LAS VEGAS — Using Robin Williams and Billy Crystal for laughs, Warner Bros. trotted out its customary big parade of stars and execs at ShoWest ’97 in slow fashion on Wednesday.
The studio showed theater owners a reel spiced with big-budget thrillers and comedies, including the upcoming franchise release “Batman and Robin.”
Terry Semel, co-chairman of the studio with Bob Daly, invoked the Vegas surroundings as he appealed to the ex-hibs. “Press your bet,” he told them. “Stay with the most winning company in the industry and watch us grow.”
In his introduction, distribution prexy Barry Reardon said that 1996 box office figures for WB exceeded $900 mil-lion, marking the second best performance in Warner history. He mentioned that three pics — “Twister,” “Eraser” and “A Time to Kill” — topped $100 million, giving Warner a total of 14 that have hit that level since 1990.
Reardon also took a small swipe at Sony’s show a day earlier, which also had an impressive turnout of stars. “We’re actually going to serve you lunch, and you don’t have to sit in bleachers,” Reardon quipped.
Exhibitors seemed enthusiastic about the reel, noting such promising box office pics as “Contact,” “Batman and Robin,” “Conspiracy Theory,” “Father’s Day” and “Addicted to Love.” But several complained about the length of the luncheon, which lasted more than 3-1/2 hours including the film clips, which didn’t begin until 3 p.m.
The length, however, is probably due to the sheer volume of star power, which is what attracts many to the WB luncheon every year.
Semel, as emcee, introduced execs and stars before the meal, and then afterward a group of stars from each pic rep-resented took a turn at the lectern.
Williams and Crystal tried to keep things light with impromptu bits, many of them about Semel. (“We’d like to thank Terry Semel for the lunch — cloned chicken.”)
Other pics on the reel included “Wild America,” “187,” “L.A. Confidential,” “Fire Down Below,” “Mad City,” “Goodbye Lover,” “Devil’s Advocate,” “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,” “The Postman” and “Sphere.”
WB is known for its annual massive star turnout at ShoWest, and Wednesday was no exception. Williams and Crystal showed up with director Ivan Reitman for “Father’s Day,” which opens May 9. Meg Ryan and Matthew Broderick were on the dais for “Addicted to Love.”
Arnold Schwarzenegger, George Clooney, Chris O’Donnell, Uma Thurman and Alicia Silverstone gathered to promote “Batman and Robin” with director Joel Schumacher and producer Peter Macgregor Scott. Schwarzenegger referred to the pic as “Batman and Arnold.”
Jodie Foster, James Woods and Angela Bassett arrived with director Robert Zemeckis and producer Steve Starkey for the extra-terrestrial drama “Contact,” which opens July 11.
Jonathan Taylor Thomas, producer Jim Robinson and exec producers Gary Barber and Steve Tisch were there to back the children’s adventure tale “Wild America,” set for a July 2 bow.
Mel Gibson, Julia Roberts, director Dick Donner and producer Joel Silver — there for the action thriller “Conspiracy Theory” — marched onstage sniffing and asking if anyone smelled anything. Then Gibson and Silver both said: “It’s money.”
Kevin Spacey, Danny DeVito and Kim Basinger went on with director/producer Curtis Hanson and producer Ar-non Milchan to talk about the period 1950s Los Angeles crime thriller “L.A. Confidential.”
Steven Seagal showed up wearing a full-length black leather coat to promote “Fire Down Below.” Crystal immediately began chanting Indian-style, and Williams told him it took some serious nerve to arrive “wearing a couch.”
Dustin Hoffman, director Costa-Gavras and producers Arnold and Anne Kopelson attended to discuss “Mad City,” the TV news drama starring John Travolta. Hoffman regaled the crowd with a long story about how he came to have a large stain on the seat bottom of his pants because of his 12-year-old son, who was with him on the dais.
Best moment of the day may have been Ellen DeGeneres’ off-the-cuff remark about kid star Thomas, who was sit-ting next to her. (She and Don Johnson and Patricia Arquette were there to pitch “Goodbye Lover.”)
“He keeps hitting on me, and he has no idea, poor guy,” DeGeneres said. “I’m just not interested. (Pause) I’ve got my eye on Max, Dustin Hoffman’s son.”
Johnson immediately followed with: “Since making the film with Ellen, I decided to come out. I am a lesbian.” Arquette added: “I’m also a lesbian.”
Semel completed the circle, declaring: “OK, I’m not.”
Schwarzenegger also was given the ShoWest Humanitarian of the Year Award for his work with such groups as the Hollenbeck Inner City Games Foundation, the Special Olympics, the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the Presi-dent’s Council on Physical Fitness.
In between lighthearted stabs at Semel, the Terminator described his approach to charity orgs: “Serve, serve, serve, because it’s the servants that will save us all.”
To which Williams replied: “Thank you very much, Arnold, for saying ‘Surf, surf, surf.’ Some guy out there is saying, ‘Yeah, dude.’ ”