Showest may have been a wash out for most of the majors, but 20th Century Fox came away with the most exhibitor respect. The studio’s powerful product reel, which promoted 24 films skedded for 1991 release and promised 18 more already “in the bank,” knocked ‘em dead.

Speaking over lunch, to a crowd of 2,700 exhibitors from a dais that included Fox toppers Rupert Murdoch and Barry Diller, film chairman Joe Roth unspooled the reel and said, “Unlike many companies, there’s nothing in here that’s speculative. It’s real.”

Thirty-five minutes later, after so-clever reviewing of old Fox titles and several appearances of distrib head Tom Sherak in cameo, after a showing of tidbits from the lavish “For The Boys,” the tense, effects-laden “Point Break,” the hysterical “Hot Shots” and the moody “The Doors,” the audience was sold.

“I can’t believe this stuff!” one exhib shouted between bites of carrot cake. “This guy [Roth] has turned that place around.”

In the 18 months since Roth took office, the Fox numbers have gone up dramatically. As he pointed out, Fox had 4% of the domestic boxoffice market share (according to VARIETY figures) on the day before it released “Die Hard 2″ last July. By January, Fox had captured 19.8% of the same pie, and was the No. 1 grossing studio for the fourth quarter.

There were two surprise announcements: Ron Shelton will direct a basketball story for the studio called “White Boys Can’t Jump,” for which he has already written the script. And Jack Nicholson will, the studio confirmed, assay the lead role in director Danny DeVito’s “Hoffa.”

Upcoming releases include:

* Three titles from “Home Alone” producer John Hughes, “The Nanny,” “The Bugster” and “Ball ‘n’ Chain,” in addition to the already-shot “Dutch.”

* Several music-oriented projects, including an actual musical from James L. Brooks; “The Five Heartbeats,” from director, star and co-writer (with Keenen Ivory Wayans) Robert Townsend; “The Commitments,” from director Alan Parker; and Oliver Stone’s “The Doors.”

* “Point Break,” a caper pic set in the world of surfing, the first film under Fox’ relationship with Larry Gordon’s Largo; Daniel Day-Lewis starring in “Last Of The Mohicans” and “The Age Of Innocence”; and Sigourney Weaver in “Alien 3.”

* Tom Hanks in Mike Figgis’ “Night And The City,” about an ambulance-chasing attorney; Michael Douglas and Melanie Griffith in the thriller “Shining Through”; Bruce Willis in the actioner “The Ticking Man”; and Steven Seagal in “Man Of Honor.”

* The environmentally correct animated “Fern Gully: The Last Rain Forest” and “The Endangered”; comedies “The Super” and “My Cousin Vinny,” both with Joe Pesci; “Only The Lonely,” with John Candy; “Love Potion # 9,” from writer-director-producer Dale Launer; “Hot Shots,” from the “Airplane!” people; “Jack The Bear,” with Danny DeVito; Nora Ephron’s “This Is My Life”; and New York-set “29th Street.”

* Higher-toned stuff, such as Joel and Ethan Coen’s “Barton Fink”; the Off Broadway romance “Prelude To A Kiss”; the off- Moscow thriller “Back In The U.S. S.R.”; Roman Polanski also in a Soviet-set thriller, “Icons”; Lawrence Kasdan’s ensemble effort “Grand Canyon”; the legal-eagle “Class Action”; the Barry Levinson-Robin Williams reteaming “Toys”; and the Julia Roberts vehicle du jour “Dying Young.”

Mysteriously missing from the product reel was David Cronenberg’s film of the William S. Burroughs book “Naked Lunch.” One exhib said: “This is a pretty square bunch. That picture would probably make ‘em nervous.”

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