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UIP keeps eyes on soccer, B.O.

D'Works tubthumps 'Shark,' 'Snicket' at expo

AMSTERDAM — UIP rolled out its big guns Monday at European exhibition trade show Cinema Expo, where delegates tried not to let the impact of the Euro 2004 soccer tournament dampen their enthusiasm for this year’s box office prospects.

“I have two objectives,” UIP chairman and CEO Stuart Till told a packed auditorium. “My first is I’d like England to win the 2004 soccer championship while the second is that ‘Shrek 2’ will break one box office record after another in Europe.”

The green ogre tale begins its European rollout on Saturday.

“Shrek” creator Jeffrey Katzenberg, who made the trek to Amsterdam to pick up this year’s Cinema Expo award of excellence in filmmaking, will return to L.A. and cross the pond again later this week to tubthump for the animated pic.

“This is our 10th anniversary and a great year for us,” the DreamWorks partner said, “and it’s hard to imagine a worse year than last year.”

Katzenberg segued from his brief acceptance speech into a lengthy presentation of “Shark Tale” clips, updated material following the fish pic’s Cannes preview. “Shark Tale” is tipped to premiere in Europe at the Venice Intl. Film Festival in September and will open Stateside Oct. 1.

Attendees also got a sneak peek of “Madagascar,” the DreamWorks comedy slated for a 2005 release about animals from New York’s zoo who end up on the African island.

UIP flew in Hollywood production team Walter Parkes and Laurie MacDonald, who waxed profusely about nascent franchise “Lemony Snicket’s a Series of Unfortunate Events,” based on the children’s books that have sold 22 million copies worldwide.

Rough four-minute sneak of the Paramount/DreamWorks pic thrilled Euro exhibs. Producers underscored the presence of Euro talent including Billy Connolly, Timothy Spall and Jude Law besides the versatile Jim Carrey.

Speaking from a taped message, Tom Cruise trumpeted another Par/DreamWorks pic, “Collateral.” Also appearing on videotape, helmer-producer Taylor Hackford enthused about his 15-years-in-the making Ray Charles biopic “Ray,” which stars Jamie Foxx.

UIP prexy and chief operating officer Andrew Cripps promised a marketing avalanche for action-adventure “Thunderbirds,” no doubt funded in part by numerous product tie-ins. Distrib also unveiled the first musicvideo/trailer for the pic featuring Brit teen-pop act “Busted.”

A Renee Zellweger flashback moment opened the trailer for “Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason,” drawing a ripple of chuckles. Pic bows in the U.K. in November.

A high-octane extended clip of Matt Damon starrer “The Bourne Supremacy” opened UIP’s two-hour show reel. Hopes are high for the follow-up to “The Bourne Identity,” which scored $214 million worldwide.

Among other notable titles unspooling were “Anchorman,” starring Will Ferrell; “The Manchurian Candidate” remake starring Denzel Washington and Meryl Streep; “Alfie,” starring Jude Law; “Meet the Fockers,” now in production; and “Dawn of the Dead” spoof “Shaun of the Dead,” which was a surprise hit in Blighty, scoring a stellar $11.5 million to date.

Earlier in the day, as the buttery smell of fresh popcorn began to waft through the hallways of the RAI convention center, delegates attended two seminars.

At the Global Digital Cinema Update, DCI topper Chuck Goldwater said his org is not taking sides in the battle brewing between the new higher resolution system known as 4K, being developed by Sony for delivery next year, and the 2K Texas Instruments DLP system in use.

Meanwhile, during a confab about opening cinemas in new markets, Palace Cinemas’ David Horacek said that its two digital screens in Prague and Budapest were luring auds in — by showing Euro 2004 soccer games.

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