip. The showcase included a sumptuous buffet reception in the lobby and 6 and 9 pm screenings of six films: Picturehouse’s MONGOL about Ghengis Khan’s rise to power; THINKfilm’s THEN SHE FOUND ME starring Helen Hunt, recipient of ShoWest’s Breakthrough Director of the Year Award for this film that marks her directorial debut; Sony Picture Classics’ RED BELT, Liongates THE LUCKY ONES, Paramount Vantage’s SON OF RAMBOW; and Warner Independent Pictures “TOWELHEAD”.

Mongol - costumed models and poster
Mongol - costumed models and poster

Photo credit: Stephen Thorburn

Other preview screenings included Focus Feature’s “HAMLET 2”, an irreverent comedy starring Steve Coogan (who appeared in person and introduced the film) as a failed actor, turned-worse high school drama teacher who rallies his Tucson, AZ students as he conceives and stages a politically incorrect musical sequel to Shakespeare’s Hamlet; and DreamWorks Animation’s KUNG FU PANDA starring the voices of Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, Jackie Chan, Lucy Lui, Ian MacShane, David Cross and Seth Rogan. As a special bonus treat, Mike Myers and Jessica Alba made an unexpected surprise appearance before the screening to introduce a clip from their upcoming comedy spoof “THE LOVE GURU” which opens June 20. Other full length preview screenings were the first live action film to be shot and released entirely in digital 3-D - New Line Cinema’s JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH 3-D” (in release July 11) starring Brendan Fraser who along with his co-star, newcomer, Anita Briem, introduced the film and a special midnight screening of WHAT HAPPENS IN VEGAS starring Cameron Diaz and Ashton Kutcher.

Steve Coogan - star of 'Hamlet 2"
Steve Coogan - star of 'Hamlet 2

Photo credit: Stephen Thorburn

Jessica Alba and Mike Myers
Jessica Alba and Mike Myers - ShoWest 2008

Photo credit: Stephen Thorburn

Anita Briem - co-star of 'Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D'
Anita Briem - co-star of 'Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D'

Photo credit: Stephen Thorburn

Wednesday night was the Red Carpet Premiere of Sony Pictures’ “21”, an action adventure based on the true story of the brightest young minds in the country and how they took Vegas for millions. The “21” premiere was followed by an amazing after party at Planet Hollywood. In attendance were the stars of the film including Jim Sturgess, Kevin Spacey, Kate Bosworth, Liza LaPira, Sam Golzari, and Laurence Fishburne, the first ever recipients of the ShoWest Ensemble Award. “21” opens nationwide on March 28.

From left; Director Robert Luketic, with cast of 21 - Kevin Spacey, Kate Bosworth, Jim Sturgess, and Lawrence Fishburne
Cast of 21 - Robert Luketic, Kevin Spacey, Kate Bosworth, Jim Sturgess, and Lawrence Fishburne

Photo credit: Stephen Thorburn

Lisa LaPira
Lisa LaPira - ShoWest 2008 - Photo credit: Judy Eddy

Photo credit: Judy Eddy

Sam Golzari
Sam Golzari - 21 - ShoWest 2008

Photo credit: Judy Eddy

Kevin Spacey - co-star of '21'
Kevin Spacey - co-star of '21' - ShoWest 2008

Photo credit: Judy Eddy

Kate Bosworth - co-star of '21'
Kate Bosworth - co-star of '21' - ShoWest 2008

Photo credit: Judy Eddy

Lawrence Fishburne and wife, actress Gina Torres - inside '21' party at Planet Hollywood
Lawrence Fishburne and Gina Torres - '21' party at Planet Hollywood -ShoWest 2008

Photo credit: Stephen Thorburn

Tuesday was considered Opening Day and started with a morning salute to the $100 Million Films of 2007 which proved to be a great year for animation. Twenty eight films grossed $100 million dollars or more. They included RATTATOUILLE, BEE MOVIE, SHREK 3 and TRANSFORMERS, among others.

Tuesday’s luncheon celebrated “The Importance of Independent and Specialty Film in Today’s Marketplace”. The fact is that twenty out of thirty Oscar nominated films in 2007 were independent and hailed as being edgy, groundbreaking and evocative. Awards were presented in the following categories for their significant impact in the industry. The first ever ShoWest/NATO Freedom of Expression Award went to director/producer Ang Lee and screenwriter/producer and Focus Features CEO James Schamus for generating over $800 million worldwide with their movies including $100 million from 2007’s Brokeback Mountain. “I feel like I am connected to the world with the making of these films”, said Lee.

Ang Lee
Ang Lee - ShoWest 2008

Photo credit: Stephen Thorburn

screenwriter/producer and Focus Features CEO James Schamus
screenwriter/producer and Focus Features CEO James Schamus

Photo credit: Stephen Thorburn

The Visionary Award was presented to actor/producer/director Robert Redford, who was recognized for his passion and accomplishments and for helping to shape the cinema experience like no one else with the establishment of his Sundance Film Festival, Institute, Cinemas and Sundance Channels. Through Sundance people have emulated the ideas he has established. Paul Richardson, head of Sundance cinemas spoke about Redford before introducing him to the stage. “Through the generosity of his spirit, Redford gives back in a lot of ways that are really meaningful to our industry. The significance of his Sundance program and labs has produced a constant stream of new and important filmmakers. Quentin Tarantino and Wes Anderson are just two of the directors who came out of this lab. The mission of Sundance is to support immerging filmmakers and Redford puts his money where his mouth is. The Sundance Institute is an opportunity where new artists can begin to work and develop compelling stories that are featured in Sundance Cinemas and the Sundance Channel.”

Robert Redford - Visionary Award
Robert Redford - ShoWest 2008

Photo credit: Stephen Thorburn

Redford appeared humbled stating, “The first thing I want to say is, Are you sure you got the right guy? I was sitting in a restaurant when someone staring at me finally said, “I like your salad dressing” (obviously mistaking him for Paul Newman). On a more serious note Redford went on, “Sundance is for artists, the audience and discovery. I believe the public craves new voices. As for thinking I am anti-Hollywood, that is not what Sundance is about. I want to do more independent films within the mainstream. What I saw in 1980 was something that was to change the landscape of film; the advent of video. I created Sundance in the mountains of Utah to preserve what would be lost. I wanted to put something back in an industry that was good to me, not take away from it, but to add and to continue to build a market with new works.”

Breakthrough Director Award was given to actress Helen Hunt for her directorial debut of AND THEN SHE FOUND ME in which she also stars as a woman who embarks on a life changing journey of self discovery after connecting with her biological mother played by Bette Midler. “As daughter of a director, what this means for me is a very personal honor. When I was younger I made all kinds of independent features. To be honored as a director besides those others (who were also given awards)…….I have wanted to work besides every one of them. Thank you so much for embracing my movie and giving me this honor”, Hunt stately humbly.

Helen Hunt - Breakthrough Director Award
Helen Hunt - ShoWest 2008

Photo credit: Stephen Thorburn

ShoWest Award of Excellence in Filmmaking recipient was writer/director David Mamet whose latest work can be seen in Sony Pictures Classics REDBELT set in the west side Los Angeles fight world.

David Mamet - ShoWest Award of Excellence in Filmmaking
David Mamet - ShoWest 2008

Photo credit: Stephen Thorburn

The final award at the luncheon, Groundbreaking Filmmaker of 2008, was presented to Alan Ball writer/director of American Beauty and creator of HBO’s Six Feet Under, who has changed the way we look at life in suburbia. He is a filmmaker that always takes chances. His latest effort is the Independent film TOWELHEAD which was also screened during the Showcase of Independent Films. Ball was thrilled by this tremendous honor and thanked everyone responsible, the studio and theatre owners.

Alan Ball - Groundbreaking Filmmaker of 2008
Alan Ball - ShoWest 2008

Photo credit: Stephen Thorburn

When it came to teasers there was plenty on the roster. Wednesday morning Summit Entertainment invited attendees to an exclusive presentation of highlights from its upcoming animated release FLY ME TO THE MOON presented in Dolby 3D Digital Cinema. On Thursday morning Universal Pictures presented a showcase of footage from their upcoming releases. Clips were shown from the R rated comedy “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” (opening April 21); BABY MAMA, a female driven buddy comedy starring Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and Steve Martin (opening April 28); THE INCREDIBLE HULK starring Edward Norton and Liv Tyler (opening June 13), based on the Marvel comics character); WANTED starring Angelina Jolie, James MacAvoy and Morgan Freeman about a fraternity of assassins (opening June 27); HELLBOY 2 – THE GOLDEN ARMY; MAMMA MIA! the highly anticipated big screen version of the acclaimed Broadway musical based on the music of ABBA, that stars Meryl Streep, Colin Firth, Pierce Brosnan and Julie Walters; and THE MUMMY-TOMB OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR”, the third installment of the franchise starring Brendan Fraser (opening August 1).

Thursday afternoon, Warner Bros, which claims to be the most successful studio in the world and in 2007 grossed a whopping $2.2 billion at he box office, presented its hot summer slate with “The Big Picture ‘08” that featured advance footage – some never before seen - from SPEED RACER, GET SMART, THE DARK KNIGHT (follow up to Batman Begins), THE SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELING PANTS 2, AND STAR WARS; THE CLONE WARS. In addition, talent from both sides of the camera such as stars Christian Bale, Alexis Bledel, Steve Carell, America Ferrera, Matthew Fox, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Anne Hathaway, Emile Hirsch, Christina Ricci, directors Sanaa Hamri, George Lucas and Peter Segal and producer Joel Silver were on hand to present their titles as well as meet with the press beforehand for a red carpet Q and A. I had the chance to chat with several of the actors and directors.

Click on an image to play video interviews

Without a doubt, the icing on the cake is the annual Final Night Awards Ceremonies and Banquet. Back once again to co-host the gala affair was Nancy O’Dell and Billy Bush from TV’s Access Hollywood who do an excellent job as emcees and presenters. Unfortunately, I have to say that many of the recipients decided to forgo a brief session of expected Q& A’s with the press before entering the banquet. Only after waiting hours were we were finally given notice that several were a no show in the press room. When I first started covering ShoWest, seven years ago, all the stars were happy to meet the press, eager to chat, and were very accommodating. Not so anymore, as dissing the waiting media has become the norm.

Nevertheless, when it came to accepting their award at the gala banquet all the recipients made it to the ballroom stage. The following is the list of awards, their recipients and quotes from most of the acceptance speeches.

2008 Comedy Star of the Year- Seth Rogan who will appear in the upcoming comedy PINEAPPLE EXPRESS that opens on August 8. Rogan joked, “It is the first award that I have won that I didn’t have to beat anyone. I want to than other nominees, Jack Black and others (kiddingly). I guess it wasn’t your year.”

Comedy Star of the Year - Seth Rogen
Comedy Star of the Year - Seth Rogen - ShoWest 2008

Photo credit: Stephen Thorburn

Seth Rogen
Seth Rogen - Comedy Star of the Year - ShoWest 2008 - Photo credit: Jill Badzinski

Photo credit: Jill Badzinski

Male Star of Tomorrow- Emile Hirsch, star of last year’s Into the Wild and upcoming live action, high action, family adventure SPEED RACER (opening May 9) received the award on the day that happened to be his 23rd birthday (March 13). What a great birthday present! When handed the award Hirsch stated, “I know how many wonderful actors out there don’t get the recognition and I hope in the years ahead I live up to what this says.”

Male Star of Tomorrow - Emile Hirsch
Male Star of Tomorrow - Emile Hirsch - ShoWest 2008

Photo credit: Stephen Thorburn

Emile Hirsch
Emile Hirsch - Male Star of Tomorrow - ShoWest 2008 - Photo credit: Jill Badzinski

Photo credit: Jill Badzinski

Female Star of Tomorrow – Abigail Breslin. The pre-teen actress started acting at the age of five and with an admirable film resume already under her belt will star in the soon to be released NIM’S ISLAND opposite Jodie Foster who was seated next to her at the Awards Banquet. Looking adorable in a party dress and black knee high boots, Abigail accepted the award saying, “Oh my gosh, this is really cool. I am so excited. I am encouraged by this award and will try to do my best with every role I get.”

Female Star of Tomorrow - Abigail Breslin
Female Star of Tomorrow - Abigail Breslin - ShoWest 2008

Photo credit: Stephen Thorburn

Abigail Breslin
Abigail Breslin - Female Star of Tomorrow - ShoWest 2008 - Photo credit: Jill Badzinski

Photo credit: Jill Badzinski

Jodie Foster and Abigail Breslin
Jodie Foster and Abigail Breslin - ShoWest 2008

Photo credit: Judy Eddy

The Ensemble Award went to the cast of “21”, a film that showcases Las Vegas. Appearing on stage to accept the honor was Jim Sturgess, Kate Bosworth and Laurence Fishburne.

Lawrence Fishburne, Kate Boswell and Jim Sturgess - Ensemble cast of 21
Lawrence Fishburne, Kate Boswell and Jim Sturgess - Ensemble cast of 21 - ShoWest 2008

Photo credit: Stephen Thorburn

Lawrence Fishburne, Kate Boswell
Lawrence Fishburne and Kate Boswell - '21' - Ensemble Cast Award m- ShoWest 2008 - Photo credit: Jill Badzinski

Photo credit: Jill Badzinski

Kevin Spacey
Kevin Spacey - '21' - Ensemble Cast Award - ShoWest 2008 - Photo credit: Jill Badzinski

Photo credit: Jill Badzinski

Jim Sturgess
Jim Sturgess - '21' - Ensemble Cast Award - ShoWest 2008 - Photo credit: Jill Badzinski

Photo credit: Jill Badzinski

Distinguished Decade of Achievement Award – Brendan Fraser who stars in two upcoming films, JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH 3 D, and THE MUMMY – TOMB OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR. “It has been a diverse and interesting ride. This means a lot to me. It really does. I’ve learned a great deal and (jokingly) have spent a great deal of time giving this (the award) out (to others).”

Brendan Fraser - Distinguished Decade of Achievement Award
Brendan Fraser - Distinguished Decade of Achievement Award - ShoWest 2008

Photo credit: Stephen Thorburn

Brendan Fraser
Brendan Fraser - Distinguished Decade of Achievement Award - ShoWest 2008 - Photo credit: Jill Badzinski
Brendan Fraser - Distinguished Decade of Achievement Award - ShoWest 2008 - Photo credit: Jill Badzinski
Photo credit: Jill Badzinski

Director of the Year - Christopher Nolan, one of the most talented directors working today, whose films consistently garner both critical acclaim and box office success. “I am grateful to actors I’ve worked with and longtime producer/wife Emma Thomas. Thank you to everyone who helped make my films.”

Christopher Nolan - Director of the Year
Christopher Nolan - Director of the Year - ShoWest 2008 - Photo credit: Jill Badzinski

Photo credit: Jill Badzinski

Vanguard Award – Sarah Jessica Parker; star of the upcoming big screen adaptation of SEX AND THE CITY that continues the story of four female buddies four years after the series ended. “I am extremely flattered and have worked with so many people who meet the criteria (for this award) far more than I do, like writer/director Michael Patrick King.”

Sarah Jessica Parker - Vanguard Award
Sarah Jessica Parker - Vanguard Award - ShoWest 2008

Photo credit: Stephen Thorburn

Sarah Jessica Parker
Sarah Jessica Parker - Vanguard Award - ShoWest 2008 - Photo Credit: Jill Badzinski

Photo credit: Jill Badzinski

Producer of the Year – Charles Roven, for a resume that includes such notable films as 12 Monkeys, City of Angels, Batman Begins, 3 Kings and 2008’s The Bank Job, THE DARK KNIGHT, and GET SMART. “I’ve had a twelve year collaboration with Warner Bros. to make the best that can be artistically. I want to thank the actors and directors I have worked with for making my movie making experience and hard work so fulfilling.”

Charles Roven - Producer of the Year
Charles Roven - Producer of the Year - ShoWest 2008

Photo credit: Stephen Thorburn

Male Star of the Year – Robert Downey Jr. When introducing the actor, O’Dell said Downey “has the knack for gifted faking”. He brings honesty and depth to each role he has played and evokes only the truest emotions”. He will soon be seen as the star of Paramount’s IRON MAN, the big screen adaptation of Marvel Comic's legendary super hero. The movie which opens on May 2, co-stars Gwyneth Paltrow, Jeff Bridges and Terrance Howard. After seeing clips from his career that were shown on the huge screens on both side of the stage, Downey noticed something was missing and poking fun at himself he remarked, “A whole year I made guest spots on Court TV”.

Robert Downey Jr. - Male Star of the Year
Robert Downey Jr. - Male Star of the Year - ShoWest 2008

Photo credit: Judy Eddy

Robert Downey Jr.
Robert Downey Jr - Male Star of the Year - ShoWest 2008 - Photo credit: Jill Badzinski

Photo credit: Jill Badzinski

Female Star of the Year – Anne Hathaway, starring as Agent 99 opposite Steve Carell in the upcoming comedy, based on the 1960’s era TV series of the same name, GET SMART: “I’m humbled and overwhelmed for this distinction. I love being a storyteller”.

Anne Hathaway - Female Star of the Year
Anne Hathaway - Female Star of the Year - ShoWest 2008

Photo credit: Judy Eddy

Anne Hathaway
Anne Hathaway - Female Star of the Year - ShoWest 2008 - Photo credit: Jill Badzinski

Photo credit: Jill Badzinski

What I continually get from attending ShoWest every year is that even though we may be in an economic recession, the movie going experience ranks as the most affordable form of entertainment outside of the home. In 2007 there was a 5% increase in ticket prices to keep up with inflation but it didn’t stop people from going to the movies. It was a record year at the box office as receipts climbed 5.4% to $9.6 billion accompanied by a slight growth in admissions. With all the latest innovations and technology along with comfortable stadium seating that enhances the on screen story telling, the movie going experience is only getting bigger and better.

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