Cine Expo gets look at ‘Dark Knight’

Delegates treated to first public screening

“The Dark Knight” swooped in, Imax touted its tentpole lure and Warners and Disney took the wraps off some of their high-profile pics for Cinema Expo delegates Wednesday.

While the day’s star quotient was notably reduced compared to Tuesday’s Fox presentation, the first public screening of “Dark Knight” at Amsterdam’s Pathe Imax theater provided a showcase for Heath Ledger’s dark turn as the Joker and the film’s integration of Imax lensing.

Monique Esclavissat, exec VP of European distribution for Warner Bros Pictures Intl., told Daily Variety that Ledger’s death had not altered the marketing of the pic internationally. Striking images of Ledger as the Joker were highly visible in promo material at Cinema Expo’s RAI center HQ and adorned half the Imax screening tickets.

And since helmer Christopher Nolan partially shot the film with Imax cameras, the large-screen rollout represents more than a standard transfer, according to Imax film division prexy-chairman Greg Foster.

“In these days when it is harder and harder to get people out of the house and away from their increasingly impressive home entertainment systems and into theaters, Imax is the ultimate differentiator,” Foster said.

Earlier in the day, WB international distrib prexy Veronika Kwan-Rubinek thanked Euro exhibs for helping the studio to $2.24 billion at the international B.O. last year and highlighted Warner’s upcoming local films, including Anne Fontaine’s “La fille de Monaco” (France), Miguel Marti’s “Sexykiller” (Spain), Nikhil Advani’s “Chandhi Chowk to China” (India) and Nicole van Kilsdonk’s “Ho overleaf ik … ?” (Holland).

Head-turners from the WB slate included sneaks of Guy Ritchie’s London-set gangster movie “RocknRolla,” Brad Pitt starrer “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” and Ridley Scott thriller “Body of Lies,” which stars Russell Crowe and Leonardo DiCaprio as U.S. intelligence agents battling an emerging terrorist leader.

The presentation included taped messages from Scott, George Lucas (“Star Wars: The Clone Wars”) and Daniel Radcliffe (“Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince”).

Disney invited local kids to its afternoon presentation, ensuring an enthusiastic crowd for its family-friendly sneak peeks, trailers and taped messages.

Anthony Marcoly, prexy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Intl., unwrapped a lineup rich in 3-D, and said the Mouse will release five 3-D films in the next 18 months.

Robert Zemeckis promoted his Christmas 2009 3-D extravaganza “A Christmas Carol” via a vid. “You can’t beat the mastery of Charles Dickens,” Zemeckis said in his message.

Jerry Bruckheimer had three pics in the Disney lineup: “Confessions of a Shopaholic,” “G-Force” and “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time.”

Marcoly, prefacing the screening of “Wall-E,” noted that Pixar has grossed $4.5 billion for the studio.

Cinema Expo closes today.

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