By MICHAEL AUSHENKER | Contributing Writer
CinemaCon, a convention hosted by National Association of Theater Owners (NATO) where studios, media, digital app creators and accessory makers try to wow their most necessary constituents—movie theater owners and operators—saw a robust turn out at Caesar’s Palace Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.
Some 7,000 attendees turned out to witness big stars on stage either promoting new projects or, in the case of longtime Pacific Palisades residents uber-producer Graham King and actress Jamie Lee Curtis, receiving career awards.
At CinemaCon, which ran from April 1 through 4, all of the major studios (except Sony Pictures) hosted presentations touting their fantastic 2018—a year that saw the movie industry break records with $41.1 billion worldwide, $11 billion of it in North America alone—while conveying excitement for their upcoming slate for 2019 and beyond by inviting the filmmakers and celebrities of said films to speak from the stage.
On the first day of CinemaCon at its International Day Lunch and Award Ceremony, the most prestigious career award went to King, the producer of the four-time Academy Award-winner “Bohemian Rhapsody.” The Queen biographical motion picture, which, since its November 2018 release, has broken all box office records for a music-themed biopic, has grossed $900 million worldwide.
“The global success of this film has surpassed beyond what I could ever imagine,” King said of “Bohemian Rhapsody” as he received CinemaCon’s International Filmmaker Award.
During King’s ceremony, the segment charted his unlikely rise in Hollywood from film sales to movie producer, which King credited to one filmmaker—Martin Scorsese, the director on his movies “Gangs of New York” and “The Departed.”
“He taught me so much, and I dedicate my career and certainly this award to him,” King said.
On the convention’s final night—an awards show evening that saw such bona fide legends of the field as Steve Buscemi, Seth Rogen, Charlize Theron, Olivia Wilde, and “Avengers: End Game” directors Anthony and Joe Russo lauded with accolades—Curtis received the CinemaCon Vanguard Award.
The “Halloween” star, who reprised her role as Laurie Strode in the hit David Gordon Green-directed, Danny McBride-scripted 2018 sequel, may be best known to millennials and younger for her role as the mom in the 2004 remake of “Freaky Friday,” which was largely filmed in Curtis’ Pacific Palisades community.
Curtis, whose honor closed the entire ceremony, seemed cannily meta in accepting her trophy.
“I’m the person who stands between you and a drink,” the “Trading Places” and “True Lies” star told the audience with a Cheshire cat smirk. “So, I’m going to take so [expletive] long.”
Also, an author of 12 children’s books, Curtis reminded the audience of exhibitors of her honor back in 1980, when a nascent CinemaCon was still called Show West, the breakout star of John Carpenter’s 1980 slasher-flick classic “Halloween.”
“I was given the Star of Tomorrow Award,” she said, before recalling her mother taking her to see her first film in a movie house—“Oliver,” a movie which mesmerized her as a child—and going on to praise movie theater owners.
“You can not take away the power of the big screen,” she said. “NATO has been there from the beginning.”
Among the celebrities who appeared in person at the studio presentations (held at the hotel’s 4,298-seat Colosseum venue) to promote their latest projects included Palisadian Bill Hader (star and co-creator of the Emmy-winning HBO dark comedy “Barry”), as part of the cast of “It: Chapter 2” appearing at the Warner Bros. presentation, and former Palisadian Dennis Quaid, who plays a grandfather in Universal’s upcoming “A Dog’s Journey,” who brought his own mutt Peaches onto the stage.
When jokingly told that he could not have his canine onstage, Quaid quipped, “That’s OK, she’s working with Scorsese next week anyway.”