Exhib execs slightly off

Poor 'Night' vision, failing to 'Spy' a hit

You’d think that exhib execs — whose job involves the actual theatrical screening of new releases — would have a good feel for which pics will be hot and which are likely to tank.

Guess again — and take a look at the evidence out of the recent ShoWest trade show.

Exhibs attending the March confab were treated to sneaks of Miramax’s “Spy Kids” and USA Films’ “One Night at McCool’s,” among other pics.

“Kids” screened to widespread yawns and broad ho-hums from exhibs. “McCool’s,” on the other hand, unspooled to unanimous kudos, with young suits and circuit vets alike laughing their heads off even as the credits rolled.

So much for the experts.

Less than two months later, the kidpic actioner is approaching $100 million in domestic box office and a sequel has been greenlit.

“McCool’s,” however, tanked in its April 27 weekend bow. The Matt Dillon/Liv Tyler comedy failed to make the top 10, banking just $2.6 million, even with heavy marketing.

“It just goes to show you how little exhibitors really know about what’s gonna be a hit,” quips one studio wag. “They’re just too inside and too jaded.”

An exec at one large circuit chuckled at the recent B.O. results: “We’ve always thought we were pretty good at picking hits.”

This dubious record of prognostication calls into question the fate of DreamWorks’ upcoming “Shrek,” which also received a rave reception at ShoWest. Studio execs are left to hope the animated pic proves an exception to exhibs’ recent kiss-of-death embrace.