After several years of attending CinemaCon, the annual trade show for the National Association of Theater Owners (NATO), I may have gotten a little jaded about the booths hawking the latest innovations in movie-theater carpeting (so many shades of hideous!), ticket-printing machines and hand sanitizers. But the excitement of the show (the first place I saw such genuine innovations as the Coca-Cola Freestyle and the Dyson Airblade, both now commonplace) came back when I met 21-year-old Justin Kovitz, inventor of the Shake n’ Share popcorn bucket lid, who enthused about his first time ever at a trade show.
The Shake n’ Share is a simple accessory that solves a number of movie theater popcorn problems: Place it on top of your bucket of popcorn, and you can easily distribute butter and/or flavored salts evenly throughout by shaking, without risking a spill. Take it off, and it serves as a small bowl for sharing popcorn among friends. It’ll even keep the popcorn fresh if you want to take it home with you. It’s the kind of basic, convenient advancement that movie theaters should embrace (it’s now only in a handful of locations), and I hope to see Kovitz as a CinemaCon veteran next year.
There was nothing else at the show quite as intriguing as the Shake n’ Share, although I was impressed by Plexcall’s variety of silent call buttons for waiters, so that the increasing number of theaters that serve food can assist patrons without too much disruption to the people around them. There were numerous variations on ever-advancing technology, including plenty of “4D” systems like D-Box, which add motion to the moviegoing experience, plus projection company Qube touting frame rates of up to 120 frames per second (Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was shot at the increased rate of 48 frames per second). And of course there were lots of concessions to sample, although nothing really stood out.
The other main component of CinemaCon is the series of presentations from major studios, sharing footage from their upcoming movies to impress theater owners. The presentations can be exciting (getting to see 15 minutes of footage from Star Trek Into Darkness or World War Z in advance is pretty cool), but they’re still corporate meetings at heart, run by bland executives in suits and full of upbeat statements about how successful each company is (go to all of the presentations, and you’ll come away with the impression that each studio is the most popular). This year, CinemaCon organizers outfitted the Colosseum at Caesars Palace with the Doby Atmos sound system, boasting 495,000 watts of sound (the average movie theater has just 4,000). The result? It was painfully loud and uncomfortable, and after the first day I brought ear plugs to each presentation. CinemaCon is all about bigger, louder and faster upgrades for movie theaters, but sometimes the coolest thing is just a little plastic popcorn lid.