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New Line reels ’em in first

Exhibs get a sneek peek at ShoWest luncheon

With its 2000 slate, New Line is returning to its roots: comedy and mayhem, much of it with urban appeal.

The minimajor, along with specialty division Fine Line, on Tuesday unspooled the first product reel at ShoWest. Miramax was skedded for later in the evening.

Many exhibs had circled the luncheon on their calendars, given last summer’s jackpot with “Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me” and the strong January performance of “Next Friday.” But considering “Austin Powers 2” accounted for $205 million of New Line’s $312 million in 1999 grosses, curiosity was high about New Line’s depth of product.

French kiss

With the annual confab marking its first year at Paris Las Vegas, New Line seized on the change of scenery.

“Because we’re at the Paris, we’ll be serving french fries,” distrib chief David Tuckerman told the packed ballroom.

He wasn’t kidding. As thousands downed burgers, fries and ice cream, clips from 17 upcoming pics filled the screen.

On hand for photo ops were stars Adam Sandler, Harvey Keitel, Patricia Arquette and Jimmy Smits. Verne Troyer (Mini-Me from “Austin Powers “”) made a cameo, briefly donning a fake gray beard to play “Mini-Tuck,” a gag prompted by Tuckerman’s Jerry Garcia-esque appearance.

Once the hijinks subsided, attendees scrutinized the films, which were presented via a satirical sketch depicting New Line in the year 2040. Famous characters from the minimajor’s stable, such as Freddy Krueger, Roller Girl and a lone Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle were seen roaming an old-age home.

Pics generating the most applause included “The Cell,” a summer thriller starring Jennifer Lopez; “Little Nicky,” the holiday release starring Sandler; “Thirteen Days,” a Cuban Missile Crisis drama with Kevin Costner; “Rush Hour 2,” with Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan teaming as they did in the $140 million-grossing original; and “Lost Souls,” a Satanic creepfest with Winona Ryder.

Back to ‘Town’

“Town & Country,” the long-gestating ensemble comedy with Warren Beatty, Diane Keaton, Garry Shandling and Goldie Hawn, did appear on the reel — for the second straight year. No talent appeared at the luncheon to promote the pic, which now looks to be headed for a fall release.

By far the best-received part of the presentation concerned three pics that aren’t on the 2000 slate: the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. The three are being lensed simultaneously in New Zealand.

“Rings” clips mixed behind-the-scenes footage, cast interviews and a smattering of finished snippets.

The unorthodox shooting schedule will yield a releasable trio sometime in 2001, presenting New Line with a dilemma: When to slot them? Product reel gave an answer, at least for now: Christmas 2001, 2002 and 2003.

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