Let’s face it, while mainstream media might be screaming about an economic recovery, times are still tough for many businesses all over the world. That is especially true for trade shows. No matter the industry focus, attendance at global conventions has dropped in 2009 by more than 25% in most cases. Just look at attendance at some of the annual confabs the motion picture industry holds; the Sundance Film Festival down 11%, ShoWest down 15%, NAB down 20%, the Cannes Film Festival down 30% and IBC in Amsterdam down at least 7%. That may be why at ShowEast, which was held in Orlando, Florida from October 26th to October 29th, the talk amongst delegates was as much about the trade show’s attendance as it was about 3-D, digital cinema and the upcoming blockbuster release “Avatar”.
[Editor’s notes: The mainstream media speaks of one or two signs of the recession/depression ending, but in general and in specifics, it seems to cherry-pick stats. For example, while something called the Easily Manipulated Gross National Product has increased for the 1st time in several quarters (signifying growth at last!), unemployment is up, foreclosures are up, etc. And more pertainent to the cinema business, corporate filings from the major exhibitors and industry polls show that the number of patrons is down, and if income is up, it is only up because of the ability to charge more for 3D movies.]
While such conversation tends to feed on itself ultimately making mountains out of mole hills, Robert Sunshine, the Vice President of Nielsen Film Group which organizes the event, readily admits attendance at this year’s ShowEast, like most conventions around the world, was down roughly 20%. “It’s numbers that we don’t like to see,” said Sunshine. “We attribute it to the economy and we also attribute it to the fact that there are lots of [industry] conventions, there’s the major convention, ShoWest, and certain people don’t have the money to attend all of these shows so they are picking and choosing where they go.”
[Editor again: In addition to Andrew’s point: There used to be more differenciation between the different shows as well. ShowEast would have an International Day that grabbed a decent EU crowd and an excellent South American crowd for example. One dosn’t get the feeling of a specialness anymore. Later in the article Andrew talks about the studios making an effort, even if they can’t bring a film. I’m certain that he can’t bite the hand that feeds him, but the exhibitor attendees need to see the films, need to be excited about what is coming. Everything else of the show is just gravy.]