The primary topic of conversation at ShoWest has been the digital and 3D revolution. Jeffrey Katzenberg's commitment to converting as many theaters as possible to 3D prior to the release of Monsters vs. Aliens was highlighted in Jim Gianopulos's opening remarks. (Incidentally, can anyone think of Gianopulos without reminiscing about Mickey Rourke's ill-fated attempt to thank the Fox honcho during the Spirit Awards?) The K in Dreamworks SKG made a special appearance and participated in a panel on "How to Stay Ahead of the Curve as the Industry Confronts the Future."I can never decided whether to be enthused about this film or not. Any suspicions out there? Seems like a wildcard equation what with Guy Ritchie behind the camera x totally brilliant cast ÷ dusty franchise character = ??? What exactly?
There was a lot of self-congratulating: the success of Monsters vs. Aliens and the industry's proven strength despite the recession were both highlighted. The tone quickly shifted during the panel, as Katzenberg was increasingly pitted against the exhibitors. The undeniable rock star of the event was Cinemark's Lee Roy Mitchell. Mitchell was interrupted three times for applause, primarily over encouraging distributors to help bear the cost of the digital conversion. Mitchell emphasized the importance of giving breaks to small towns in order to encourage digital appreciation in under-served markets.
Most relevant to the Oscar race was the discussion over the importance of programming a 52-week year. As any good Oscar watcher knows, studios relentlessly push their product to late fall. Not only does this limit audience investment in the outcome of the myriad awards bodies, but it leaves cinephiles with limited reasons to frequent the theater during off-peak months. This topic was broached, but with a mainstream focus. Almost all of the exhibitors protested the summer blockbuster glut. Perhaps the success of Monsters last weekend can help shift this paradigm.
Tuesday morning featured a presentation from Alan Horn on Warner Brothers' summer schedule. McG made an appearance to introduce a 5-minute preview of Terminator: Salvation. An extended trailer for upcoming comedy The Hangover surprisingly got huge laughs. Alas, those presentations paled in comparison to a surprise appearance by Robert Downey, Jr. to introduce the first trailer for Sherlock Holmes. The footage looked slightly campier than anticipated, but RDJ and Jude Law had a clearly defined camaraderie and Rachel McAdams provided a great spark.
The most exciting development on Tuesday was the Disney Digital 3D Presentation. The audience was treated to previews of Disney's 3D projects through 2011. This included early artwork for Alice in Wonderland, in which Anne Hathaway looks divine, Tron 2 and G-Force. Disney made a number of exciting announcements. Alongside the release of Cars 2, Pixar will provide "Cars Toons." Cars is my least favorite offering in their oeuvre, but "Tokyo Mater" was endearing. The same model they'll be using for the 3D rereleases of the Toy Story movies will be applied to a 3D release of Beauty and the Beast in February 2010. This is the decision I found most problematic. We were treated to Beauty's opening song in 3D and while it is a novel experience, it seemed redundant.
Er... I'm trying to imagine this with more shadows or something.
The real, treat, however, was ushered in by the arrival of Up director Pete Doctor (Monsters Inc). Pete introduced 47 (!) minutes of footage from the film. The movie looks to continue Pixar's unbeatable cinematic magic streak. The movie played slightly less cerebral and more mainstream than WALL-E, but still featured heavy elements like the death of the main character's wife early on in the proceedings. Pixar's approach to 3D varies quite a bit from the other products that have been previewed thus far. Instead of seeking "wow" moments, the technique is deployed to heighten the spectator's emotional connection to the screen. This includes strategic flattening of images or expansion to grant a scene a more dynamic quality. We were also shown an action sequence at the end of the film that was just as thrilling as those featured in Paramount's G.I. Joe trailer.A little more a little bit later from Rosengje. I wish I could've taken in the Vegas sun (so gray here) with Rosengje and me pal Katey among other film folks... but I'll get a little film-related travelling of my own this month. I'm jurying the Nashville Film Festival in a couple of weeks and will report about that right here. Nicole Kidman has been known to show up at screenings there so wish me luck at spotting the goddess or any star wattage equivalent... not that there's a Kidman equivalent. There's only one!