CinemaCon 2021 Still On; Disney’s Absence In-Person Raises Questions

It’s a requirement this year for all of those attending CinemaCon 2021 to be fully vaccinated against Covid. As such, we hear that the theatrical exhibition-Hollywood studio confab will go on from Aug. 23-26 at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, NV.

This despite news that Disney won’t be sending executives or stars to CinemaCon out of safety from the threat of the looming Delta variant.

“We have the full support of the original nine studios which are attending. Our schedule has not changed. We have great studio participation and the support from exhibition is unwavered. It’s the excitement about gathering to celebrate the moviegoing experience at CinemaCon. It’s been too long,” Mitch Neuhauser, Managing Director of CinemaCon, tells Deadline tonight.

The major studios always keep their presentations close to their vests. Some years have more stars, other years have less stars. Speaking with my distribution sources I hear there will be some stars; they’re not exactly skipping out.

Watch on Deadline

Disney is concerned about the spike in Covid cases in Clark County, NV and they’ve been monitoring the situation in Las Vegas and mulling plans for several weeks. One insider says that they’re making the comfort and safety of their employees and talent a top priority. Disney will screen a movie, which they have traditionally done at previous CinemaCons (i.e. Avengers: Infinity War and Inside Out, among others), and there’s possibly a virtual presentation in store. As an aside, Disney is holding an outdoor world premiere for Jungle Cruise tomorrow at Disneyland; those attending have to either be fully vaccinated or test negative 48 hours prior to attending. Disneyland capacity restrictions were lifted on June 15. The question is whether mask-wearing returns in the near future.

At the same time, Disney’s in-person skipping of CinemaCon comes at a suspicious time as the studio recently celebrated the $219M WW theatrical-day-and-date Disney+ Premier opening of Black Widow. The pic posted the largest second weekend drop for a Disney Marvel Cinematic Universe title at the box office last weekend, and was pirated extensively, with the National Association of Theatre Owners (which hosts CinemaCon) blasting the studio for decimating the theatrical window and Black Widow‘s film revenue-generating potential. While Jungle Cruise is currently the only other title scheduled to go theatrical-day-and-date on Disney+ Premier, there’s a great fear among the industry and exhibition that Disney will continue this radical dynamic window practice as Wall Street goes hog wild for streaming. All of this said, it’s very hard for Disney to walk into CinemaCon’s hub Caesars Palace this year and hold their heads up high if they continue to experiment with the theatrical window, and celebrate it. As of Friday midday, Black Widow looks to drop -60% in weekend 3, which would be among the worst third frame plummets for a Disney MCU title alongside Thor: Dark World and Thor: Ragnarok. 

Of the 1,003 new Covid-19 cases in Nevada yesterday, 881 came from Clark County which houses Las Vegas. Nevada reported 20 deaths, with 17 of those coming from Clark County. Clark County and Nevada remain places with high COVID-19 transmission rates and are on the on the White House’s list of “areas of concern.” 

Florida is also on the White House’s “areas of concern” list. As of yesterday, Florida had 73,199 new Covid-19 cases throughout the state. Orange County which is where Orlando and Disney World are located, posted the highest number of new cases with 5,356 and a new case positivity of 15.6%.

CinemaCon is typically held in April. Last year, the confab canceled in the wake of other conferences pulling the plugging due to the pandemic. In hopes that we’d be beyond Covid, CinemaCon opted to hold this year’s conference in late August.

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