Richard Friedenberg, scripter of “A River Runs Through It,” has been slated to receive the NATO/ShoWest ’93 screenwriter of the year award during the March 8-11 confab of exhibitors and distributors at Bally’s Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.

Columbia Pictures’ chairman Mark Canton is prepping a keynote address for March 9, while Colpix’s “Last Action Hero” star Arnold Schwarzenegger is slated to receive NATO/ShoWest’s international star of the decade award at the studio’s luncheon.

In addition, Whoopi Goldberg will receive the star of the year honor at the final night awards banquet. Other ShoWest honorees will be announced shortly.

As always, NATO/ShoWest promises glitz, high-powered movie exex, stars and the two largest soft drink companies on Earth — Coca-Cola and Pepsi-USA, who are among a full slate of host sponsors for this year’s show.

On the Hollywood side, host companies are Columbia, TriStar Pictures, Paramount Pictures and Warner Bros. Pictures. Each has agreed to pony up the estimated $ 500,000 to compile a product reel for distributors this year.

There are a handful of surprise event sponsors this year, including New Line Cinema, Trimark Pictures and Gecko Films, a Miami-based film distributor that will show clips from at least six movies.

NATO/ShoWest general chairman Tim Warner said he expects a sellout for this year’s convention with the majority of attention focused on the films previewed.

A product-oriented convention would mark a sharp contrast to the previous two years, when such issues as an overall industry slump, Universal Pictures’ call for half-price tickets on Tuesdays, the Persian Gulf War and the Katzenberg memo dominated the proceedings.

“The question prior to last year’s convention was whether the industry was doing bad business because of the recession or bad product,” Warner said. “The answer that came back was that, if we got good product, we got good business in spite of the economy.”

Warner said exhibitors will be anxious to see if 1993 product can match such box office successes as “A Few Good Men,””Basic Instinct,””Batman Returns” and “A League of Their Own.”

Among the movies expected to be in this year’s spotlight are Columbia’s “Last Action Hero,” Paramount’s “The Firm,” Warner Bros.’ “Dennis the Menace,” TriStar’s “Cliffhanger,” New Line’s “Surf Ninjas” and TriMark’s “Separate Lives.”

Columbia TriStar Film Distributors International will host the international symposium, which has emerged as one of the industry’s most important roundups of overseas business.

Confirmed speakers include Motion Picture Export Association of America president Myron Karlin, who will speak on “The Relationship of Government Policies and the Development of the International Marketplace.”

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