Cinema Expo Intl. wraps on high note with ‘Park’

The second annual Cinema Expo Intl. convention wrapped Thursday on an exhilarating note with an SRO screening of “Jurassic Park” and the presentation of a lifetime achievement award to Steven Spielberg.

The director could not attend and the award was accepted on his behalf at the closing-night banquet at the Brussels Intl. Conference Center by Ben Kingsley, who stars in Spielberg’s current opus, “Schindler’s List.”

The four-day confab and trade show drew mostly high marks for the eight films showcased at the Kinepolis and UGC cinemas and for seminars, trade demonstrations and efficient organization.

It was attended by senior exex from all the Hollywood majors, and distribs and exhibs from all over Western and Eastern Europe and such far-flung countries as Australia, Singapore and Thailand.

The total number of registered attendees — 725 — fell below co-organizer Jimmy Sunshine’s pre-meet forecast of 850. Sunshine blamed the shortfall mostly on a low turnout from France, where exhibs may have been preoccupied by a three-day cinema promotion that ran through June 29.

Some 105 companies, U.S. and European, touted their wares — everything from popcorn and ice cream to digital sound systems — in 158 booths at the trade show.

There wasn’t much evidence of on-the-spot dealmaking and many trade exhibitors said they would have liked to have seen more bodies, but there was praise for the quality of potential customers and lots of leads to chase up.

Sony exex showed off their Dynamic Digital Sound system for the first time in Europe in feature-length form by screening Wolfgang Petersen’s “In the Line of Fire.” Exhibs loved the thriller and the director was on hand to receive an award for excellence in filmmaking. SDDS president James N. Fiedler reported a lot of interest from exhibs but noted sales won’t start until the hardware, format and price are finalized later this year.

CATS ticket systems U.K. sales and marketing director Andrew Spencer said the trade show was more about establishing contacts than clinching sales, and that his firm would come back next year.

MGM Cinemas U.K. booking director Stuart Hall was a typical satisfied attendee. “We’ve had the opportunity to see some films ahead of time, talk to other exhibitors and attend interesting seminars.”

A seminar on exhibition and distribution Wednesday produced varying opinions about such issues as film rentals, release patterns, and the impact of pay-per-view.

Buena Vista Intl. president of theatrical distribution Bill Mechanic tantalized exhibs by saying the three Disney strands will have a total of 42 pictures ready to release domestically next year, plus a further 18 or so from recent Disney acquisition Miramax. Mechanic expects a BVI release slate next year of about 35 titles.

Columbia TriStar Intl. president Ted Shugrue predicted the international markets would be “more important” (e.g., bigger) than domestic by the end of this decade.

Shugrue surprised some attendees by forecasting that PPV eventually would probably “eliminate” homevideo, but gave no timetable for the vid biz’s apocalypse.

Mechanic opined the mooted plan to air certain Carolco event pix on pay-per-view before the theatrical preem in the U.S. would be “economic suicide.”

At the closing-night banquet, awards were also doled out to Charlie Sheen (excellence for acting: his “Hot Shots! Part Deux” was screened Monday), United Intl. Pictures president Michael Williams-Jones (distrib of the year) and UGC France topper Guy Verrecchia (exhib of the year).

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