CinemaCon Kicks Off With New Name, Chris Dodd, and a Lotta Movies

With the film business off nearly 20%, theater owners will come to Las Vegas looking for a cure for what ails the industry

CinemaCon kicks off Monday at Caesar's Palace, offering theater owners a look at the summer tentpole films they hope will shake off the box-office famine currently roiling the industry.

From “Thor” to “Kung Fu Panda 2” to “Cowboys & Aliens,” attendees at the annual Las Vegas convention will get a look at the coming blockbuster oasis.

Indeed, so astounding is the sheer number of comic-book adaptations and animated films, that TheWrap previously likened the summer of 2011 to a traffic gridlock.

And it can’t come soon enough.

Overall, the box office is down nearly 20 percent from the same point last year. That comes after nearly four years of sustained growth.

So alarming has the problem been that many theater chains, among them AMC Theaters and Regal, are diving into the distribution game. That means that studios will face a tough crowd during the four-day desert fete.

Their mission: convince theater owners they, and they alone, have the cure.

As for the show itself, gone is the old moniker ShoWest, replaced with a more youth-skewing name CinemaCon — an apparent nod to ComicCon and the superhero-saturated film landscape.

The decision to abandon the 36-year-old name was made by the convention’s new producers, the National Association of Theater Owners (NATO). Previous shows were produced by the Sunshine Group, which sold the rights to private equity firm, e5 Global Media, in 2010. 

All told, the organization says that 6,000 are expected to attend. 

In addition to the rechristening, CinemaCon will feature a coming-out party of sorts for freshly minted MPAA chief Chris Dodd. The former Connecticut Senator will co-deliver the convention’s keynote address with NATO president & CEO John Fithian on Tuesday. It marks Dodd's first address before his new constituents.

One thing that won’t be lacking at this year’s event is star power.

No doubt to ensure a healthy Hollywood presence, the convention’s backers are liberally handing out awards to everyone from Helen Mirren to Vin Diesel in hard hitting categories such as “Breakthrough Star of Tomorrow” and “Action Star of the Year.”

Aside from the awards fest, convention runners are touting a "new show, new venue, and new experience."

Given the current box office doldrums, theater chain owners would probably just settle for a new product. 

Keep checking back with TheWrap for all your CinemaCon coverage throughout the week.