Cinema Expo closes on upswing

Organizers tout upturns in attendance

AMSTERDAM -- After four days of high-profile screenings, receptions themed to promote studio slates and seminars devoted to all things digital, Cinema Expo 2008 wound to a close Thursday with organizers touting upturns in attendance and trade show participation.

Attendance rose more than 6% this year to 1,150 paid registrations.

"We're thrilled with the attendance, and the reason people come here is to check out what's going on in the industry," confab co-managing director Robert Sunshine said. "The industry is changing right now, and that change is digital cinema."

D-cinema also figured big on the confab's large trade show floor, which boasted 210 booths this year, seven more than a year ago.

A strong euro made this year's show particularly affordable, though currency rates also meant that Cinema Expo's U.S. organizers absorbed higher costs in paying for local goods and services with weak American dollars.

Cinema Expo -- owned and operated by a unit of the Nielsen Co., parent of The Hollywood Reporter -- is set to return to its longtime home at the RAI convention center on June 22-25, 2009. Organizers said they didn't expect much impact from a new summer trade show planned for Brussels next year by the International Union of Cinemas, and Hollywood studios have indicated continued support for Cinema Expo.

Cinema Expo's film screenings this year included Warner Bros.' summer tentpole "The Dark Knight," set for a day-and-date bow in most global territories July 18. And the most elaborate dinner event of the week was a reception that Paramount tied to a screening of its August combat comedy "Tropic Thunder," turning a banquet hall into a mist-filled jungle featuring a helicopter, jeeps and hostesses clad in fatigues.

Discussions about d-cinema figured prominently. In Europe, even such core issues as funding and operation remain to be sorted out.

Studios finally have locked down European virtual print fee agreements -- basically arrangements for the majors to help defray much of the $100,000 or so in d-cinema installation costs. It's believed that the closely guarded terms of the regional VPFs are about one-third less generous than what was on offer in the first such deal in the U.S., though scuttlebutt suggests a similar retrenchment in studio largesse there for those arriving late to the VPF party.