WB peeks pique Expo

Sneaks cap week of soccer and piracy chatter

AMSTERDAM — Cinema Expo 2004, Europe’s main exhibition trade show, closed Thursday with extended footage from “Catwoman,” Oliver Stone’s “Alexander” and Keanu Reeves starrer “Constantine” captivating delegates.

The Warner Bros. sneak peeks capped a week in which — besides movies — soccer, piracy and digital developments also dominated shoptalk.

Warner Bros. is looking forward to hefty hauls from the Halle Berry starrer and Macedonian king epic, which will roll out in the second half of the year. Supernatural thriller “Constantine” is slated for 2005.

During a two-hour presentation, Warners senior VP of international distribution Monique Esclavissat praised the increasing value of the overseas market, which crossed the $1 billion mark for the studio in less than six months for the first time.

Underscoring the growing potential of Eastern Europe, highlighted earlier this week, Esclavissat said, “Russia is now our 10th-highest grosser.”

Sony also came to Amsterdam, offering a 20-minute showreel and a screening of “Hellboy” rather than “Spider-Man 2,” which is ramping up for its international rollout in early July.

Sony senior exec VP of international distribution Mark Zucker tried to get delegates salivating over the Mike Nichols-directed romance “Closer,” which he said is “erotically charged” and will be a Christmas release. Zucker also played up the intrigue of “The Da Vinci Code,” based on the bestselling book, due out in 2006.

Final attendance for the 13th edition was down slightly, with 1,011 delegates registered this year compared with 1,100 in 2003. Mitch Neuhauser, a rep for event organizer Sunshine Group, said the drop was due to Italy’s concurrent Professional Cinema Days, being held in Genoa, where Italo exhibs are viewing upcoming product.

Not enough to do

This year’s Cinema Expo drew mixed reactions from attendees, some of whom complained about too much downtime between events and the fact that confabs offered no opportunity for Q&A sessions.

While a surprise “King Arthur” screening, amid super-tight antipiracy security, raised the pulse, a few more high-profile pics, especially “Spider-Man 2,” would have created a more positive buzz.

That said, for European exhibs the event remains a great opportunity to network and see new pics.

“I really feel at home here, and I get to see more movies than at ShoWest,” said Warner Village Cinemas Italy commercial director Nicola Grispello.

Event also provided an opportunity for European cinema operators to catch up on developments from the Digital Cinema Initiative. Org representing the studios announced it has selected a common image coding system to deliver digital pics.

Sports injuries

Exhibs also heard the latest research on the dreaded soccer fever from Nielsen Interactive Entertainment Europe topper Henry Piney, who said the good news is that the drop in attendance during the current Euro 2004 championship should be no more dramatic than during the upcoming Athens Olympics.

Trade show ended with an awards ceremony and banquet at which French helmer Jean-Jacques Annaud was feted as international director of the year while Danish producer Peter Aalbaek Jensen, who has made most of Lars Von Trier’s pics, got Cinema Expo 2004’s European producer nod.

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