Day 3 got off to an entertaining start at Le Théâtre des Arts with a seminar with Roger Ebert and Richard Roeper. After a clip/hype reel (that was a bit too heavy on Roeper for my taste), the movie reviewing duo appeared on stage with an announcement: they would not be doing, as had been announced, reviews of summer movie trailers, for the skittish studios wouldn't give them trailers to use. Instead, the two, in keeping with ShoWest being a convention for exhibitors, took turns naming the features they would have in their ideal movie theatre.
While the pair's suggestions largely fell on the practical side (for instance, Roeper complained that air conditioning is often set too high), Ebert dared to comment on the exhibition industry as a whole, notably in two respects. First, he lamented the demise of the giant, single screen venue and the ongoing demolition of the classic movie palaces; second--much to the certain chagrin of the many tech companies running demonstration rooms upstairs--he urged exhibitors to not rush into adopting digital projection systems. "We don't want perfect projection; we want convincing projection," Ebert declared. He asked that someone in the industry do a study on the psychological effects of watching digital video projection versus film projection, for film is said to produce a reverie state (ideal for the waking dreams that the movies are) while video produces a hypnotic one, and hence films projected digitally could produce a completely different subconscious reaction.
But Ebert's suggestions weren't always so serious. He would like to see a revival of free Saturday morning showings for children to introduce them to film history and the film habit; he called for a system of cellular phone blocking, for people who talk on the phone during a movie "is the only reason for the death penalty." His last request received the biggest laugh of the day: "Is it possible to sell anything at the refreshment stand that doesn't kill?"
Roeper shied away from taking bold stands. He asked exhibitors to use the large number of multiplex screens to show a wide variety of titles, called for a ban on children for more adult-oriented films, asked for there to be more theatre managers to be on duty, and asked that moviegoers be more courteous to theatre staff.
An open mic Q & A with Ebert and Roeper closed out the seminar. After taking in their final applause, Roeper made a quick beeline toward the backstage area while Ebert graciously hung around to sign autographs and greet audience members.
The Paris Ballroom-set Schmooze-a-Rama luncheon, where guests dine on sandwiches while browsing elaborate display booths set up to push a variety of upcoming releases, was once again the only event where most of studios made their presence known at ShoWest. A run-down of the exhibits:
The college-set gross-out comedy National Lampoon's Van Wilder gave the studio
an excuse to serve free beer on tap in collectible Van Wilder cups.
This summer's animated feature Lilo & Stitch was the focus, and free samples were
offered from the Mouse's promotional partners for the film: Act II microwave popcorn and Airheads candy.
The SKG's offering was a photo op with a large, would-be life-size replica of the star
of the upcoming animated feature Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron.
The studio offered none of the elaborate carnival and casino games that made its booth the
hot spot of last year. Nonetheless, they attracted a lot of attention by displaying Tom
Cruise's circa 2054 Lexus sports car from their summer sci-fi release Minority Report.
Not surprisingly, it was all about Bond as patrons were given the opportunity to strike a
007-like pose with a pistol and be superimposed into this poster image.
Their Austin Powers-themed booth featured the shagadelic spy's
automobile and--the real drawing card--free martinis.
Apparently saving all their glitz and glamour for the final day luncheon,
Columbia TriStar's booth simply had posters for a few of their releases:
the Jennifer Lopez revenge drama Enough; the Adam Sandler/Winona Ryder
comedy Mr. Deeds; the video game adaptation Resident Evil; David
Fincher's thriller Panic Room; the Vin Diesel actioner XXX; the
summer sequel Men in Black II; and, of course, Spider-Man.
Continuing the "pose with a hot chick" gimmick of their trade show exhibit,
Universal's Scorpion King-themed booth gave patrons the opportunity to take a
picture with three women dressed in skimpy, ancient Egypt-style garb.
No frills for the arty indie, which simply had synopses of their upcoming
releases--among them, Neil LaBute's romance Possession and
Gary Hardwick's romantic comedy Deliver Us from Eva--on display on easels.
Their Scooby-Doo-themed display was made to look like a tropical hut, and accordingly
guests were lei'd by friendly WB representatives. (Get your minds out of the gutter, people.)
New Line trotted out Austin Powers' car for the night's cocktail reception, celebrating both the still-untitled third Austin Powers film and Pepsi Cola's latest product, the lemon-flavored Pepsi Twist. While no talent from AP3 nor Pepsi Twist endorsers Hallie Eisenberg, Halle Berry, and Barry Bostwick were anywhere to be found, there was no mistaking what was being pushed at this event. A live band performed '60s pop hits as go-go dancers shook their groove things on a nearby stage, and Pepsi Twist figured prominently on the beverage menu. But this was actually less a cocktail reception than a full-fledged dinner affair, with salads, pasta dishes, and prime rib all ready for the taking.
Given that the previous evening was all about the latest Star Wars installment, it was only fitting that the friendly folks at Universal used their allotted time to screen their big counterprogramming attempt in May: Chris and Paul Weitz's likable comedy About a Boy, based on the Nick Hornby novel and starring Hugh Grant. Grant appears to be the studio's designated Jedi Slayer, after his 1999 film Notting Hill very much held its own in head-to-head release against The Phantom Menace. If the very strong reaction--particularly by older females--to this screening is an indicator, it looks like Universal would be smart to fast-track a Grant vehicle for summer 2005, when Star Wars: Episode III is due.
Before the screening, two trailers were screened. The first was for the Matt Damon spy thriller The Bourne Identity (and, no matter how many times I see this spot, I still can't quite buy Damon as a martial arts-adept action star), and the second was for the goofy (but amusing looking) comedy Undercover Brother, which could be a franchise-starter for star Eddie Griffin.