Celebs add spice to Screenings

LONDON — The presence of Christina Ricci, Ralph Fiennes and Helena Bonham-Carter, along with several other stars, brought some much-needed glitz to the first night of the London Screenings Monday. The event, which runs through Friday, opened under the shadow of war and recession, with many key buyers and some major sellers absent, and a distinct shortage of hot new projects to whip up excitement among those execs who did make the trip.

But as the blue skies over London gave way to dark clouds and freezing rain more appropriate to the subdued mood, Capitol Films and Pandora Films did their best to lift spirits with star-laden parties.

At a dinner in the swanky Admiralty restaurant, Capitol served up Ricci to promote Brian Gilbert’s “The Gathering,” currently shooting in the U.K., and Fiennes to tout David Cronenberg’s “Spider.”

Cast members were also on hand from Robert Altman’s “Gosford Park” and from Lewis Gilbert’s “The Memory of Water.”

Pandora threw a cocktail party in the Charlotte Street Hotel to unveil its latest project, “The Heart of Me,” from BBC Films, directed by Thaddeus O’Sullivan. Bonham-Carter and her co-stars Olivia Williams and Paul Bettany were all on hand.

The $9 million pic, about an adulterous love triangle in the 1930s, starts shooting in Britain next month.

With their bulging slates of pics either premiering at the market or in post-production, Capitol and Pandora look likely to be among the busiest sales companies at the event, along with the likes of Initial Entertainment Group, Myriad Pictures, Lakeshore Entertainment, Intermedia, Good Machine Intl. and Summit Entertainment.

IEG continued its tradition of unveiling one huge project during the London Screenings, announcing the historical biopic “Alexander,” to be directed by Martin Scorsese and star Leonardo DiCaprio. Last year the company unveiled Michael Mann’s “Ali,” and the year before, “Gangs of New York.”

Spoof sparks

Summit reported strong buyer interest in its new pics, including the action spoof “Action” and Oliver Stone’s “Beyond Borders.” Myriad unveiled the Jennifer Love Hewitt vehicle “Why Can’t I Be Audrey Hepburn.”

Intermedia also screened Richard Eyre’s “Iris” and Iain Softley’s “K-Pax” Sunday, to a mostly positive reception from buyers.

Overseas Filmgroup unveiled Bruce Beresford’s “Evelyn,” an Irish low budgeter starring and produced by Pierce Brosnan, and Agnieska Holland’s “Julie Walking Home.”

It’s clear, however, that some key territories have no chance of being sold during the London Screenings or Mifed. The Japanese, normally among the most important buyers at the event, have mostly stayed at home. Latin American buyers also look to be in short supply. The Koreans, by contrast, have shown up.

But despite the two shindigs on opening night, this year’s social calendar is much reduced, with several regular party-givers deciding to opt for a lower profile in the light of global events.

Intermedia is not hosting its annual lunch, nor Good Machine its usual late-night bash.

Having decided not to attend Mifed in Milan immediately following the London Screenings, Good Machine was already packing in meetings on Sunday in an effort to get all its business done.

(Liza Foreman, John Hopewell and Alison James contributed to this report.)

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