CinemaCon Should Take A Lesson From Gaming Trade Shows

I’m pretty sure CinemaCon is trying to kill me, specifically. Among the many reveals were the first shot of Margot Robbie as Barbie, Olivia Wilde’s promise that Don’t Worry Darling will bring back “good movie sex” through a scene between Harry Styles and Florence Pugh, and a John Wick spin-off starring Ana de Armas called Ballerina. I will be considering it an origin story for No Time To Die’s Paloma until further notice. Despite all three of these being enough to stop my heart (what does ‘good movie sex’ mean, Olivia?!), overall it feels like despite showcasing movies with mass appeal, CinemaCon was too insular, and could take a lesson from gaming conventions.

I don’t like to compare film and gaming too often, mostly because our medium has a massive inferiority complex and exaggerates every perceived victory. The Game Awards might get more viewers than the Oscars, but even without a winner slapping the host, the Oscars have far more cultural relevance. And we may technically make more money, if you include console sales and all the other sundries, but most people in the world could name a movie that’s been out this year, and outside of our bubble that’s not true for games.

I’m saying this because it’s tempting to see a games website saying ‘film should copy video games’ and see it as another symptom of this inferiority complex, but it isn’t. It’s just in this specific case, film could learn a thing or two.

Of course, this is a little bit of a ‘have your cake and eat it’ situation, except instead of cake it’s Margot Robbie as Barbie and instead of eating I am looking respectfully. I have recently complained that Thor: Love and Thunder stole its own thunder (and diminished my love) having revealed at Comic-Con years ago that Jane Foster would be Mighty Thor, while toys have leaked major parts of her storyline. I don’t want fans to be pandered to, and I want to still be surprised in the cinema, but I think there’s a middle ground that CinemaCon swung too far away from.

The shot of Margot Robbie as Barbie is a little bit of an outlier. Aside from that and the logo for Avatar, we’ve seen very little of note from CinemaCon. We’ve heard a lot, as outlets in attendance have reported on new titles, the presence of trailers, and relayed sound bites from presentations with directors. Even that, though, has filtered out through a various selection of journalists rather than being promoted by CinemaCon at large.

I don’t think everything needs to be a big capitalist bonanza, and it’s fine for art to just be art, it doesn’t need to be constantly trying to sell itself. But we’re talking about movies like John Wick 4, Ghostbusters: Afterlife 2, Borderlands, Wonka, The Flash, Kraven the Hunter, and Black Adam. These are not arthouse pictures, they are popcorn flicks targeting a mass appeal.

Having the footage shown at CinemaCon remain exclusive to CinemaCon and refusing to upload any panels online feels like a very odd decision. If it was a prelude to award season where prestige pictures could discuss their ambitions and begin the ever-longer Oscar campaign, then perhaps the ‘family only’ decision would make sense. When you’re showing off clips of Shazam 2, it makes decidedly less sense.

CinemaCon is strangely underrated and understated for how much pull it has, and these past few days have been packed with exciting reveals, interesting revelations, and brand new footage. It’s just a shame that can only be enjoyed by a few hundred people in a convention centre rather than the whole world.

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