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BV wins 5 Reel nods

Buena Vista was the big winner Monday night at Variety’s EDI Reel Awards, walking away with five statues for its $100 million-plus 1996 releases, as well as a special award for three consecutive billion-dollar-grossing years.

In all, 20 awards were presented at the annual event, which took place for the first time in its eight-year history in Los Angeles at the L.A. County Museum of Art.

During the ceremonies, Variety editor-in-chief Peter Bart noted that the Reel Awards spotlighted the year’s record-breaking number of B.O. successes in a year when Oscar has largely shunned Hollywood blockbusters in favor of specialized films with relatively limited commercial appeal.

Among the filmmakers on hand to accept awards were directors Roland Emmerich, Jan De Bont and Cameron Crowe, as well as producers Jerry Bruckheimer, Brian Grazer, Don Hahn, Paula Wagner, Adam Schroeder, Ricardo Mestres, Barbara Boyle, Michael Taylor and Anne and Arnold Kopelson.

Hosted by Swoosie Kurtz and Jonathan Frakes, the ceremony saluted 16 blockbusters from 1996 and late 1995 whose domestic grosses exceeded $100 million. First Look Pictures’ “Antonia’s Line” and Miramax’s “Trainspotting” took honors as last year’s top-grossing foreign-language and limited-release pictures, respectively.

Paramount’s “The Godfather,” which turns 25 this year, received a special prize for being the first film to top $100 million in domestic grosses.

In presenting Disney’s special award, Entertainment Data Inc. president Marcy Polier lauded the studio’s B.O. prowess over the last three years.

This was the first year the Reel Awards, which had previously been held during ShoWest in Las Vegas, was co-sponsored by Variety.

A complete list of winners appeared in Friday’s Daily Variety.

Studio execs presenting the awards included Al Shapiro, Jeff Blake, Larry Gleason, Wayne Lewellen, Chuck Viane, Phil Barlow, Ellen Little, Casey Silver, Donald DeLine, Bill Gerber, Lorenzo Di Bonaventura, Niel Blatt, Robert Cooper and Bill Mechanic.

In presenting the award for “Seven,” New Line senior executive VP of distribution Al Shapiro said credit for the 1995 sleeper hit was due primarily to the company’s distribution and production arms.

By downplaying the role of marketing in the 1995 film’s success, Shapiro alluded to a yearlong feud between New Line distribution execs and ex-marketing chief Chris Pula. However, in accepting the award, Arnold and Anne Kopelson were quick to thank Pula.

Accepting the prize for “Jumanji,” Interscope exec VP Michael Helfant announced that the company is working on a sequel to the 1995 hit, which gave star Robin Williams his fifth $100 million grosser.

MGM distribution chief Larry Gleason accepted the award for MGM’s 1996 film “The Birdcage,” acknowledging, among others, the recently deceased Marcello Danon, producer of the French farce “La Cage Aux Folles,” on which “The Birdcage” was based.

After making yet another trip to the podium, Buena Vista president of distribution Phil Barlow joked that he had missed a cardiac rehab session to attend the ceremony, but “those steps are just like the Stairmaster.”

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