Sony closes confab with 'Royale' screening

Serendipitously taking the final studio slot to show off product at Cinema Expo, Sony closed the Euro exhib confab with a bang Thursday evening, creating the week’s most high-profile event by screening 20 minutes of “Casino Royale,” the latest installment in its James Bond franchise.

That made Cinema Expo attendees the first audience in the world to see how the latest, blond Bond — Daniel Craig — handled the role.

Sony Pictures Entertainment vice chairman Jeff Blake introduced the Bond footage after Sony Intl. prexy Mark Zucker showed off the studio’s product reel.

Rumors began slipping out Thursday that the Bond scenes might screen, but the event was largely a surprise, and Blake said that the studio only got the OK from Bond’s producing team two days earlier, when he and SPE Motion Picture Group chair Amy Pascal visited London.

The footage showed off Craig as a grittier Bond, with scenes of more intense, visceral hand-to-hand combat than 007 has tackled in recent pics. One black-and-white scene flashed back to Bond’s first ever (brutal and hard-to-pull-off) kill as an agent, as well as his (much more sleek and signature) second assassination.

Also introducing the pic was one of the new Bond girls, Caterina Murino, and the reel featured some sultry scenes between her and Craig. For any gearheads, Bond’s new ride also got some screen time, as did high-octane chase scenes, including one of Craig following a baddie up and down a construction site with aerial jumps and twists.

“This footage has never been seen, except by all of us just two days ago,” Blake said, his voice audibly cracking with excitement. Pascal was also at Cinema Expo in the audience with Sony brass. Blake added that the pic would offer a “distinct European flavor” for the international exhibs.

The studio immediately followed the footage with a casino-themed party inside the Amsterdam RAI convention center.

Other pics on the Sony reel included “All the King’s Men,” “The Pursuit of Happyness,” “The Covenant,” “Talladega Nights,” “Stranger Than Fiction” and “Little Man,” as well as the first two pics from the studio’s animation division, “Open Season” and “Surf’s Up.”

Other sneak peeks that created interest included Warner Bros.’ CG “Happy Feet” and DreamWorks Animation’s “Flushed Away.”

While key execs and helmers — including Ridley Scott, Andrew Adamson and James Cameron — made an appearance, Cinema Expo was relatively star-free.

Bruce Willis did show to thank exhibs for supporting “Over the Hedge,” and “Borat” creator Sacha Baron Cohen shticked it up as the zany title character in that pic. (Craig, the new Bond, was not on hand.)

Adamson and Cameron received Cinema Expo Awards at the confab’s closing ceremony on Thursday.

Other winners included Warner Bros. Intl. execs Monique Escavissat and Con Gornell, French helmer Francis Veber and Yelmo Cineplex’s father-and-son toppers Ricardo and Fernando Evole.

Cameron also made a presentation pushing 3-D digital cinema on Thursday, telling exhibs that the technology will help cinemas continue drawing auds as they battle competition from home theaters and mobile devices.

The helmer brought with him a 3-D clip reel of pics ranging from “Star Wars” to Sony’s upcoming “Monster House,” which screened in its entirety afterward to exhibs and a collection of school kids.

Cinema Expo brass also released numbers: 936 registered attendees, slightly down from last year.

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