Some skipped ShowEast

Economy, consolidation hurt attendance, but confab value remains

The theatrical business might be recession-resistant, but it's hardly impervious to economic vagaries.

ShowEast is dominated by mom-and-pop theater owners, in contrast to the larger circuits whose execs predominate at the larger ShoWest convention in Las Vegas in the spring. But if smaller-fry operators are most likely to need the confab's seminars on theater management or demos of digital cinema, they also can be the first to feel the pinch of economic downturns and pull back on expenditures like a four-day trip to Orlando for a trade show.

ShowEast 2008, which wrapped here Thursday, seemed to reflect such realities.

"People have cut back," ShowEast co-managing director Mitch Neuhauser acknowledged. "But we're happy and believe the most important people who need to be here were still here."

Registration fell by about 100 attendees this year, marking a 9% dip from 1,038 a year ago.

It didn't help that Warner Bros. shut its Picturehouse specialty unit and dramatically downsized the New Line division, Neuhauser said. Consolidation also continued in the exhibition industry, with Regal taking over the Consolidated Theatres chain this year.

Booths on the trade show floor were down by 18 to 235, a 9% decline from ShowEast 2007.

Disney's Nov. 21 opener "Bolt" and Universal's Dec. 5 release "Frost/Nixon" were among titles screened by majors. Other screenings spotlighted indie releases like the Weinstein Co.'s "Zack and Miri Make a Porno" (Oct. 31) . (partialdiff)