Axios Pro Exclusive Content

Studios ramp up attack on digital piracy and other CinemaCon takeaways

headshot
Apr 11, 2024
Andrew Cripps, President, International Distribution, Warner Bros. Studios, Jeff Goldstein, EVP, Domestic Theatrical Distribution, Warner Bros. Pictures, Pamela Abdy, Co-Chairperson & CEO, Warner Bros. Film Group and Michael De Luca, Chairperson & CEO, Warner Bros. Film Group, speak onstage.

(From left) Warner Bros. studio executives Andrew Cripps, Jeff Goldstein, Pamela Abdy and Michael De Lucas peak onstage during Warner Bros.' CinemaCon presentation in Las Vegas on April 9. Photo: Jerod Harris/Getty Images for CinemaCon.

CinemaCon walked a tightrope this week between touting movie theaters' resilience and acknowledging the industry's many threats.

Why it matters: That uncertain outlook has turned the annual gathering in Las Vegas into more of a rallying cry than in years past.

Ahead of the final day that includes presentations from Paramount and Disney, here were some of the highlights:

Studios are ramping up their fight against digital piracy

  • Charles Rivkin, CEO of the Motion Picture Association, said he's working with Congress to enact laws that block websites with pirated content.
  • A similar effort in 2011 failed because of free speech concerns and pushback from Silicon Valley.
  • "People are worried that legitimate sites will somehow be removed if illegitimate sites are attacked, and that's just not true. It's a court order with a very specific and narrow focus," he said during a press conference with the media on Tuesday.

Studios and theaters may need some couples counseling

  • The relationship between the two was a frequent topic this week.
  • From the studio perspective, theaters could do more to promote upcoming releases, says Disney's Cathleen Taff.
  • "You guys need to work with us on partnering to market those films, because it's much harder," she said during an industry "Think Tank" panel alongside AMC CEO Adam Aron.
  • From the theater perspective, executives expressed a desire for studios and distributors to be more transparent about their rollout plans.
  • During a separate panel on mid-budget films, B&B Theatres' Brock Bagby said he often doesn't know until very late when a film playing in his theaters will be available on streaming.

Everyone is already kind of throwing in the towel on 2024

  • Throughout the week, there was a resignation that this year's box office would be a step back. Aron lamented that last year's strikes "assured us of another very tough year in 2024."
  • But Aron, as well as many other studio and theater execs, indicated this week that they are far more bullish on 2025 and beyond.
  • "This is the first time that I think, in the years coming — not '24 but 2025, 2026 — I think our industry is going to be healthy and robust and strong again."

💭 Tim's thought bubble: This was my first CinemaCon — a status that made fellow attendees and studio executives nostalgic for their own first times — and the most important tip I learned was to force myself to go outside. Otherwise, I wouldn't see the sun for days.

Zoom in: The studio presentations bore an uncanny resemblance to the TV upfronts, complete with trailers, awkward executive-talent banter and some Hollywood showmanship (as you can see in the photo above).

Go deeper