Illumination’s Chris Meledandri On Big Screen: Without Theatrical, “Notion Of A Movie May Begin To Slip Away” – CinemaCon

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Heading into the opening remarks of CinemaCon on Tuesday morning, Illumination founder and CEO and Despicable Me franchise producer Chris Melendandri gave an impassioned speech about moviegoing and why the big screen is vital. Among his sentiments: Without the big screen, there would be no streaming. The two go hand in-hand, and it’s important for the small screen guys to know that.

Meledandri’s opening remarks (read them in full below) preceded MPAA boss Charles Rivkin’s at the Colosseum Theater here at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.

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It was buzzed that no significant Hollywood heavyweights would dare make the trip to CinemaCon during the pandemic, however, big thumbs up to Melendandri for rallying exhibition in the room, as well as Sony Pictures Motion Picture chairman Tom Rothman and Jason and Ivan Reitman of Ghostbusters: Afterlife for going the distance. Their presence and their words mean the world to an industry shut down for the majority of 2020, and is scrapping by to survive; the 2021 domestic box office only hit $1.9 billion recently, in sync with the running 2020 figure.

CinemaCon managing director Mitch Neuhauser introduced Meledandri to the exhibition Colosseum crowd “as a man who has made you billions of dollars.” Illumination’s Sing 2 opens on December 22 in theaters via Universal.

Here is Melendandri’s speech:

Good morning.

After the loss and pain of a pandemic that still plagues too many communities…

After one of the most challenging times in the history of our industry…

When so many theaters were darkened for so long…

I am grateful that we’re together again…

And I want to say Thank You to NATO, to all of you in this room and those across our industry – for your perseverance and your undying commitment which is bringing the world …Back ..to the movies!

Fifteen years ago, when naming our company Illumination , I recalled:

Sitting in a cinema…as the lights went down..

The projector whirling into gear and shining light through celluloid and like magic, summoning characters and worlds to life.

And while celluloid may be a distant memory, being in a theater is not: Suspending our disbelief, giving ourselves over to the possibilities of the adventure that lies before us, the scale of the screen pulling us into a larger than life experience — a communal experience, shared with family and friends and those who we have never met!

And we discover, yet again, that we laugh harder, feel deeper, and when scared, jump higher when we are all watching together! And, I suspect I can speak for all of us when I say, “Boy, did I miss going to the movies!”

Don’t get me wrong—during the pandemic, our smaller screens have been lifesavers.

We’ve all spent countless hours watching content at home.

We’ve caught up on old movies.

We’ve binged the latest series from around the world.

We got mad at HBO for making us wait a week for the next episode of The White Lotus.

And we did all of this while Texting and Zooming and Instagramming—and often all at once.

But we’re here today—because THERE IS SIMPLY NO OTHER EXPERIENCE IN THE WORLD LIKE GOING TO THE MOVIES!

Last year, the filmmaker Steve McQueen reflected on the majesty of the cinema and the power of the collective experience.

He recalled seeing North by Northwest 20 years ago at the Lumiere, an underground cinema in the center of London.

McQueen said: “Alfred Hitchcock created that film for an audience. He orchestrated their oohs and aahs, when they would lean forward and when they would sit back. This wasn’t about someone on the sofa at home getting distracted by their phone or the doorbell or going to get a drink. The place was full of energy and at the end everyone stood and applauded… That’s what makes it exciting. There is nothing better than witnessing a story with other people. It is a confirmation of humanity.”

Today, we look to the future with our world—our industry—in a time of profound transformation and dislocation.

In the years ahead, we will surely see even more ways to experience content – more devices, more platforms, more services.

But I am here to tell you that a vibrant theatrical business is not only critical for the filmmaking community, for exhibition, for our global cultural heritage and certainly for our audiences….A vibrant theatrical business is important for the streamers as well! For without it, the very notion of a movie may begin to slip away. In this moment of change, our industry cannot rest. All of us—from content creators to exhibition—must challenge ourselves to reach higher, to be better than we ever thought we could be. We must write the next act of our story. And when we truly meet this moment, I am confident that: Just as we have, for more than a century—through good times and bad, peace and war, prosperity AND pandemics…People all over the world will come together…Join with family and friends…And GO TO THE MOVIES.

As long as we seek that shared human experience that only comes in a theater. That light will always flicker and CINEMA WILL PREVAIL! Thank you all very much!

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