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French grab kudos at Cinema Expo closing

Verrecchia nabs exhib award, Berr takes Broccoli Award for Excellence

AMSTERDAM — Despite a delay and sparse attendance owing to the overtime Euro Cup soccer shoot-out match between Italy and Holland, Cinema Expo’s gala closing ceremonies managed to bring out a heavy-hitting lineup of industry toppers to celebrate the exhib confab’s honorees and to top off a week’s worth of schmoozing.

If anything, it was a week of Gallic pride. Not only did the French national soccer team advance to the finals by winning Wednesday’s match, but two of Cinema Expo’s major awards, the Exhibitor of the Year Award and the Albert R. Broccoli Award of Excellence, went to Frenchmen: UGC’s Guy Verrecchia and producer Claude Berri, respectively.

Pathe chairman Jerome Seydoux jetted in to fete Berri, whom he called a “Gallic James Bond — he likes to take risks and he seduces. He’s a rare specimen in European cinema.”

Berri helmed such pics as “Jean de Florette” and produced recent Euro hit “Asterix & Obelix Take on Caesar,” as well as a long line of highly regarded pics, including Roman Polanski’s “Tess” and Jean-Jacques Annaud’s “The Bear.”

Smith feted

Former UIP topper Hy Smith honored Intl. Achievement in Marketing recipient Gerry Lewis. Lewis has shepherded films in the international arena for more than 30 years, from “Alfie” to “Zulu.”

Other well-wishers sent congrats via video, including Richard Attenborough, Frank and Kathleen Marshall, John Landis, Alan Parker and Steven Spielberg, who noted: “Gerry showed me Europe for the first time, he took me to my first October Fest and is my key to the world.”

Another honoree sparking video kudos was distrib of the year, Miramax chairman of worldwide distribution Rick Sands. A litany of cheeky messages were beamed out from “Cider House Rules” helmer Lasse Halstrom, “Scream” creator Kevin Williamson, director Anthony Minghella and Miramax co-chair Harvey Weinstein, who called Sands “a larger-than-life character in a business that requires showmanship.”

Dino delivers

Cherry on the Expo pie was the toast to Dino de Laurentiis, who stood up after an eloquent speech from helmer Jonathan Mostow (“U-571,” “Breakdown”) and lengthy applause to receive his Lifetime Achievement Award. The indie producer and trailblazer, in his charming singsong Italian-English, said: “Without freedom, you cannot be a producer; and without passion and without love, you can not do the movie.”

Next out of the gate for De Laurentiis in February is Ridley Scott’s “Hannibal,” starring Anthony Hopkins and Julianne Moore.

Texas Instruments snagged the Technical Achievement Award, collected by the company’s biz manager of DLP products, Doug Darrow. The semiconductor giant has moved fast into digital cinema and is responsible for the technology behind most prototype digital projectors running in theaters today.

Dovetailing with the industry’s moves into digital cinema, Expo attendees were treated to a digital version of Buena Vista Intl.’s “Dinosaur” Wednesday.

Other pics that screened well to the Expo’s 1,350 registrants were Columbia Tristar Film Distributors Intl.’s “The Patriot” and 20th Century Fox Intl.’s “What Lies Beneath,” which a number of delegates were calling a chilling thriller in the Hitchcockian vein.

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