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Par charts course with ShoWest reel

LAS VEGAS — With a celeb-packed podium inside and a gate-crashing Howard Stern impostor signing autographs outside, Paramount Pictures on Wednesday unfurled its upcoming product at ShoWest ’97. The gathering also gave the studio the chance to show off Rob Friedman, who joined the studio as vice chairman of the motion picture group in January after a 26-year stint at Warner Bros.

Fighting a head cold, emcee Friedman assured the exhibs that the new brass had meshed seamlessly with Paramount Motion Picture Group chairman Sherry Lansing and Viacom Entertainment Group chairman Jonathan Dolgen in steering the Paramount ship. Reaction to Friedman and the trailer reel was strong.

First-look deal

Paramount’s presentation certainly was lower-key than the WB luncheon earlier in the day, but the presentation also was mercifully much shorter and gave exhibitors first looks at such upcoming films as James Cameron’s “Titanic” and the Peter Weir-directed Jim Carrey film “The Truman Show,” and also reminded exhibs of this weekend’s opener “Private Parts,” which the studio expects to do brisk business.

The new product in the reel began with the Phillip Noyce-directed “The Saint,” which was accompanied by a rather surreal speech by its stars, Val Kilmer and Elisabeth Shue, who attempted to explain the film and why exhibs should be excited about it. When Kilmer introduced his giggling co-star, she began to ask for exhib support but broke off her pitch abruptly and dashed back to her seat. It was later explained that it was Shue’s first ShoWest and she was nervous. Kurt Russell took the podium, musing that Shue was a tough act to follow.

Russell was there to stump for “Breakdown,” a Jonathan Mostow-directed drama in which Russell’s character’s wife disappears after their car breaks down. The trailer drew strong response from exhibitors, as did Russell, whose films have been steady performers. “I appreciate your support over the years and hope this film does some business for you,” he told the audience.

Other highlights included Andy Garcia stumping for the Sidney Lumet-directed “Night Falls on Manhattan”; and a lengthy preview of Cameron’s “Titanic” that pleased exhibs and seemed to indicate that the money spent on the film — a rumored $140 million or higher — is all onscreen.

Also well-received was a trailer for “The Flood,” a watery armored-car robbery story starring Morgan Freeman and Christian Slater, as well as the sci-fi drama “Event Horizon” with Laurence Fishburne.

Danny DeVito, who was on the Warner Bros. dais earlier in the day wearing sunglasses and an “L.A. Confidential” hat, kept the shades but switched hats to promote “The Rainmaker,” which also was bolstered by a filmed pitch by director Francis Ford Coppola. Coppola described how he was so entranced by the John Grisham book that he wrote the author to tell him he wanted to make the film, which stars newcomer Matt Damon, Claire Danes, DeVito and Jon Voight.

The strongest applause of the evening was reserved for John Travolta, who was on hand with Nicolas Cage to promote “Face/Off,” the high-octane actioner in which Travolta plays an FBI agent and Cage a terrorist who take on each other’s identities. Travolta thanked exhibs for what he called “the most extraordinary year you’ve all given me with ‘Broken Arrow,’ ‘Phenomenon’ and ‘Michael’ at Christmas.” Cage spoke briefly about the movie and expressed admiration for Las Vegas. “I’ve never been in Vegas before,” quipped the star of “Leaving Las Vegas” and “Honeymoon in Vegas.”

Also on hand was Greg Kinnear, sporting blond tresses, on hand to promote “A Smile Like Yours.” The pic is a romantic comedy marking the directing debut of Rysher Entertainment CEO Keith Samples, who wrote the script with Kevin Meyer. Dennis Quaid also took the stage to stump for “Going West in America,” about an FBI agent whose son is kidnapped by a serial killer.

Aside from “Breakdown,” the most surprise positive response came for the trailer for “In and Out,” the Frank Oz-directed comedy scripted by Paul Rudnick in which Kevin Kline plays a teacher outed during an Oscar winner’s acceptance speech. Kline then has to try and prove he isn’t gay.

Other work-in-progress pics on the reel for fall include the chilling adaptation of James Patterson’s serial-killer novel “Kiss the Girls” and the fantasy “Fairytale — A True Story.”

On the way out, exhibitors were shocked to see “Private Parts” star Stern in the lobby signing autographs and kissing women. They probably wondered why the studio wouldn’t allow its new star into the festivities. Truth is, Par brass had been warned there was a bogus gate-crasher and, after being assured Stern was en route to Los Angeles to hype the premiere of “Private Parts,” had the impostor kicked out of the grand ballroom. He was swarmed by the exhib crowd anyway and the confusion was understandable.

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