Unconventional kudos nab stars

No one mistakes ShoWest honors for Oscars, but bizzers take note

ShoWest’s annual awards attract some of Hollywood’s most dazzling stars — but the kudos don’t make a splash outside the trade show convention floor.

The short explanation is that the ShoWest awards are about ShoWest, run by the National Assn. of Theater Owners, a group that Hollywood understandably likes to keep happy.

So where do these awards come from?

“It’s actually a decision that’s made in concert with ShoWest and the industry in general,” says Mitch Neuhauser, the co-managing director. “It’s done in concert with all the distribution companies. … It’s really a joint effort.”

He says he’s happy to be creative with the awards. If, like last year, George Lucas agrees to attend to pick up a one-time “galactic achievement award,” ShoWest has no problem introducing such an honor.

“You have to be flexible and accommodating,” Neuhauser says.

This year’s honorees include 12-year-old Keke Palmer, who is tapped rising star of the year. It’s a new, possibly one-time award (although 8-year-old Alex D. Linz was named young star of the year in 1997 and 7-year-old Mara Wilson had the honor in 1995) and not to be mistaken with Dakota Fanning’s supporting actress honor.

But there is a rule: Honorees must show up. Only twice in six years, he says, have stars missed the ShoWest banquet — both because of circumstances beyond their control.

“It has to be a win-win-win situation for everybody,” Neuhauser says. “It has to be a win for the ShoWest delegates, for the studios, for the honorees and all the members of the press.”

It’s that star power that turns the trade show into an event.

Diane Melohn, general manager of Franklin Designs, a Ridgeland, Miss., company that does movie theater screen design and draperies, says she attends the trade show for the business, but enjoys it for the stars.

“I saw Jude Law, Jim Carrey, John Travolta — one of my favorites,” she says. “(Exhibition trade show) ShowEast cannot get close to comparing because they don’t bring the draw, they don’t bring the movie stars in. The stars will go to Vegas.”

Indeed, the convention has nabbed big names like Matt Damon and Jennifer Aniston, who traveled to the trade show in Las Vegas to pick up their trophies last year.

But while stars like Law, Halle Berry, Christopher Walken, Julia Roberts, Johnny Depp, Drew Barrymore and Will Smith are past winners, you won’t see the award in their biographies, and even the show’s producers acknowledge the honor has hardly worked its way into America’s consciousness.

Harry Knowles, the editor of Ain’t It Cool News, a Web-based outsider’s look at the world of Hollywood, attends ShoWest and says its male and female star of the year awards and its male and female star of tomorrow awards exist solely to guarantee that some stars will attend the trade show.

“It’s a show that’s put on by theater owners for theater owners, by studios for theater owners and by both of those parties for the rest of the world,” he says.