Theater Chief John Fithian on MoviePass, Disney-Fox and Trump's Impact on Film

Courtesy of Universal Pictures; Todd Williamson/Getty Images
'Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom' will be among dozens of films teased by studios and indie companies. (Inset: John Fithian)

Ahead of CinemaCon, which kicks off Monday in Las Vegas, the confab's host also touts theatrical exclusivity.

In past years, CinemaCon has been a forum for topics dividing theater owners and Hollywood studios — particularly theatrical windows. But the premium VOD debate will likely take a backseat at the annual moviegoing convention to chatter about the industry's consolidation (i.e., the proposed Disney-Fox merger). Fox has become known for its show-stopping presentations, but it could be taking its final lap around the CinemaCon stage.

A record 11 distributors (Byron Allen's Entertainment Studios will make its debut) will present trailers, footage and a parade of stars, and newly installed MPAA chairman Charles Rivkin will make his inaugural CinemaCon speech. The confab's host, National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) president John Fithian, spoke to THR about the Disney-Fox marriage and whether President Trump is a threat to the film business.

Is the Trump administration good for the exhibition business?

Personal politics aside, I think our members, like all business people, supported the tax cuts. On the other hand, I think the president has shown some inclination of late to blame the entertainment industry for gun violence in America, and that is disconcerting. He seems to be focused on the video game industry right now.

Has his administration called you about movie ratings?

Not yet.

Is MoviePass undermining overall ticket prices with its subscription service that costs just $6.95 a month?

We don't have a position on it, principally because it's a matter of competitive pricing, but we may have more of a response by CinemaCon.

Will NATO oppose the Disney-Fox merger?

No, because it's not the right role for a trade association. But there are a couple of factors to consider: Disney is the strongest protector of the theat­rical window. They make movies for the big screen and almost all their movies have a very good period of exclusivity in cinemas. And they are setting up their own streaming service and will be competing with Netflix. So, on a global scale, Disney getting bigger means broader support for the cinema experience in many ways.

Does the staying power of The Greatest Showman, Black Panther or Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle make an argument for fewer movies?

No, it's an argument for theatrical exclusivity. If you don't give movies a chance in the cinema to be found, you won't ever have a breakout. If the Netflix model were followed, and movies were released simultaneously in the home and in the cinema, then you don't get that room to grow and breathe and be discovered.

This story first appeared in the April 12 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.