‘Man’s’ fate in hands of foreign exhibs

BVI, Imax pitch product

AMSTERDAM — Buena Vista Intl.’s 2005-06 slate packs a big punch, but execs know they have to box cleverly if “Cinderella Man” is going to avoid suffering an early international knockout.

“Cinderella Man” has underachieved domestically, and BVI brass told exhibs at the Cinema Expo Intl. on Wednesday that they are hoping for another international rescue effort when Ron Howard’s biopic rolls out overseas in September after playing the Venice Film Festival.

Anthony Marcoli, BVI exec veepee of acquisitions and marketing, promised well-executed prerelease programs and none of the “dark and depressing” TV spots that he acknowledged might have alienated U.S. auds.

In his intro to the product reel, BVI prexy Mark Zoradi credited European bookers for transforming underperforming 2004 domestic pics such as “King Arthur” and “Brother Bear” into international hits. He also congratulated European exhibs on bringing in 65% of “The Incredibles’ ” $370 million international booty.

An extended trailer of “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” and early clips from “Chicken Little” drew the most applause. Zoradi described the pair as a “classic one-two punch for Christmas 2005.”

There was also strong support for Jodie Foster starrer “Flight Path” and Walter Salles’ chiller “Dark Water.”

BVI’s big summer 2006 blockbusters are “Cars” and “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest.”

Golf pic “The Greatest Game Ever Played” and Brit comedy “Kinky Boots” did not go down so well. Expo delegates did not recognize “Boots” lead Chiwetel Ejiofor — he appears in drag — until long into the trailer.

Earlier in the day, Imax took bookers to the recently opened Pathe Imax theater in Amsterdam’s Zuid-Oost region for a presentation of upcoming slate, which includes “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,” “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” “Tom Hanks Presents Magnificent Desolation: Walking on the Moon 3D” and a re-release of “The Polar Express 3D.” “Express” scooped $45 million from 83 screens when last at bat.

Greg Foster, Imax chair and prexy of filmed entertainment, stressed the incremental B.O. boost that a successful Imax run can give a Hollywood event movie. “Imax used to be associated with 2-D, 40-minute documentaries playing at institutional locations, but now we’ve gone mainstream.”

Foster said the problems that the traditional theatrical biz has been experiencing are in part due to the rapid improvements in home entertainment systems, and hr talked up the “unique communal experience” Imax offers.

But some exhibs remain unconvinced. “Imax is still too expensive,” opined one disgruntled Scandi exhib, who said that the one Norwegian Imax theater was forced to close due to a lack of quality product.

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