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BVI sneaks ‘King’ for Euro exhibs

Disney counting on 'Arthur' to make up for pic losses

AMSTERDAM — Buena Vista Intl. held court Wednesday at Cinema Expo with a surprise “King Arthur” screening, the $100 million epic’s first international outing.

The Mouse House has much riding on summer tentpole “Arthur” after a string of big-budget disappointments this year, including “The Alamo,” “Hidalgo” and “Home on the Range.”

Disney presented it Tuesday to international press in Los Angeles, where U.S. press will view it today.Jerry Bruckheimer-produced pic unspooled for more than 1,000 European exhibs amid tight security. A squad of guards escorted the still-unfinished print and thoroughly checked delegates’ credentials as they filed past metal detectors to ensure that no recording equipment was introduced into the RAI auditorium. Even a few hours before, organizers remained mum about the event, billed just as “an upcoming BVI film.”

“This movie has a truly European feel and sensibility,” Buena Vista prexy Mark Zoradi told the crowd of delegates. Shot in Ireland, the historical actioner stars British thesps Clive Owen as King Arthur, Keira Knightley as Guinevere and Ioan Gruffudd as Lancelot.

“King” is scheduled for a July 7 release in North America before beginning its European rollout in mid-July, once the Euro 2004 soccer championship is over.

Late summer overseas release pattern will emulate that of megahit “Pirates of the Caribbean,” which cumed $650 million.

BVI also tubthumped the first installment of its C.S. Lewis franchise “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” which Zoradi said would be a Christmas 2005 release. Delegates were shown a rough-looking clip of “Narnia,” which is shooting in New Zealand.

The Mouse House’s product presentation also included clips from “The Incredibles,” “Raising Helen,” “The Village,” “The Princess Diaries 2” “Ladder 49” and “Chicken Little.”

Event ends today.

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