LAS VEGAS — Staged explosions, sirens and searchlights startled movie theater owners from their deli plates Thursday as 20th Century Fox gave a packed ShoWest banquet hall a taste of “Titan A.E.,” a computer-generated summer pic Fox hopes will make it a player in animation and usher in a strong 2000 at the box office.
With all its new bells and whistles, animation has clearly jumped to another level “and now it’s time for Fox to take its place in this new world,” studio chief Bill Mechanic said at the last product reel presentation of the four-day confab. Featuring the voices of Matt Damon, Drew Barrymore (who made an appearance at the event and is ShoWest’s Comedy Star of the Year) and Bill Pullman, the flashy trailer brought on much applause, and some smoke.
Fox’s surprisingly slender but well-received reel — only five pics were previewed — included “Big Mamma’s House,” with Martin Lawrence in wig and padded apron a la “Mrs. Doubtfire.” “Momma” started filming six weeks ago for a June release.
“X-Men” director Bryan Singer and pic’s stars were on hand for its human vs. alien smash-and-burn trailer that left exhibs smiling. Mechanic called the pic “a tentpole movie for us” and said he expects it to spawn a series of “X-Men” flicks. “And don’t worry — it’s rated PG-13,” Singer told theater owners. “X-Men” bows in July.
The latest offering by Bobby and Peter Farrelly, “Me, Myself and Irene,” with Jim Carrey and Renee Zellweger, drew some laughs. The two stars, now engaged, waved from a table in the audience but didn’t hop onstage. The brothers did, however, noting that Carrey “goes places he’s never gone before” in his first R-rated comedy. Pic is due out in June.
“Bedazzled,” a remake of the Faustian 1967 Dudley Moore-Raquel Welch starrer (this time with Brendan Fraser as nerd and Elizabeth Hurley as devil), also made an appearance. Pic bows in August.
Mechanic also reminded the assembled crowd of Robert Zemeckis’ upcoming holiday release, “Cast Away” with Tom Hanks, as well as “Planet of the Apes” and a “Dr. Dolittle” pic next summer. Sequels to “True Lies” and “Independence Day” are in the pipe, plus a fourth installment of “Die Hard.”
Peter Chernin, the chairman of 20th Century Fox and chief operating officer of parent company News Corp., stressed the importance of the studio to the giant conglomerate that owns it.
“These are trying times for big media companies,” he said, as they try to stake out their places in a rapidly changing world, especially in the digital space. Amid the challenges, “what drives it all is content,” he said, despite the constant “headlines about stock prices and acquisitions and satellite” ventures.
He also noted that in these days of co-financing and split-rights deals, Fox intends to remain a holdout, happy to finance its pictures on its own in most cases.
Chernin called Fox’s upcoming slate remarkable and said he expects it to usher in a rosy period for the loss-enduring film studio, which has had a run of disappointments lately as big-ticket pictures like “Fight Club,” “Anna and the King” and “The Beach” failed to meet expectations.
Also at the event, Tom Sherak, chairman of 20th Century Fox Domestic Film Group, was presented with the Sherrill C. Corwin Humanitarian Award.
ShoWest was scheduled to wrap up Thursday evening with more awards at a closing dinner honoring an array of industry talent of the year, including Anthony Minghella, director; Armyan Bernstein, producer; Alan Ball, screenwriter; Annette Bening, female star; Jim Carrey, male star; and Barrymore.
(Dade Hayes contributed to this report.)