Sony, D'Works out; Mouse, WB in

It looks like ShoWest will be celebrating its 25th anniversary in style.

A number of changes are in store for the 1999 version of the annual March exhibitors convention, including the likely return of Warner Bros. and Disney as sponsors of major events.

The organizers also plan to switch the annual awards ceremony — and subsequent Coca-Cola-sponsored party — from their traditional Thursday night slots to Tuesday night, according to insiders.

Thursday evening will likely be devoted to Disney, which is expected to present a “Tarzan”-themed event, to promote the animated version of the jungle tale it will release next summer.

New Line and Miramax, which hosted events at last year’s ShoWest, are expected to return, and 20th Century Fox, which will release the much-anticipated “Star Wars” prequel in May, is also considering making a presentation.

Newly appointed ShoWest general chairman Milt Moritz declined to comment on the event schedule, noting that plans had not been finalized.

Moving the awards ceremony to Tuesday is seen by many as an attempt to reverse the recent trend of delegates heading home before the final festivities.

Sony and DreamWorks, which made presentations last year, are expected to sit out this year, as are Paramount and Polygram. While Universal and MGM will forego costly mealtime events, U will host a hospitality suite for its customers and MGM may sponsor a cocktail party.

In recent years, studio execs have often questioned the efficiency of ShoWest as a sales and marketing event, in light of the high cost of creating product reels and flying in stars. But the appointment of Moritz, a well-liked industry veteran, and the fact that this is the confab’s 25th anniversary, seem to have softened industry criticism of the event.

ShoWest organizers are said to be in talks with several non-studio companies, including Kodak, about the possibility of sponsoring lunch on the opening Monday, according to sources. At the recently concluded ShowEast, Kodak announced the launch of the ScreenCheck Experience, a new theater certification program that monitors projection quality.

ShoWest takes place March 8-11, at the Bally’s hotel and casino in Las Vegas.

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