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Before they were stars

Studios used to lavish attendees on confab's final evening

Before a bevy of stars weighed down with awards became the norm, ShoWest’s closing night was a very different affair.

The final evening was usually sponsored by a single studio, which would take full advantage of the setting and the captive audience to hype its most important pic of the year.

In 1994, for instance, Disney’s Dick Cook presented “Lion King” trailers to the assembled masses, then led attendees to a lavish tented party outside the hotel, where revelry quickly ensued.

In fact, despite the star power ShoWest now attracts, the event’s original claim to fame is that studios would use it as a place to launch highly anticipated trailers — and even entire films.

Original footage from “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” was unveiled at ShoWest in 2001. “Finding Nemo” was screened there in 2003. The first images of Stanley Kubrick’s last film, “Eyes Wide Shut,” were played to exhibs in 1999.

One of the first films to make a huge splash at ShoWest before going on to make even bigger waves with global auds was the Roland Emmerich actioner “Independence Day” in 1996.

Nine minutes of the movie, including the dramatic scene of the White House being blown to bits, were screened in Las Vegas. The buzz that followed was deafening, and the film opened July 4th weekend to $50 million on its way to $306 million.

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