More than just Hollywood stars and corporate bigwigs take home awards at ShoWest--managers and employees of local multiplexes also get their due at The Hollywood Reporter Showmanship Awards ceremony. In its 22nd year, the Showmanship Awards recognize local theatres' often extraordinary efforts to draw attention to films and their theatres to sell tickets.
Case in point: the winners of this year's Best Media/Stunts Award--Brent Lynch of one of my local theatres, the Edwards Long Beach Stadium 26 in Long Beach, California. To promote the opening of Black Hawk Down, actual Black Hawk helicopters flew over the theatre and landed in the parking lot. Needless to say, this elaborate stunt generated a lot of media coverage, word-of-mouth and, hence, ticket sales.
But the Showmanship Awards don't just reward flamboyance and--rather literally in the above case--firepower. In fact, the winner of the top award, Best Showmanship, went to Jennifer Plowman of Cinemark Hollywood USA in College Station, Texas for a more low-key but no less creative Spider-Man tie-in promotion. The theatre set up a website linking to the theatres' various promotional partners and numerous contest opportunities. On top of that, for opening weekend the promotional partners set up tables in the theatre lobby as part of the opening weekend festivities. Their efforts also earned them the Best Cross-Promotion Award.
A complete run-down of the other winners, including summaries of their campaigns:
Best Presentation Binder: Jerri Wells, Cinemark Tinseltown 17, Grapevine, TX
The theatre worked with local businesses and community groups to create elaborate Spider-Man-themed in-theatre displays.
Best In-Theatre Display: Kendra Sparrow, Wehrenberg Theatres, Springfield, MO
The theatre lobby was literally transformed into a castle to promote Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.
Best Community Outreach: Reynee Scofield, Regal Avenues 13, Rolling Hills Estates, CA
The theatre worked with the YMCA, schools, day care centers and sponsored birthday parties in conjunction with the release of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius.
Best Use of Newspaper: Dale Hurst, Carmike Cinemas 9, Dalton, GA
The theatre placed Jimmy Neutron-themed quiz contests in newspapers, in whose classified sections the answers were hidden.
Gold Heart Award for Outstanding Philanthropy: Reynee Scofield, Regal Avenues, 13, Rolling Hills Estates, CA
To help promote Jimmy Neutron, the theatre held a coloring contest that tied in with the annual Gold Heart campaign for Variety Children's Charities.
As with every year, most of the studios only made their presence known the entire week at the Schmooze-a-Rama luncheon at the Paris Ballroom. Given that, the general lack of creativity with this year's lot of booths was especially disappointing. Last year, the most buzzed-about displays were those by Universal and Artisan, and each had an enticing gimmick; in the case of the former, a photo-op with scantily clad models to promote The Scorpion King; in the case of the latter, free unlimited beer on tap to promote Van Wilder. And so, the prevailing philosophy this year was to ape both of those angles: pictures with hot women or free alcohol--or, better yet, both.
The indie threw its "2nd Annual ShoWest Kegger," with the beer this time being served
in commemorative Boat Trip cups. (I know; I know; Van Wilder, Boat Trip--same difference, no?)
But not content to rest on its laurels, also prominently featured was the Artisan Bikini Team.
If that wasn't enough, those especially soused on suds could have a photo
of their face superimposed onto the Boat Trip standee.
The Mouse didn't sell out like other companies,
instead keeping with the no-frills approach of the previous year.
On one side of the booth was a Finding Nemo photo-op display;
on the other, a variety of posters and pictures from the
theme park attraction-inspired Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.
The SKG also didn't follow trends as its display, centering around
the upcoming Barry Levinson-directed Ben Stiller/Jack Black starrer Envy,
actually displayed a bit of originality. In the film, Black's character wins fame and fortune
by inventing a spray can pet waste cleaning product called Vapoorizer.
DreamWorks's booth resembled a cheesy infomercial set, full of (empty) Vapoorizer cans,
and one could take a photo "endorsing" the product.
The former USA Films enjoyed its first ShoWest with a fairly modest booth featuring one-sheets
from its most recent releases and a large metal sign with the company logo.
It was all nice, but the real draw had to have been the free champagne.
Fox proper remained curiously absent as the studio's boutique division commandeered
this year's booth--or, should I say, the guys of the Broken Lizard comedy troupe,
who were on hand for photo ops at the Club Dread-themed display.
For a little bit of insurance, though, Searchlight also served free booze in tropical-themed cups,
and joining the Broken Lizard guys for the photo ops were--yes--swimsuit models.
I briefly spoke with the director of the group, Jay Chandrasekhar, and being the View Askew fan that he is,
he pointed out to me the subversive brilliance that was having an official ShoWest press pass with "MoviePoopShoot.com" printed on it. Honestly, I'd never given it a second thought before.
A no-frills set-up for the indie:
trailers for their upcoming releases and programming on its cable network counterpart
played on a monitor as free drinks were served and DVDs of their trailer reel were given out.
The distributor earns points for originality--and generosity--for its Confidence game:
visitors spun a wheel from the Twister board game, and if you landed on blue or green,
you won an actual dollar bill with "Confidence. It's not about the money. It's about the money." stamped on it.
On my first try, I came out empty handed, but later in the hour I returned and won one of those dollars.
The Lion resorted to the photo op with a babe gimmick to push Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde, but with a twist:
the models were considerably more modest than at other places,
wearing conservative business suits--that is, as conservative as pink business suits come.
The color scheme of the booth was in the same garish shade, and while the idea was cute,
it became a bit of an eyesore if you looked at it for an extended period of time.
Given away free at the booth were bottles of OPI nail polish.
The mock "Class of 2003" high school set-up primarily focused on the
upcoming prequel Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd,
but other titles on New Line and Fine Line's slate got token
mentions on pennants that hung from the top of the booth.
And, yes, there was an open bar.
Columbia TriStar took honors for the most boring display:
a mere collection of posters and standees for their upcoming releases,
with a gargantuan poster for Bad Boys II taking center stage.
The studio didn't resort to any of the attention-grabbing gimmicks
because it didn't have to, it being "The Year of The Matrix" and all.
Proving that nothing draws people like simple anticipation for a film,
crowds routinely gathered around the booth's pair of monitors just to
watch the Super Bowl teaser for The Matrix Reloaded,
the trailer for the direct-to-video animated anthology The Animatrix,
and a spot for the elaborate tie-in video game Enter the Matrix--
even long after the supply of free Matrix notepads was exhausted.
The one non-studio exhibitor (aside from the usual Hollywood Reporter Showmanship Awards booth)
was Deluxe Labs, which failed to drum up much attention with its mini putting green;
if you made the shot, you won a golf ball with the Deluxe logo.
More popular at this booth was, not surprisingly, the open bar.
Universal definitely upped the ante as far as photo ops and carrying out a theme.
The featured title was the third installment in the Pie franchise, American Wedding,
and in keeping with the theme there was a huge tiered wedding cake
and various hors d'oeuvres and pastries were available for the taking.
As could be expected, one could have a photo op with a "bride" or "groom,"
but the studio went the extra mile, as there was an entire cast of characters with whom one could pose:
a blond or dark-haired groom (alas, there was only one bride variety), a wacky priest,
a woman in a vinyl (!) police uniform, and a woman in a skimpy robe.
It goes without saying that the lines remained consistently long at this display--
even when the other places were starting the pack-up process--
making Universal this year's Schmooze-a-Rama winner.
The Goodie Bag:
This year's Schmooze-a-Rama goodie bag was actually a very sturdy tan luggage/duffle bag with the United Parcel Service logo. In it were a variety of promotional items, including:
Buena Vista: a Pirates of the Caribbean T-shirt
DreamWorks: a Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas coloring mug
Focus: a 21 Grams T-shirt, packed in a heart shape
A variety of seminars filled out the afternoon schedule: "The State of Film Marketing,""Digital Cinema--Today and Tomorrow" and "Great Promotional Ideas for Movie Exhibitors and Studios." I attended the last one, hosted by the Newspaper Association of America at Bally's Skyview Room 5. No less than thirteen representatives from newspapers across the country described recent successful theatre tie-in promotional campaigns. These ranged from fairly standard ideas, such as drawing and coloring contests; to more sober ideas, such as charity benefit screenings and use of the newspaper in the classroom; to more outré ideas, such as a "Mel sightings" contest in conjunction with the Philadelphia shoot of Signs and in-theatre hula parties where the "grass" skirts were made of newspapers. After each presentation, each speaker drew a business card from those collected by audience members, and winners won a prize from the corresponding speaker's newspaper as well as a large goody bag from the Newspaper Association of America.
After last ShoWest's successful screening of the eventual summer hit Mr. Deeds, Adam Sandler and Sony Pictures returned to unveil their latest, Anger Management, at both the Paris Théâtre des Arts and Bally's Jubilee Theatre. This event, however, was more of a showcase for Revolution Studios, with head Joe Roth using his stage time to push other upcoming releases under their distribution agreement with Sony--but not without first getting in a little dig at his former employer, Disney. After giving shout-outs to the various Revolution employees in attendance and making mention of the Eddie Murphy family comedy Daddy Day Care (whose trailer was played prior to the feature presentation), Martin Brest's long-delayed Ben Affleck-Jennifer Lopez crime comedy Gigli, the Julia Roberts period chick flick Mona Lisa Smile and the live-action Peter Pan (which will be distributed domestically by Universal), Roth introduced the evening's big draw, Sandler. Sandler, whose films I generally do not particularly care for (to put it mildly), gave a profane, unpredictable and downright hilarious speech, at one point playing the audience for fools by introducing Jack Nicholson--only to admit, after some very loud cheers for his Anger co-star, that he "was just fuckin' with ya."
After the screening, it was off to the Paris Champagne Ballroom for the reception. Before entering the room itself, one passed by a table set up just outside where one could claim the Anger Management gift bag, which contained a white logo T-shirt, black logo cap and black logo stress ball. Inside the main room, a DJ spun records (all of the dance club remix variety, including a techno'ed-up take on Corey Hart's '80s relic "Sunglasses at Night"--they'll remix anything nowadays, won't they?) against a striking white wall emblazoned with Sony Pictures Entertainment, Revolution Studios, Columbia Pictures and Screen Gems logos. Patrons seemed more interested in mingling, drinking and eating than dancing, though--particularly eating, though some questionable decisions curtailed that activity to a certain degree. While there were plenty of desserts available, from cakes and various pastries to an attended ice cream bar, those looking for something a little more substantial were out of luck--that is, after the first thirty minutes, which is how long it took for the pan of delicious hibachi chicken skewers to be emptied. Many people waited for it to be refilled, but that was never to happen.
Hanging on the non-logo'ed walls were giant still displays from Sony's release slate for the rest of the year. Some of these images were familiar as they came from their hyped-up summer releases: Bad Boys II, Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle, Daddy Day Care, and S.W.A.T. So, needless to say, the most intriguing displays were for films whose release dates were farther in the distance, namely Tim Burton's fantasy Big Fish, starring Billy Crudup and Ewan McGregor; the Kate Beckinsale vampire action epic Underworld; Jane Campion's erotic thriller In the Cut, starring Meg Ryan and Mark Ruffalo; and Once Upon a Time in Mexico, the long-awaited (and long-ago shot) final installment of Robert Rodriguez's El Mariachi trilogy.
ShoWest's post-10pm programming generally is a rerun of something that had taken place earlier in the evening; for example, a second Finding Nemo screening on Monday night at 10:30pm. However, Miramax made the bold move of scheduling a screening exclusively at 11pm, an hour when surely most convention-goers would rather be doing anything but attending to more business--on top of the fact that this is Vegas, after all. But given all the talk during about enforcing the ratings system and whatnot, the late hour was probably the only way the studio could get away with screening the comedy concert film DysFunktional Family and trotting out its star, Eddie Griffin. Although the turnout was expectedly low (the Paris Théâtre des Arts was maybe 25% capacity at best), that did not faze Griffin, who, instead of just providing an introduction to the film, energetically launched into a characteristically profane and quite hilarious mini-stand-up sets before and after the movie.