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Judy Thorburn - The Flick ChickPIRACY, DIGITAL 3D, AND STARS KEY FOCUS OF SHOWEST 2005

By Judy Thorburn
Photos by Stephen Thorburn

From March 14-17 the world’s largest motion picture convention and tradeshow, ShoWest, set up shop in Las Vegas with all the glitter and fanfare that can be expected from all the movers and shakers in the film entertainment industry who come together for this annual event. As usual, Paris and Bally’s hotel played host to NATO (National Association of Theatre Owners) distributors, vendors and major studio big wigs, who meet for a chance to embrace their partnership and, of course to have a grand old time that included luncheons, seminars, upcoming movie sneak peeks, and a chance to see some movie stars who come for an award or to help promote their flick.

After last year’s incredible 30th gala anniversary event, highlighted by the presence of a cavalcade of A list movie stars, (that can only be matched by the Oscars) it was interesting to see what this year’s event had in store for the over 5000 attendees which included exhibitors showcasing the latest advancements in technology, to concessions and ticketing, that enable movie goers to have the best possible theatrical movie experience.

Every ShoWest has its hot topics and this year proved to be no exception.  Piracy is continuing to be a global threat that affects everyone in the entertainment industry. The topic was discussed at the IMAX Corp. and Nielsen Entertainment hosted International Day Luncheon, where the Award for International Star of the Year ward was given to Catalina Sandino Moreno, an Academy Award nominee for Best Actress for her role in Maria Full of Grace. Recipient of the International Achievement in Filmmaking Award was Danny Boyle, whose film debut was 1994’s Shallow Grave, followed by Trainspotting, which launched the career of some of the best acting talent in the U.K. such as Ewan McGregor. Boyle’s other films on his resume include The Beach, 28 Days Later and the new release, Millions.

Andy Wing Pres & CEO of Nielsen, the company that tracks box office performance around the world, spoke at this luncheon about the importance of educating consumers and to understand their attitude on piracy.  However, Dan Glickman as newly appointed President and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America, succeeding Jack Valenti who retired last year, stood out making a major impression.  As former Secretary of Agriculture under President Clinton, Glickman is a valuable asset to the MPAA, a formidable gentleman whose energy, political intellect and experience is beneficial in dealing with government officials throughout the world, especially regarding piracy. As a self described passionate film buff who called this cultural means “Food for the Soul”, and the “best bridge builder around the world”, Glickman spoke about meeting with Mexican President Fox, and has plans to meet with government officials in China to discuss the piracy issue, a so called “dagger” in the industry. Later during his address at the Opening Day Convention Ceremonies, he spoke about a hard-hitting personal experience with piracy.  Upon recently visiting the largest flea market in Mexico Glickman saw over 400 stalls selling pirated CDs. But, one caught his eye among hundreds of counterfeits, The Pacifier, the newly released Vin Diesel film that just happens to be produced by Glickman’s son Jonathan.

Glickman urged attendees to become involved in the fight against piracy in all forms including curtailing digital theft on the Internet and optical disc piracy. Along with help of NATO, Glickman promised to lead the effort and to implement the anti camcording policy that has been adapted by several states and he is working with Congress on a law to make piracy a federal crime, including on the Internet. Grass roots efforts in every state, and a rewards program to theatre personnel for monitoring camcording is also underway. Glickman made it clear that he will do whatever he can to enhance and project a positive image of the Hollywood industry.

The other big buzz was about the dawn of digital cinema and digital 3D, which is steadily gaining momentum with the support and influence of creative filmmakers such as James Cameron (Titanic), George Lucas (Star Wars), Robert Rodriguez (Spy Kids) and Bob Zemeckis (Forrest Gump) and Randal Kleiser (Grease). These movie pioneers were on hand for a special 3D presentation and question and answer discussion about the future of 3D movies for digital cinema screens. They all are in agreement that 3D projection “takes you to a new dimension that you can’t get in your home. Getting people out of the house and sharing a movie with a theatre filled with like-minded patrons “is a social experience people want” Lucas stressed. “Digital projection technology allows advances in a new and enhanced cinema experience.  I want to make 3D movies that can be seen in all theatres, not just IMAX.

Cameron described himself as a “man on a mission” when it comes to 3D and can’t shoot in a lesser format now that he has shot in 3D, adding “3D is the future. You will have to pry 3D glasses out of my cold dead fingers.

Getting back to George Lucas – before receiving his Galactic Achievement Award at the closing night banquet (I will get to those ceremonies later), Lucas was on hand at the 20th Century Fox Luncheon and Preview Presentation to introduce footage from the movie conclusion of the Star Wars saga – Episode 3 Revenge of the Sith, which he referred to as  “Titanic in space” and more emotional than the others (episodes). He was accompanied by an army of white uniformed storm troopers who paraded through the audience to join Darth Vader on stage.  The costumed Vader sound-alike had the audience laughing when he proclaimed that the attendees understand the power of the Dark Side, and must be “my kind of people. Why else would you hold your convention in Las Vegas”?  All kidding aside, Episode 3 looks to be an exciting, fully realized summer blockbuster.


George Lucas

Fox brought along a few stars to help promote its upcoming films and to introduce the clips. Drew Barrymore and Jimmy Fallon dropped by to “pitch” their baseball backdrop romantic comedy, “Fever Pitch”.  Fallon was funny asking people in the cheap seats (in the far back) to sing “Sweet Caroline”. Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt also took to the stage to plug their film Mr. And Mrs. Smith, about two of the world’s deadliest assassins, married to, but hired to kill each other, which is opening June 10.  Rumored to be an item, the couple barely interacted (was that on purpose?) but thanked exhibitors for supporting their work. 

Other clips were from “Rebound”, a Martin Lawrence as basketball coach comedy, which opens July 4th weekend, Ridley Scott’s “Kingdom of Heaven” which stars Orlando Bloom as a Knight fighting for love and conscience, during the 12th Century crusades which is expected to be one of the most talked about films of the summer, and the highly anticipated live action adaptation of Marvel Comics’ longest running series, the “Fantastic Four”.  Talked about, but not available for preview was the Johnny Cash biopic, “Walk The Line” which stars, Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon, “In Her Shoes” with Cameron Diaz and Shirley MacClaine, and sequels to “Cheaper by the Dozen”, “Garfield” and “Big Mama’s House.

Lest I forget, the Opening Ceremony sponsored by DLP Cinema saluted the $100 Million Films of 2004 (including four successful follow-ups: Spider Man 2, The Bourne Identity, Meet the Fockers).  Shrek 2 topped the list grossing over $300 million, earning a Special Platinum Award, for Jeffrey Katzenberg and his animation studio Dreamworks SKG. Also presented on the huge ballroom screens were samples of Dreamworks upcoming films:  “Red Eye”, a thriller directed by Wes Craven, starring Rachel McAdams, Michael Bay’s directed sci fi, “The Island” starring Ewan McGregor, and a delightful teaser for the computer animated comedy, “Madagascar” which stars the voices of Jada Pinkett Smith, Chris Rock, Ben Stiller and David Schwimmer as a quartet of animals that break out of the Central Park Zoo.

John Fithian, President and CEO of NATO addressed the importance of the rating system in hopes of making sure the system stays effective. He stated “the ratings give parents important information in order to make responsible decisions on the movies which are appropriate for children to attend.” Fithian noted Mel Gibon’s Passion was released without a rating, even though the ratings board gave it an R, to which he added controversy proves good for business. Another example was Farhenheit 911, which is the highest grossing documentary in history.

As far as the awards go, there were various others given throughout the convention ceremonies and receptions.   Some of those honored prior to the anxiously awaited Final Night Banquet included recipients at the prestigious 24th Annual Hollywood Reporter Showmanship Awards co-sponsored by Christie and Dolby Labs with Penn Jillette of Penn and Teller (who called himself “cheap carny trash - how applicable in a room filled with class!) as Master of Ceremonies. But, the surprise treat was the entertainment supplied by a talented student band of Paul Green’s Rock School who wowed the crowd with their awesome musical interpretations of Santana and The Doors. 

Of course, for me being foremost a film buff and movie critic, ShoWest event highlights always entail taking in as many full length preview screenings as I can. An Evening of Independent Films Showcased at Las Vegas’s own Orleans theatre complex included IFC Films “Dust to Glory”, New Market Films “The Chumscrubber”, Paramount Classics “Mad Hot Ballroom”, Sony Pictures Classics “Layer Cake”, and the two I chose to see, Focus Features “My Summer of Love” about hurt and manipulation, and Lions Gate Films “House of D”, a coming of age story about a man’s reflection of his youth growing up in N.Y. and the people who impacted his life in unexpected ways. Beautifully written, skillfully directed and starring David Duchovny, this is a poignant, touching film with a wonderful performance by Robin Williams and a surprising breakout role by singer Erykah Badu that should launch her movie career.

I got a chance to chat with the very personable and charming Duchovny after the film, who is by the way, much better looking, or better put, handsome, in person.  He said although he shares the same geographical location as the character he plays, it is not biographical but loosely based on his growing up in New York.  David described the film as a “little movie trapped in a big movie body.  I just wanted to make an old fashioned movie going experience.” I think he accomplished that wholeheartedly. I really loved this film and hope it doesn’t get lost among the major releases. See it if you get chance. It is one of the best flicks I’ve seen this year.


David Duchovny and Judy Thorburn

Additional full length preview screenings were MGM’s Beauty Shop starring Queen Latifah, Warner Bros. Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Dangerous with Sandra Bullock reprising her role as an FBI agent, Sony Picture’s Kung Fu Hustle written, directed and starring International Asian star Stephen Chow in a comedy/action piece set in pre-revolutionary China, and Lions Gate Films’ Crash, a powerful film that marks the directorial debut of writer Paul Haggis.  The ensemble cast includes Brendan Fraser (who appeared in person to introduce the film), Matt Dillon, Don Cheadle, Sandra Bullock, Thandie Newton and Ryan Phillippe. This is an emotionally riveting film, on the lines of Grand Canyon mixed with 21 Grams, that will stay with you long after you leave the theatre and must be considered come Oscar time next year.  I recommend “Crash” as a must see!


Stephen Chow

Sony Pictures pulled a teaser like no other by showing what appeared to be almost half of their upcoming film “Stealth” (which co-stars ShoWest Female Star Of Tomorrow award recipient - Jessica Biel) to the attendees during a preview presentation.  Talk about cliffhanger!  Just when the audience became immersed in the screen – those words popped up - “ to be continued”.  I can’t say we weren’t forewarned.  Those movie moguls knew exactly how to pump us up with interest, and it worked - which means they did their job - leaving us hungry for more.  

On a side note, I just happened to take a seat next to former TV talk shown host and actress Ricki Lake who came to the show as just another attendee, and we chatted up a storm. The newly divorced mother of two young boys, Milo and Owen looked fresh faced and pretty sans any makeup. She was with two gorgeous males, who were both introduced to me as personal trainers, new sweetie Apollo (yes, that’s his name) and their friend Jeff.  I asked Ricki if she has any acting roles lined up and she told me she is working on a documentary about midwives and pregnancy. Motherhood is her first priority and she is in no hurry to get back to acting.  I would have liked to talk with her more, but she exited the theatre before the lights went on.

At a morning press conference, the cast of Fantastic Four, Jessica Alba (Invisible Woman), Michael Chiklis (The Thing), Julian MacMahon (the villainous Dr. Doom), Chris Evans (Human Torch) and Ioan Groffudd (Mr. Fantastic) were present to talk about their role in the film and spoke about the great rapport they had working with each other on the film. Jessica spoke about having a lot of experience with kick ass roles, but that she is really very maternal, family oriented and more of a homemaker, which Chiklis attested to, calling her their little “earth mother”. All had read the ultimate comic book series and said they have already signed up for the (expected) franchise.  Asked about the theme, Chiklis said it is about a “dysfunctional family, overcoming obstacles and coming together over (their obvious) differences.” As soon as he was put into the suit (after 3 and l/2 hours of makeup), it provided everything he needed to portray his character, the Thing. At the sneak peak we were told that F4’s finalized special effects are so groundbreaking they did not exist a year ago. Audiences can expect emotion and humor in one jam-packed, CGI laced action piece. I don’t know about you… but from the looks of the teaser clip, I can’t wait to see it!


Cast of Fantastic Four - Photo by Zee Matalounis

Once again, I was pleased to see one of Las Vegas’s own, Joseph Girouard, Director of Corporate Relations and Promotions for the Brenden Theatre at the Palms, accept on Johnny Brendan’s behalf a second consecutive award, this time for the Best Cross Promotion for the Palm’s marketing campaign for Cat Woman.

Thursday night’s Gala Awards banquet was emceed by Access Hollywood personalities Shawn Robinson and Billy Bush. This culmination of the annual ShoWest event is the shiniest and brightest, where NATO gets to honor movie stars, up and comers, and industry achievers with statuette awards. Recipients for 2005 along with their acceptance speech were as follows:

George Lucas - Upon receiving his Galactic Achievement Award said he “appreciated the synergy between filmmakers and exhibitors. In the end we are after the same thing –the best entertainment value for the dollar.

Drew Barrymore- Distinguished Decade of Achievement in Film. “This has been an amazing time in my life, the best time in my life, also the 10th anniversary of starting a company with my partner. Thanks for taking a chance on a geek like me”, the now dark haired actress noted.


Drew Barrymore

Rachel McAdams- Supporting Actress of the Year remarked at how (happily) surprised she was to be receiving this award.


Rachel McAdams

Hayden Christensen- Male Star of Tomorrow stated, “I will do my best to live up to this responsibility.  Thank you George Lucas. To be part of his world is nothing short of phenomenal”.


Hayden Christiansen

Jessica Biel –Female Star of Tomorrow. Looking gorgeous in a yellow/gold off the shoulder, knee-length dress said, “I am so nervous. I have never been acknowledged for anything before. I love what I do and am so lucky to be doing it”.


Jessica Biel

Bernie Mac – Comedy Star of the Year upon getting picking up his award said “When they told me (I was getting this award), I said Show what? I wasn’t expecting anything. He seemed deeply touched by this recognition.


Bernie Mac

Rob Cohen (XXX, Fast and the Furious)- Director of the Year said that “after 33 years of doing this I have a lot of people to thank” and proceeded to mention the Sony family (and other names I didn’t jot down).


Rob Cohen

Brad Bird- Animator of the Year (The Incredibles). “I was the kid in the third row being enthralled. I want to hold onto that movie experience. For all who want to make it a special experience – popcorn and all. I want to be able to do it (make movies) until I die. Here’s to you”, he exclaimed.


Brad Bird

Matt Damon- Male Star of the Year. “I have too many people to name. I will narrow it down to one person, my agent Patrick. I want to thank ShoWest and behalf of my pimp, agent”, adding “George Lucas, I am available for Star Wars 6, 7, 8 and 9”.


Matt Damon

Jennifer Aniston – Female Star of the Year. “This is incredible. I love what I do. This means a lot, and I hope I can continue showing up in your studios, movie theatres and TV”.


Jennifer Aniston

Let me add, at an earlier press conference producer Chris Moore, of Project Greenlight introduced the 2005 Coca Cola Refreshing Filmmaker Award recipient, Florida State University student Matthew Pope, who won this award for his short film “The Line Starts Here”. 


Chris Moore with Matthew Pope

I missed catching Mel Gibson receiving his Best Picture of the Year Award for the Passion of the Christ. Unfortunately, myself and other members of the press were waiting needlessly for the expected and promised presence of some of the “royal” award recipients who, after we waited literally hours in the pressroom for them to make an appearance, snubbed us as a no show, causing us to be late in arriving at the Gala Banquet.  That’s my only complaint.  But, thanks to George, Jessica, Hayden, and Brad Bird it wasn’t a total waste of time.

Be that as it may, there is always next year for more hot star sightings, upcoming sneak peaks and the latest industry news to report. About that slogan - If it happens in Vegas, it stays in Vegas!  Not when it comes to ShoWest!

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