Movie theatre owners from across the country and around the globe celebrated a banner year at ShoWest 2002, the 28th annual convention for the motion picture exhibition industry, held March 4-7 at the Bally's and Paris resorts in Las Vegas. The year 2001 was one of rebound for exhibitors after a disastrous Y2K plagued by bankruptcy filings as a direct result of excessive theatre construction. As screen count declined with the closure of obsolete screens, total admissions were steadily on the rise last year; the continued even after the tragedies of September 11, which contrary to some pundits' predictions actually caused an increase in box office revenue and admissions, confirming the importance of cinema--and, by extension, the film exhibition industry--in providing a necessary escape.
For exhibitors, there appears to be no escaping the conversion to digital projection systems, which once again were prominently featured at the convention. While a number of companies touted their technologies in demonstration rooms and displays on the trade show floor, Texas Instruments' DLP Cinema system had the most prominent presence, boasting no less than two high-profile showcases: a screening of MGM's forthcoming Windtalkers; and this year's most buzzed-about event, the premiere of the latest trailer for and eight additional minutes of footage from the hotly anticipated Star Wars: Episode II--Attack of the Clones.
Studio involvement was also stronger this year than in recent years, with two studios holding traditional luncheons to promote their slate of releases: MGM, whose sit-down luncheon after the Windtalkers screening prominently featured Steve "The Crocodile Hunter" Irwin, who has a film due out this summer; and Sony, which held a circus-like lunchtime event for ShoWest's final day. The week's events culminated in the annual star-studded final night awards ceremony and banquet, honoring noteworthy on- and off-camera film talent as determined by the National Association of Theatre Owners.