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Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The talk of ShowEast: Piracy, digital cinema, hurricanes

ShowEast, the annual trade show for owners of movie theaters on the East Coast, is taking place this week in Orlando...despite the hurricane that blew through on Monday.

Some items:

- John Fithian, head of the National Association of Theater Owners, says that the main reason theatrical box office revenues are down this year is that the movies have been bad. He says some patrons have complained about pre-show advertising, and "we're working with the advertising companies to improve the ad content." On high ticket prices, Fithian says, "we need a better PR effort to explain the value of going to the movies." How about enhancing the value of going to the movies?

- Dan Glickman, head of the Motion Picture Association of America, seems like a different breed of cat than his predecessor, Jack Valenti. For one, he's prodding the industry to see new technologies as positives, not negatives. He tells the Hollywood Reporter: "My admonition to the audience is that we have to look at these new technologies as opportunities, not as swords of Damocles."

Gregg Goldstein's story has some other great stuff, too:

    Glickman said the video iPod, for example, could help people in the film industry fight piracy, as it has in the music industry, by introducing a new revenue stream from legally downloaded content. "But ultimately, I'm not sure what impact it will have. I don't think people will want to watch a 1 1/2- or two-hour movie on something the size of their hand, but it could have value to advertise and promote movies. We're generally encouraging online movies, and there are all sorts of ways of working against piracy," which, Glickman said, is "the biggest threat to our industry."

    As for the future of portable video recording devices, Glickman cited the recently announced studio-funded MovieLab, noting that next month companies will be putting more money into distribution and other technology.

That's be a welcome shift from the mission initially sketched out earlier this year, which was all about fighting piracy.

- On digital cinema, Fithian said this:

    "It needs to be test-marketed in a couple hundred theaters -- don't do it all at once, and more importantly, make data from the tests available to everyone," he said. "We can't go through the fiasco that we did during the digital sound era," he added, noting that a large-scale digital rollout could lead to a nightmarish scenario of many blank screens and disgruntled customers if there were a problem with transmission. While not naming any company, he said, "All (digital) financing plans need to be backed by all studios." He also believes that "competition will be a good thing" among the third-party groups financing digital installation plans.