Cinema Expo closes with splash

Bonanza fetes Cecchi Gori's career

AMSTERDAM — Euro-focused exhibition confab Cinema Expo ’98 came to a roaring close Thursday with a splashy awards show, replete with entertainment by Irish troupe Riverdance and several other surprise guests.

The seventh annual cinema bonanza, known for its copious award-giving, brought out former winners and notable industryites to honor this year’s recipients.

Saul Zaentz presented fellow producer Brian Grazer with the Albert R. Broccoli Award of Excellence. Helmer Jim Sheridan passed kudos to UIP Intl. marketing chief Nadia Bronson.

Cecchi Gori honored

Lifetime Achievement recipient Vittorio Cecchi Gori was feted by Variety’s international publishing director Peter Cowie. Distributor of the Year Duncan Clark was hauled on stage by Warner Bros. Theaters chief Millard Ochs.

Other awards went to Exhibitor of the Year Klas Olofsson, of Nordic outfit Sandrews-Metronome, and Italo director Roberto Benigni for Excellence in Comedy.

Benigni’s Cannes Special Jury Prize-winning “Life is Beautiful,” a Cecchi Gori production, also screened during the Expo, courtesy of Miramax.

Upon receiving his Lifetime Achievement accolade, Cecchi Gori summed up his brief English speech with “Thank you, la vita e bella (life is beautiful)!”

Earlier Thursday, Centropolis’ Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich slid into the “Godzilla” screening to greet Expo attendees and receive previously unannounced awards for Excellence in Filmmaking.

Expo gets kudos

Organizers Robert and Jimmy Sunshine called this year’s event by far their most successful, with registrations up 20% to nearly 1,200 and booth rentals approaching 250 over last year’s 180. Almost every European country was represented at the RAI Congress Center this week and some attendees hailed from as far afield as Australia and South Africa.

Much of the credit for the Expo’s hit run this year goes to the selection of screenings, Robert Sunshine said.

But spin was particularly wound around the showing of a working print of actioner “Armageddon,” from which the press was barred.

BVI was treading carefully after last month’s unveiling of a 50-minute version of the film at the Cannes Film Festival, where it suffered much critical ink. But the more completed print shown Wednesday had delegates predicting the film’s commercial appeal and effects should lure international auds.

Most every major trotted out product reels and their most promising software over the four-day event, including BVI’s “Mulan,” Fox’s “Something About Mary” and “The X-Files,” Columbia TriStar’s “The Mask of Zorro,” “Miramax’s “The Mighty” and UIP/Universal’s “Out of Sight.”

The one glaring exception to the lineup was product from Warner Bros. Intl. Distribution.