CinemaCon Chief Says Sony Is Only Hollywood Studio Pulling Out of 2019 Show

Mitch Neuhauser 2 - Getty - H 2019
Ethan Miller/Getty Images for CinemaCon

"Am I upset? No. I can't be upset at a corporate decision. But I can be disappointed for our exhibitor members and our delegates. I think they are missing out on Sony's best slate since 2012," Mitch Neuhauser says.

The show will go on without Sony Pictures.

CinemaCon managing director Mitch Neuhauser on Thursday said that every other major Hollywood studio will participate in this year's edition of CinemaCon, the annual gathering of theaters owners in Las Vegas where film companies parade their slates via lavish, star-studded presentations before exhibitors from around the world, press and entertainment bloggers.

Neuhauser spoke with The Hollywood Reporter shortly after news broke about Sony pulling out of the event, set to run April 1-4 at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. On Tuesday, Sony president of worldwide marketing and distribution Josh Greenstein spoke with Neuhauser about the decision.

"We had a wonderful conversation," recalled Neuhauser. "He said, 'Mitch, this is nothing against CinemaCon. We love CinemaCon. It's just that we're taking a year off. We look to be back in 2020.'"

"Am I upset? No. I can't be upset at a corporate decision. But I can be disappointed for our exhibitor members and our delegates. I think they are missing out on Sony's best slate since 2012," he said. "Our members are welcoming and thirsting for the product they see at the presentations. Just because one studio has made a corporate decision doesn't change the game plan."

The sojourn to Las Vegas can cost a major studio as much as $2 million between show dues, preparing exclusive footage and reels and paying for talent to come to Vegas. In return, it gets a chance to impress theater owners and generate headlines and an avalanche of social media chatter.

CinemaCon — which succeeded ShoWest — is hosted by the National Association of Theatre Owners. Sony's decision to stay back in Los Angeles this year marks the first time that a major studio has not attended since 2012. Universal sat out the first year of CinemaCon in 2011, but quickly returned when the new show was declared a huge success.

Sony hasn't commented on its reason for pulling out. The studio's summer slate is replete with major tentpoles and event pics, including Men in Black International, Spider-Man: Far From Home and Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. One of the highlights of CinemaCon 2018 was when Tarantino and Leonardo DiCaprio joined Sony film chief Tom Rothman onstage to plug their film.

"The presentations showcasing what studios have coming down the pike are incredibly important when the home front is being deluged with a tsunami of product. I'm really proud to say what CinemaCon does is highlight the incredible importance of the theatrical experience and separate us from the pack," said Neuhauser.

The exec said Disney, 20th Century Fox, Warner Bros., Universal and Paramount have all committed to participating. STXfilms and Lionsgate will also return.

One caveat: With the Disney-Fox merger looming, the Fox slate could be folded into Disney's presentation.

In addition to the formal studio presentations inside the Colosseum Theater at Caesars Palace, Amazon Studios and Focus Features have hosted lunch presentations the past two years. Neuhauser said both companies may not do so this year. Focus has yet to fully fill out its upcoming release calendar, while Amazon's film operation is in a transition period. Focus could still have a presence if its pics are touted during Universal's time in the Colosseum.

"We are proud about what CinemaCon brings to the global distribution community," Neuhauser said. "We are respectful and mindful of Sony's decision because Sony has been a great supporter. When something like this happens, we hit the ground running. The support that we've gotten from our friends and colleagues at other distribution companies has been overwhelming. Exhibition is going to go home on April 5 excited and stoked about the product that's going to fuel our industry in 2019 and 2020."