Light on tentpoles

Cinema Expo offers few looks at big titles

AMSTERDAM — The “King Kong” trailer, an early look at “Cars” and 40 frenetic minutes from Michael Bay’s futuristic thriller “The Island” set exhibs’ pulses racing at the 14th edition of Cinema Expo.

Nevertheless, few event movies played at the expo, which some attributed to concerns over piracy.

“Where were the likes of ‘The Dukes of Hazzard’ or ‘Fantastic Four’?” questioned one disgruntled U.K. exhibitor. “Why should I come to Amsterdam to see films I saw last week in London?” asked another exhib.

With the notable exception of “War of the Worlds,” which unspooled Monday, most movies screened — “Cinderella Man” “Bewitched” and “Herbie: Fully Loaded” — had already opened Stateside, dampening enthusiasm.

A surfeit of downtime remains a problem for the confab, and some suggested that its current four days could be finessed into three.

Cinema Expo events kick off early in the day — the popular piracy seminar began at 8:30 — and there is often an awkward lull in the action before the studios’ product reels roll.

The off-site Imax presentations were a welcome relief for delegates growing weary of milling around the RAI center eating popcorn and chewing the fat with foreign counterparts.

The clips of “Spider-Man 2” transformed into Imax 3-D format stirred exhibs’ imagination at a time when bookers are searching for ways to differentiate the cinemagoing experience from the fast-improving home entertainment option.

But all was not doom and gloom at the confab, which wrapped Thursday.

“Cinema Expo remains an essential event for networking and conducting interterritory meetings,” said Andrew Turner, Cineworld head of film buying.

On the kudos front, Vue CEO Tim Richards was hailed as exhib of the year, UIP’s Stewart Till was named distrib of the year, Elda Ferri scooped Media Salles’ producer prize and Bruno Ganz took home the international star kudos.

The BVI reel was the slickest studio presentation of the confab thanks mainly to prexy Mark Zoradi’s targeted and punchy speech.

BVI’s Christmas offerings “Chicken Little” and “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” were welcomed by Euro exhibs who know they have ground to make up if they are to match 2004’s B.O. numbers.

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