During the opening International Day Breakfast at CinemaCon 2019 in Las Vegas, Niels Swinkels, executive VP of international distribution at Universal Pictures International, wondered why the annual convention of the National Association of Theatre Owners devotes only one day out of four to the international market. Good question! Markets outside of North America now account for 71% of global box office, so the International Day programming at CinemaCon is more vital and relevant than ever.
Arturo Guillén, VP, movies, India & EMEA at comScore, noted that while the global box office is growing by 4% each year, the rise outside of North America is 6%. He also pointed out the still-untapped potential of movie-mad India, which has a massive 155,000 people per screen. In Western Africa, another region with a thriving movie industry, that figure is 1.2 million per screen. More about Western Africa later.
The International Day luncheon honored five individuals who have made great strides on the international film stage. Mark Viane, president of international theatrical distribution at Paramount Pictures, paid tribute to his colleague Helen Moss, the studio’s senior VP of international distribution and winner of the CinemaCon Passepartout Award. An impressive array of stars (Tom Cruise, Jane Fonda, Jennifer Lawrence, Michelle Pfeiffer, John Krasinski. etc.) praised her leadership in a filmed package, while Viane marveled at her ability to balance the demands of her job with mentorship: “Helen seems to have it all figured out.”
Mark Zoradi, president of the Walt Disney Motion Pictures Group, saluted a “legend, pioneer and trailblazer”: Jérôme Seydoux, chairman and CEO of leading French circuit Les Cinémas Pathé Gaumont, whose strikingly designed cinemas were showcased in a very impressive filmed overview. The veteran exhibitor said, “This honor gives me the opportunity to express my confidence in the future of the exhibition business. Our business has resisted many crises, and it will have to fight many more battles. To succeed in the future, we will need to innovate, we will need to keep investing, we will need to demonstrate to studios, producers, directors and talent that the big screen is better for films. We will also need to prove to Netflix that releasing a movie first in theaters is a plus for them.”
Andrew Cripps, presented the “International Filmmaker of the Year” Award to producer Graham KIng, whose credits include Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York, The Aviator, Hugo and The Departed, Blood Diamond, Traffic, The Town, Argo, Rango, and his most successful film to date, four-time Oscar winner Bohemian Rhapsody. (Altogether, his films have amassed $3.6 billion in global box office.) King said the global success of Bohemian Rhapsody was “beyond anything I imagined,” while citing it as proof that “audiences are still yearning and will still show up for crowd-pleasing, uplifting films that go beyond the blockbuster hits and superhero films… It’s re-energizing to know that we can still bring people together in a theater and tell stories that deserve to be told on that level.”
King dedicated his award to Martin Scorsese, who “taught me so much.” And he called it a “great shame” that Fox, the studio that released Bohemian Rhapsody, has ended its run.
Finally, King quoted the late Freddie Mercury, the subject of Bohemian Rhapsody: “I love the fact that I can make people happy. Even it it’s just an hour of their lives, if I can make them feel good or bring a smile to a sour face, then to me it’s all worthwhile.” “I love that,” King said, “that’s exactly how I feel about producing.”
The lunch ended with a new award: the CinemaCon “Emerging Market Spotlight Award,” presented to the nation of Nigeria. Accepting the honor were Kene Okwuosa, CEO of circuit Filmhouse Cinemas, and Moses Babatope, managing director of FilmOne Distribution and secretary of the Cinema Exhibitors Association of Nigeria. Okwuosa noted that the Nigeria-Ghana-Liberia market has grown 35% each year in recent years, and now has 48 screens, compared to a single screen 15 years ago. “We want you all to see Nigeria for what it is today,” Okwuosa said. “Join us in our journey to our market potential.”