ShoWest's second of four days was a day of celebration, of looking back on 2009. Again, as they did on the first day -- surely reveling in the news -- industry officials noted that, despite the number of US-produced films being down 12 percent, attendance was up 11 percent and the box office worldwide totaled a staggering $300 billion. Thus, this annual meeting of the National Association of Theater Owners (NATO) provided attendees a lot of reasons to be happy.
Making his last ShoWest appearance as president of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), Dan Glickman expressed optimism about the industry, saying that, with the growing use of 3-D, "I predict the best is yet to come for the box office [because} technology is making it easier for people to enjoy movies in new ways."
And as others said at the meeting, he stated his belief that "the communal, theatrical experience will always be the heart of this business."
The box office and attendance numbers are, of course, directly attributable to the films that were produced. And Adam Fogelson, named six months ago to be chairman of Universal Pictures, led the celebration. He began by admitting he wasn't first choice to do the honors but "James Cameron wasn't available."
Fogelson talked about the changes studios are making in their release schedules, using as a prime example Alice In Wonderland, released just a few weeks ago in late winter instead of the traditional summer or holiday release dates heretofore reserved for the bigger films.
"We're now on a 52-week release schedule," he said. "Couples Retreat was released in October, instead of the usual summer release date of most of Vince Vaughn's movies."
He went on to say that "It's Complicated, a film made by a woman (Nancy Meyers) and targeted to an audience primarily over 90, did very well."
In fact, in 2009, 31 films grossed more than $100 million and, of those, seven were in 3-D. A clip reel was shown and then he unveiled previews for three big Universal pictures out this summer.
First up was the trailer for the Ridley Scott-Russell Crowe collaboration, Robin Hood. Then came a "red band" (hard R-rated) selection of scenes from Get Him To The Greek, the very raunchy film about the efforts to get a rock star from London to the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles. Finally, there were scenes from the animated film Despicable Me, starring Steve Carell as the world's most evil man.
But bits and pieces of films that were big and those expected to be big paled next to the high point of the day, the first outside-the-studio showing of the Disney-Pixar Toy Story 3.
This was preceded by presenting NATO's "Big 10" Award, especially created and given to Pixar. It was accepted by John Lassiter, the company's Chief Creative Officer for producing 10 films that earned a total of $55 billion in worldwide box office receipts and, of those, five were Academy Award winners for Best Animated Film.
Lassiter introduced Toy Story 3. Four years in the making, it will be in 3-D. The print we saw was in 2-D and lacked elements such as credits, but the bones of a very good movie are clearly there.
As for what happens to Woody, Buzz and the others -- well, you'll have to wait and see. The audience was told that if they like the film, they can tweet about it and/or note that on Facebook. But plot details are to be kept secret until it is released in three months.
So, what I will say is that Toy Story 3, the best of the three films in the franchise, was a major highlight of ShoWest 2010. And, if many of the films released this year are up to its standard, it will be a very good year, indeed.