Three weeks hence Cinemacon, the annual four-day exhibitor convention held at Ceasar’s Palace in Las Vegas, will kick off. Every year I ask myself, why am I spending $600 or $700 bucks minimum to drive (or fly) to Vegas and stay in a cheesy motel to watch product reels for three days? Answer: Because I’m afraid I might miss a hint of a spark of something special. All it takes is a special clip or two, the right joke, a special appearance by a big-name celebrity…anything that gets the blood rushing. I’m also going because it’ll give me stuff to write about. Not just the convention attractions but the corporate, soul-narcotizing experience of Vegas itself. Not to mention my down-at-the-heels accommodations.
Last year I stayed in a Motel 8 craphouse (I actually described it as a “spartan shitbag” motel) across the Strip from the Mandalay. This year I’ll be in the Howard Johnson Tropicana, which definitely represents a step up. Two nights for roughly $112 or something like that. And it’s only about an 18-block walk to Caesar’s.
A very special thanks and shout-out to Cinemacon honcho and NATO managing director Mitch Neuhauser, whom I worked with 30-odd years ago at The Film Journal, for always taking care of me.
What are the odds of something genuinely head-turning being trailered or previewed at Cinemacon when the average exhibitor’s definition of that term means “ape-friendly”? To me bigger, louder, whoofier and thrompier doesn’t mean cooler — it means harder to sit through, bathroom breaks, nod-offs, daydreams, etc. It means less Catholic, more Philistine. To me and everyone else of any taste or discernment, “exhibition” means movies made for families and kids and odd-looking guys who wear mandals and basketball shorts. Cinemacon is a louche, swanky celebration, but it always reminds you that the ideal movie for most exhibitors (i.e., guys in their late 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s who dress like salesmen and Kiwanis Club types) is one that pleases the dumbest moviegoers in the room…fans of Marvel-DC Comics crap, squat-and-fart comedies, Grand Theft Auto action wankathons, family animation.
It’s not exactly a searing revelation to say that people like myself have been feeling more and more alienated from big-whammo, vibrating-seat, 24-ounce Coke cinema and pretty much resigned to the idea of getting our movie ya-ya’s from streaming, private screenings, elite film festivals, HBO/Showtime/Netflix, Blurays, Cinefamily, the Landmark cinema chain, the Arclight, the Nuart and the Royal, LACMA and MOMA, the Angelika and Sunshine cinemas, etc. The big-chain megaplex isn’t something you want to avoid exactly, but it’s usually the last option on the list.