ShoWest Relaunches as CinemaCon, With First-of-Its-Kind Projection Booth at Caesars

By Alesandra Dubin March 30, 2011, 2:30 PM EDT

Photo: Ryan Miller/Capture Imaging

The worldwide motion picture theater industry is taking over Caesars Palace from Monday to Thursday for the inaugural CinemaCon, the official convention of the trade organization known as the National Association of Theatre Owners. More than 6,000 industry pros from around the world are gathering for the event, which replaces the ShoWest conference. The CinemaCon schedule includes studio presentations and screenings, sponsored food events, seminars, and a theater-industry trade show floor. And to conclude the festivities, on Thursday the Coca-Cola Company will host the CinemaCon Big Screen Achievement Awards for stars and filmmakers.

CinemaCon managing director Mitch Neuhauser explained that the decades-old ShoWest had been run as a profit-driven event, and the association's ownership means the trade group is better able to control the pricing and bring more value to attendees. Thus the rebranding as CinemaCon was born. “When you undertake something like this, the most noticeable change you can have is the location,” Neuhauser said. “The idea was new beginning, fresh start, change, so we've moved over to Caesars Palace [from Bally's and Paris Las Vegas], which offered some exciting new opportunities.” Among those is a conference center that allows for a self-contained trade show, food functions, and ancillary meeting space.

“Our show lives or dies by the presentations that our friends in Hollywood come in to make,” Neuhauser said. “Previously, the group was split up into two theaters. While at Caesars, we're using the Colosseum where headliners perform.” The use of the 4,200-seat theater made for some challenges, however. For instance, the group needed to install a state-of-the-art theater system that could work with all the technologies that exist in the industry.

Early in the planning process, the venue had Céline Dion booked in the theater, but didn't know the details of her set yet. Nevertheless, the group was able to design a projection booth that was installed in the center section of the first mezzanine. “We had to buy out the seats for two performances, take out the seats, so that we could install our projection booth. I will say it's the only booth of its kind ever that showcases 10 digital projectors in one location at the same time and is representative of the four different digital manufacturers,” Neuhauser said. The team worked around Dion's schedule since Wednesday night, and in the end, there were just about 24 hours to set up the booth after the artist's last performance on Saturday night.

In the new venue, the trade show is taking over three floors. “People are going to have to be open minded, get the lay of the land, and embrace it,” Neuhauser said before the show, adding, “We sold out our trade show two months ago. There are 500 exhibitors, and registrations far exceeded initial expectations, more than 3,000 paid registrants.”

In previous years, ShoWest had had an official corporate sponsor, but with CinemaCon being owned by a trade organization, “we need to be politically fair and correct,” Neuhauser said, regarding the choice of sponsor Coca-Cola. “In our industry, there are major manufacturers in the digital projection world. We knew right off the bat we couldn't go after an official corporate sponsor and have one competitive company over the next. We realized that if there was one company that could serve as an official presenting sponsor, it would be the Coca-Cola Company. People respect them. They are there to promote the moviegoing experience.”

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