The National Association of Theater Owners has decided to delay its annual CinemaCon event from late April to the end of summer, and the next edition will now take place Aug. 23-26, 2021.
CinemaCon happens to be one of my favorite events on the industry calendar, and I greatly enjoy my pilgrimage to Las Vegas each year — not just for gambling purposes, but because it calls for four straight days of watching movie trailers, which my friends and family know is one of my favorite things in the world.
This year’s CinemaCon was cancelled due to the pandemic and the widespread theater closures it forced, and that was a bummer, though millions of people obviously made far greater sacrifices this spring. While I’m both relieved and excited for the confab to make a comeback next year, I also don’t think this delay is an encouraging sign for exhibition and the overall state of the movie business.
To be clear, this is a smart move by NATO, as everyone wants to feel safe sitting in the Colosseum at Caesar’s Palace. Yet it’s also clear that CinemaCon’s organizers aren’t confident April will be the appropriate time for that, and if Hollywood is reluctant to get together next spring, how can it expect general audiences to return to theaters with confidence in time for summer movie season? If there is one!
I’m not saying CinemaCon doesn’t have good reason for the four-month delay. Not only is the coronavirus pandemic continuing to rage on around the world, but the U.S. just saw its highest number of positive tests in a single day (hopefully due to more testing), and many theaters remain closed, or have opened overseas only to re-close due to local spikes in COVID-19. There are also ongoing international travel restrictions and limits on large gatherings, so it’s fair to say that NATO’s hands were tied here for CinemaCon planning purposes.
“With all the travel, logistical, and capacity concerns for the convention, our 7,500 attendees, vendors, and studio distribution partners, we couldn’t guarantee we could present the kind of show the industry expects in April,” said Mitch Neuhauser, managing director of CinemaCon. “In close consultation with our studio and industry partners, we are rescheduling CinemaCon for August, when we think we can put on the kind of showcase we do best, and celebrate the moviegoing experience with the entire industry.”
Note the words “we think.” I’m so used to reading press releases from studios that speak in absolutes that it’s almost refreshing to see someone in the industry admit that everything is just a guess at this point. Pushing CinemaCon back four months buys Hollywood some time, but again, if the theater owners themselves aren’t confident about where we’ll be in late April, we may be looking at our second straight summer without blockbuster movies. And keep in mind that the new (old?) James Bond movie No Time to Die just moved to April 2, 2021.
Maybe it’s time for everyone to do what Disney yesterday in taking Free Guy and Death on the Nile off the calendar entirely. The studio didn’t even bother announcing new dates for either film, and I respect that wait-and-see attitude. I understand why CinemaCon can’t exactly be held on TBD, because it’s not like you have to take a flight and book a hotel room to see a movie (unless it’s Tenet), but I guess I just have to be happy that NATO is planning a 2021 edition of CinemaCon at all. Lord knows there will be no shortage of giant movies to tease!
To watch Perri Nemiroff and Haleigh Foutch talk about the first reactions to the infamous Cats footage that was shared at CinemaCon in 2019, click here.