by John Fithian, President & CEO, National Association of Theatre Owners
It's our fifth year, and we are thrilled to welcome all of our delegates to the 2015 edition of CinemaCon. Could anyone have imagined five years ago how NATO, CinemaCon, and Caesars Palace would combine to build the most important convention in the world for the theatrical motion picture industry? This week we have delegates from more than 80 countries coming to Las Vegas to celebrate what promises to be one of the best years in the modern history of moviegoing.
The NATO and CinemaCon teams, consisting of staff and dedicated volunteer members, are proud of what we have in store for you. From the exciting studio product presentations to the sold-out trade floor and demonstration suites to the educational programming to the networking and the socializing, you'll have a very busy and productive week.
During the week NATO will be joined by our partners at the Motion Picture Association of America to discuss the state of our business. Yes, 2014 was down a bit at the domestic box office. We'll analyze those numbers to see that it was all about product supply. Already in 2015 we have seen what good product can do, as the box office is up again. And the rest of the year just looks fantastic. The schedule includes good movies in diverse genres, appealing to different demographics, in all 12 months of the year. And the great slate doesn't end in 2015, as 2016 is shaping up very nicely as well.
We can't succeed simply because of good movies, of course. NATO members also have to work hard to ensure that those movies can be experienced in great cinemas. Delegates will be walking the trade floor and demonstration suites, holding meetings and discussions, all in pursuit of a superior cinema experience. We'll be talking about luxury seating, delicious food-and-beverage options, and the best technologies for sight and sound.
Indeed, the importance of technological changes in our industry probably can't be overstated. More than 97 percent of our domestic screens, and more than 90 percent globally, have been converted to digital technologies in the biggest transition in our industry's history. But at CinemaCon we continue to examine cutting-edge technologies to carry our industry into the future. In the previous four years, we were the first to show you high frame rates, laser projection, immersive audio, and utility satellite product transmission. This year CinemaCon is the first non-laboratory venue to bring you high dynamic range. You can experience this exciting technology in the Colosseum during Disney's screening of Inside Out on Wednesday.
We are always proud of the educational component at CinemaCon. This year we're offering important programming on issues as diverse as compliance with federal menu-labeling laws; use of social media; moviegoer retention techniques; immersive sight and sound; interactive cinema; patron payment security; Hispanic moviegoers; independent film; and digital cinema's unintended consequences.
Of course it always comes back to the movies. All the major studios will have exciting product presentations, and we'll screen three feature-length movies, too. We are so grateful to our friends at Disney, Fox, Paramount, Sony, Universal, and Warner Bros. for their support of the show. By closing night on Thursday, there will be no doubt that 2015 and 2016 will be great years indeed!
I'd like to give a shout-out to a few of the individuals whose contributions have been extraordinary. This fifth annual CinemaCon convention would notbe possible without the leadership of NATO Conventions Task Force Co-Chairmen Rob Del Moro, Regal Entertainment Group, and Steve Zuehlke, Cinemark USA, and task force members Bob Bagby, B&B Theatres; Byron Berkley, Foothills Entertainment Co.; John McDonald, AMC Entertainment, Inc., and Jeremy Welman, Cobb Theatres. The Conventions Task Force works closely with NATO's professional convention staff headed by Managing Director Mitch Neuhauser and Associate Director Matt Pollock. A debt of gratitude, too, goes to NATO's Officers-Chairman David Passman, Carmike Cinemas; Vice Chairwoman Amy Miles, Regal Entertainment Group; Secretary George Solomon, Southern Theatres; and Treasurer Byron Berkley, Foothills Entertainment Co.-and all of the Executive Board members, as well as International Committee Chairman Miguel Rivera, Cinépolis, for their unwavering support of the convention. Working together, NATO member volunteers and staff have created a fifth annual CinemaCon convention that will wow you.
Earlier I mentioned the sold-out, cutting-edge trade show that will take place during the convention. The trade show booths and suites are sold and managed by CinemaCon Operations Manager Matt Shapiro. NATO is also grateful to Joe DeMeo of Barco and the International Cinema Technology Association (ICTA), and to Jeff Scudillo of Promotion in Motion and the National Association of Concessionaires (NAC), for their leadership and support in helping Matt design and fill a world-class trade show floor. And don't miss the demonstration suites as well, which are sold out for the first time in convention history.
CinemaCon presents a great place to recognize outstanding NATO member volunteers, when they are surrounded by their industry colleagues and friends. This year, Valmir Fernandes, Cinemark International, will receive the Global Achievement Award in Exhibition; and Bill Campbell, Orpheum Theatres, will receive NATO's Marquee Award. I hope you'll be on hand to see Valmir receive his award at Monday's International Day lunch and Bill receive his award during the Tuesday morning "State of the Industry" session. NATO and CinemaCon are also pleased to recognize John Lundin of Carmike and George Levitt of National Amusements with the CinemaCon Triumph Award on Monday evening, though we are a bit sad that these two fine gentlemen are retiring!
I also mentioned earlier the wonderful education programming offered during the week. Thank you to NATO members Mark Collins, Marcus Theatres; Terry Crawford and Bob Lenihan, AMC Entertainment; Ted Cooper, Regal Entertainment Group; Michael Hagan, B&B Theatres; Rob Lehman, Carmike Cinemas; Mark Mazrimas, Classic Cinemas; Eric Meyniel, Kinepolis; Cameron Mitchell, Vox Cinemas; Amber Stepper, National Amusements; Damian Wardle, Cinemark USA; Tim Richards, Vue; and Jerry Ye, Wanda Cinemas; as well as presenters from NATO's studio and vendor partners, for sharing their knowledge and experience by participating in the educational programming.
Be sure not to miss the Big Screen Achievement Awards show on Thursday evening honoring the best talent in the movie industry today and the Gala Poolside Party, sponsored by our friends at The Coca-Cola Company. Coca-Cola has remained our steadfast and most significant supporting company throughout the five years of our show.
I encourage you to participate to the fullest in the education, business dealing, and fun that CinemaCon 2015 has to offer. Enjoy the show!