‘Love’ preem conquers ShowEast

Event buzz warm & fuzzy for Curtis romancer

ORLANDO, Fla. — ShowEast 2003 went out with a bang Thursday, with distribs unspooling a couple of the more highly anticipated year-end movies.

A screening of Universal/Working Title’s “Love Actually” — a star-studded romancer that marks the directorial debut of writer Richard Curtis (“Notting Hill,” “Bridget Jones’s Diary”) — was the talk of the trade show’s final day. The positive buzz should be particularly useful for U, which plans to platform the feel-good, Christmas-themed pic throughout December on positive worked of mouth.

“Without your participation, we would never have the level of success we have been able to enjoy,” U vice chairman Marc Shmuger told exhibs prior to the “Love” screening.

Working Title Toppers Eric Fellner and Tim Bevan were honored at ShowEast this year with the Kodak award for filmmaking excellence. The award is bestowed annually to an exec or filmmaker “who has risen to the top of (their) profession.”

Miramax offered the day’s other major screening, unspooling its lit adaptation “The Human Stain.” And Robert Rodriguez, helmer on distrib’s recent “Spy Kids 3D: Game Over,” was bestowed an excellence in filmmaking award at a Miramax luncheon.

“I make popcorn movies,” said Rodriguez, in accepting the award. “There’s nothing better than seeing people packing the theaters and enjoying your movies.”

‘Kill Bill’ screened

Miramax showed Quentin Tarantino’s upcoming “Kill Bill Vol. 1” to a small number of exhibs at an invitation-only screening Wednesday.

Sony/Revolution screened upcoming Cuba Gooding Jr. starrer “Radio” to a receptive ShowEast crowd at a local multiplex Wednesday night.

Sony marketing and distribution boss Jeff Blake predicted “as good a lineup as we have ever had to close out the year,” citing specifically Tim Burton’s “Big Fish” and Ron Howard’s Revolution co-production “The Missing” as looming large. Revolution topper Joe Roth also touted Julia Roberts starrer “Mona Lisa Smile” as important Yuletide fare, then introduced the star of “Radio” to peels of femme enthusiasm.

“Is that you out there, Mom?” Gooding cracked.

Earlier the same day, New Line unspooled Christmas-themed “Elf,” a laffer toplined by Will Ferrell, who accepted a comedy star of tomorrow award at a distrib-hosted dinner afterwards.

“That means I’m only going to get funnier,” Ferrell deadpanned. “Or else it means I wasn’t funny yesterday.”

Gore Verbinski, helmer on Disney’s summer blockbuster “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” was honored as director of the year at an awards gala that concluded the trade show Thursday night.

Attendance up

Attendance at ShowEast 2003 was up a bit from a year ago with 1,125 fully paid registrants, organizers said. But industry consolidation caused some shrinkage in participation on the large exhibit floor of the Marriott Orlando World Center, off some 10 booths at a total 250.

As with other recent industry confabs in recent years, digital cinema and movie piracy formed the biggest areas of discussion at ShowEast seminars. And both issues were reflected in the movie screenings held each day of the four-day trade show.

Disney toon “Brother Bear,” screened prior to a big Mouse bash Tuesday, and “Love Actually” both were screened digitally. The technology drew little mention among exhibs on either occasion — repping something of a coup in itself for d-cinema proponents who once had to defend its image quality.

Piracy patrols

As for piracy concerns, all of the movie screenings staged by various studios required those attending to submit to security wanding upon entering the theater. Inside the auditoriums, security patrols in nightvision goggles patrolled aisles looking for illicit video recording of the screened pics.

Such safeguards have become common at industry screenings in L.A. and elsewhere. But some questioned whether the practices don’t reflect a bit of overkill on lower-profile films less likely to be pirated.

Quipped one studio wag: “You can’t have a director saying, Hey, what’s the matter — isn’t my film good enough to be pirated?”

ShowEast 2004 is skedded for Oct. 25-28, also at the Marriott here.

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