Cuaron caps int'l affair

Address wraps up film lovefest

LAS VEGAS -- Alfonso Cuaron played to the crowd assembled for ShoWest's International Day luncheon Monday afternoon at the Paris hotel. Accepting the convention's prize for international achievement in filmmaking, the director of the Oscar-nominated "Children of Men" reminisced not only about his first kiss -- which took place inside a darkened cinema -- but also about going back every day for two weeks to watch 1975's "Jaws" at a local theater in Madison, Wis.

"I fell in love with movies because I fell in love with movie theaters," Cuaron said.

The speech was an upbeat conclusion to a buoyant presentation, as industry insiders buzzed about the $70 million-plus opening of Warner Bros. Pictures' ancient action epic "300" during the weekend and the strong slate of potential blockbusters poised to roll out during the next few months.

Imax, a co-sponsor of the luncheon along with The Hollywood Reporter corporate sibling Nielsen EDI, boasted about the stellar performance of "300" on its roughly 60 screens in North America. The film grossed about $3.6 million, pulling in a per-screen average of $58,000, a record for the company.

"Imax is becoming the place to see premium movies at a premium price," Imax co-CEO and co-chairman Rich Gelfond said, adding that the company also is moving to embrace digital in much the same way as the rest of the exhibition sector.

On the heels of the morning's International Day seminar called "A Focus on Japan," Walt Disney Motion Pictures Group president Mark Zoradi presented Toho Co. chairman Isao Matsuoka with a lifetime achievement award in recognition of his landmark 50 years with the company.

Zoradi, who described Matsuoka as "integrity personified," introduced a package of video clips featuring well wishes from executives representing virtually every major studio's international division. Among those featured were Buena Vista International's Anthony Marcoly, Paramount Pictures International's Andrew Cripps and Universal Pictures International's David Kosse, whose company recently inked a deal with Toho to distribute the studio's films in Japan.

Some, including Jeff Blake, vice chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment, and chairman, worldwide marketing and distribution, Columbia TriStar Motion Picture Group, even attempted to congratulate Matsuoka in his native Japanese.

However, Matsuoka, who has served as Toho's chairman since 1995, made his brief acceptance speech in English, stating that his goal is to double theater attendance in Japan and that in order to meet that objective, "we need not only Japanese films but also strong American films that will be embraced by Japanese audiences."

Last year, homegrown fare in Japan outgrossed international cinema for the first time in 21 years, Matsuoka said. That domestic boom has benefited Toho, which operates 502 screens in the country and remains active in film distribution and production and real estate.

During the course of its storied 75-year history, Toho has released the films of Akira Kurosawa and those in the long-running "Godzilla" franchise.

David Linde, co-chairman of NBC Universal, presented Cuaron's award, commenting from center stage that the director's creative ascendancy signified the "true, real emergence of global cinema." Linde also pointed out that Cuaron's films, including 2001's "Y Tu Mama Tambien" and 2004's "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban," have grossed more than $800 million worldwide.