Fox comes in from cold with animated ‘Anastasia’

LAS VEGAS — Fox Filmed Entertainment brought a chill to ShoWest ’97 with a program dedicated to its first venture into feature animated production, “Anastasia.”

Reminiscent of past Disney presentations at the exhibition convention, the program was an amalgam of film and a staged ice skating show to tub-thump the legend of the lost czarina.

Though Fox has a number of upcoming high profile releases this summer, including “Speed 2” and “Home Alone 3,” the company repeated the strategy it adopted last year of zeroing in on a single title. “Anastasia,” which Fox released as a live action drama with Ingrid Bergman in 1956, is being produced out of the Arizona animation studio by vet cel man Don Bluth.

“We don’t have to tell theater owners about ‘Speed 2,’ ” said Fox Film president Bill Mechanic. “So we’ve moved our emphasis to highlight things that are less well known like ‘Independence Day’ or ‘Anastasia’ or a reissue of ‘Star Wars.’ The alternative is doing a product reel and frankly they don’t always show your movies in the best light.”

After a brief intro on the ice rink by Mechanic, the show was turned over to Bluth. The soft-spoken inker read from a heavy tome, intoning the tale with more reverence than wit. Interspersed with the reading were scenes from the film as well as vignettes staged on the ice. The show received a mixed response from the crowd with the best re-ception accorded the filmed portions.

“We basically wanted to do something that would convey our enthusiasm and commitment to animated films,” said Fox Family Films president Chris Meledandri. “This is a very bold step on our part. The area is extremely time-consuming in every way and we wanted to step out and present something very positive to exhibitors.”

The program suffered from an understandable beginner’s awkwardness. The venue — a tent erected in the Bally’s parking lot with bleacher seating — was drafty and on the frigid side while the various components of the program never quite meshed as the different elements tended to repeat rather than advance the story.

Exhibs polled essentially were taking a wait-and-see position, and most felt it demonstrated sufficient promise as a possible hit in the holiday ’97 sked. Unquestionably, the show succeeded in getting the ball rolling and creating awareness about “Anastasia.”

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