Dick Cook to Be Feted at Inaugural CinemaCon

Former Disney Studio Boss will be honored by the charitable Will Rogers Motion Picture Pioneers group at a gala set for March 30.

Former Disney studio boss Dick Cook will be feted as Pioneer of the Year at the first CinemaCon confab in Las Vegas in March.

Cook left Disney in September 2009 after 38 years with the company. He will be honored by the charitable Will Rogers Motion Picture Pioneers group at a gala set for March 30.

The National Association of Theatre Owners has scheduled CinemaCon to run March 28-March 31 at Caesars Palace. The exhibition symposium and trade show succeeds the former ShoWest confab, which for years was staged in Las Vegas as a linchpin of the studios' summer movie-slate promotions to theater operators.

"From the outset, NATO's main objective for CinemaCon was to create an event about and for the entire industry," NATO chief John Fithian said Thursday. "Our partnership with the Will Rogers Motion Picture Pioneers Foundation demonstrates our commitment to that important goal, [and] the most exciting aspect, of course, is having Dick Cook as the honoree of our first joint effort. Exhibitors have held Dick in the highest regard throughout his illustrious career."

Cook joined Disney in 1970 as a ride operator on the park's steam locomotives and monorail at Disneyland. In 1980, he entered film operations at Disney as assistant domestic sales manager for Buena Vista Distribution.

As studio chairman, Cook oversaw all aspects of the development, production, distribution and marketing of its movie releases; 60 of those during his tenure grossed at least $100 million.

"Dick's career is a great example of the American dream," said Jeff Goldstein, Pioneers president and executive vp distribution at Warner Bros. "Not only did he work for his success, he has helped many individuals along the way."

Previous award recipients include Cecil B. DeMille, Jack Warner, Darryl F. Zanuck, Frank Mancuso, Jack Valenti, Terry Semel, Sumner Redstone, Sherry Lansing, Alan Horn, Jeff Blake, Mike Campbell, Marc Shmuger, David Linde and last year's honoree, Rob Moore.

Proceeds from the annual event are tagged for the Motion Picture Pioneers Assistance Fund, an industry charity that helps needy industry veterans. In recent years, the dinner has been held in Los Angeles.