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ShoWest sees stars at WB lunch

Arnold, Clint, Sly and Travolta power lineup

LAS VEGAS — Warner Bros. wowed exhibs Thursday at ShoWest with a high-powered presentation of its upcoming film slate that featured a phalanx of Hollywood celebs.

More than two dozen stars of upcoming Warners pics filled a huge ballroom dais at the Paris Las Vegas hotel for the studio’s annual slate presentation to circuit execs from across the nation. Those appearing included Arnold Schwarzenegger, Clint Eastwood, Sylvester Stallone and John Travolta.

The star power played particularly well with the more than 3,000 exhibs on hand, as this year Warners was the only studio to bring out its talent for a slate luncheon of the sort once common at ShoWest.

After a half-hour reel of clips from a slate of 22 pics set for the year’s remaining three quarters, reinforcements to the already considerable star brigade were sent to the center podium. The entire cast of Steven Soderbergh’s “Ocean’s Eleven,” including stars George Clooney and Brad Pitt, dropped in from their Palm Springs shooting location.

Audience applause for the movie clips was consistent, with predictable peaks in response to Steven Spielberg’s thriller “A.I. Artificial Intelligence,” set for a June 29 release, and the adaptation of bestseller “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” slated for an end-of-year holiday bow.

Noting the prospect that writers and actors strikes could shut down Hollywood film production by mid-2001, Warners prexy Alan Horn said the studio is assured of having 20 films available for 2002, thanks to productions already completed or well afoot. Those pics include a pair of “Matrix” sequels as well as another “Harry Potter” adaptation that Warners hopes to release next year.

In separate remarks, Warners chief Barry Meyer acknowledged the takeover of parent company Time Warner by America Online. Indeed, discs for free introductory subscriptions to AOL were included in goody bags for luncheon guests along with the usual Warners T-shirts, and even the studio’s show reel was introduced by faux Web graphics.

“But as our parents have changed, our lineage has not,” Meyer stressed.

Adding that content creation is core to AOL Time Warner’s business plan, Meyer extended a thank you to the exhibs on hand, saying, “We do understand that there are no movies without movie theaters.”

New faces on the circuit

In welcoming the exhibs to the luncheon, Warners distrib prexy Dan Fellman noted a recent influx of investors in movie chains via Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganizations.

“I’d like to take this opportunity to welcome Phil Anschutz and Gerry Schwartz to the exhibition business and wish them success,” Fellman said.

Anschutz took over United Artists Theatres and has designs on Regal Cinemas and Edwards Theatres Circuit. Schwartz, who previously was active in Canadian exhibition and other businesses, leads an investment group that has agreed to acquire Loews Cineplex Entertainment.

ShoWest 2001 capped its four-day run Thursday night with a star-studded awards gala honoring Hollywood talent.

Immediately after the Warners event, Disney invited a select group of exhibs across the street to Bellagio for a full screening of summer toon “Atlantis.” The pic was followed by a truncated version of “O,” the hit acrobatic show from Cirque de Soleil that has long been playing at Bellagio.

Most attendees of ShoWest were expecting both “Atlantis” and “O.” They were stunned at the end of the program, however, to see Michael J. Fox, lead voice of “Atlantis,” take the water-filled stage to wave briefly to the crowd. The star, who exited ABC’s “Spin City” last year largely due to the effects of Parkinson’s Disease, received a standing ovation.

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