For the past couple of years, everyone has been telling me, “Mike, you have to go to CinemaCon, it’s just the best.” Like literally strangers off the street, “Come on, man, you have to do it.” (Okay, that second part is not true. I do actually know the people telling me this.) Honestly, I never really understood it. What exactly is CinemaCon supposed to be? Why is it called CinemaCon? If these people all like cinema so much, shouldn’t it be called CinemaPro? (Look, it’s early in the morning as I type this, cut me some slack.)
From what I knew before I came, CinemaCon is a gathering of theater owners from around the United States, who come to Las Vegas for four days, to let movie studios convince them that a particular movie slate should run in their theater. This organization that runs CinemaCon (formerly called ShoWest, the name changed in 2011) is called NATO, which stands for National Association of Theater Owners. Even though I knew this before, it never ceases to amuse me. I wish a rival, evil theater organization would form called The Warsaw Pact. Also, I wish I were in the room when this name was agreed upon, “Hey, this is a great acronym, it’s really catchy. It just rolls of the tongue.” On NATO’s Wikipedia page, it literally says, “NATO (not to be confused with the international military alliance).”
My expectations were there would be a few major theater chains here and they’d listen to a few presentations and clips and movie trailers. (These all start in earnest on Tuesday.) The reality is, every mom and pop theater in the country uses CinemaCon as an excuse to hang out in Las Vegas for a few days. (I mean, why not?) Also, there are “innovators,” who just know they can change the game and save “the theater experience,” if only they can get in front of the right person, which is why they are here. (So far, these people have been the most fascinating to watch schmooze.) So put it this way: Do you remember the local theater manager from when you were in high school? The person who was usually yelling at you for sneaking into rated-R movies? Or, perhaps, you even worked for this person? Now, imagine being in a room with 1000 clones of that person. It’s a little overwhelming.
Las Vegas is very loud, very obnoxious city that millions of people find to be “fun.” I’m staying at the Flamingo, which features a Jimmy Buffett restaurant and, horrifically, sanctioned beer pong.
My main interaction with this hotel came on Sunday evening when I sat down at a blackjack table. The woman working asked to see my identification because she thought there was a chance that I was under 21. Now, I’ve officially reached the age where this does nothing but make me feel good about myself, but it’s still a little unusual since I was born in the 1970s, a fact I mentioned to her when I handed her my driver’s license.
Now, the weird part came when she kept motioning to the t-shirt I was wearing, and kind of mumbling something about high school. (It was kind of loud in the casino and I couldn’t exactly hear what she was saying.) All I remember thinking was, “Why is she talking about high school? Anyway, whatever, life is full of mysteries.” It’s only when I was headed back up to my room, when, I noticed in a mirror what she was talking about, because I was wearing this:
Anyway, yes, I am a student from Ridgemont High School, and I have come to Las Vegas as an underage teen to play black jack and beer pong. Watch out!