CinemaExpo sneaks ‘Charlie,’ trailers

Bay, Parkes absent for 'Island' preview

AMSTERDAM — A high-octane 45-minute preview of Michael Bay’s sci-fi romance “The Island” spearheaded Warner Bros.’ campaign for European bookers Tuesday at the Cinema Expo Intl. showcase of upcoming releases.

The showreel preceded a well-received screening of Tim Burton’s summer tentpole “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” The world preem of the trailer for Burton’s “Corpse Bride” also unspooled.

The “Island” sneak was low on glamour — its star, Scarlett Johansson, was nowhere to be seen — and the aud had to settle for taped messages from Bay and producer Walter Parkes.

Taped messages are all too familiar to Cinema Expo attendees, who groan when they hear, “I wish I was with you in Amsterdam today but…”

Con Gornell, Warner Bros.’ senior veepee of European marketing, admitted to being “impressed and, frankly, pissed off” when he saw the penguin characters in DreamWorks’ “Madagascar” sneaks at last year’s Expo.

He couldn’t hide his delight at presenting a first-look clip of Mumbles, the dancing emperor penguin who toplines George Miller’s “Happy Feet.” Pic is voiced by Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman, Elijah Wood (Mumbles) and Robin Williams and is set for a late 2006 U.S. bow.

Warner Bros. took $2.2 billion internationally in 2004, of which $1.3 billion came from Europe.

But 2005 has been comparatively lean so far and Monique Esclavissat, senior VP of European theatrical distribution, was left to talk up the fact that the B.O. cume of “Ocean’s Twelve” was down only 3% from “Ocean’s Eleven” in Europe and to point to encouraging dropoffs for “Batman Begins” (off 18% in its soph showing in the U.K.) as proof of continued vitality.

However, in “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,” Warner Bros. has a sure-fire B.O. smash in the tank for fall.

Other pics unspooling from the WB slate include Jay Chandrasekhar’s “The Dukes of Hazzard,” Rob Reiner’s “Rumor Has It,” Gary David Goldberg’s “Must Love Dogs” and Richard Linklater’s stylized futuristic thriller “A Scanner Darkly.”

The second day closed with an Imax-hosted dinner at the RAI center where Cannes Palme d’Or winners Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne were feted as Cinema Expo Intl. directors of the year.

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