Cine Expo gets down to business on Day 3

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AMSTERDAM -- It was strictly business Wednesday on Day 3 of Cinema Expo as top brass from Warner Bros. and Disney landed to extol the virtues of their upcoming blockbuster hopefuls with back-to-back showreels at largely glitz-free presentations.

Top brass from Walt Disney Studios International unveiled trailers, rough scenes and production pieces to the delegates Wednesday evening before hosting a party. Earlier in the afternoon, the studio screened "Ratatouille" for confab attendees.

Walt Disney Studio motion picture group president Mark Zoradi introduced filmmaker Kevin Lima, who walked exhibitors through the casting process for his film "Enchanted," which begins with traditional 2-D Disney animation before shifting to live action with CGI effects.

The tale of a traditional Disney princess who finds herself cast to modern-day New York City is set to open this year worldwide and, according to Zoradi, Disney is hoping to create a franchise with it.

Lima, who started at Disney in 1987 and directed animated hit "Tarzan" and live actioner "102 Dalmatians" for the studio, said he wanted to be a Disney animator "since he was 5."

Disney's showreel also showcased footage from the next films in the "Narnia" and "National Treasure" franchises -- "The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian" and "National Treasure: Book of Secrets" -- as well as "Wall E," a Pixar movie about an old-fashioned robot.

The morning kicked off with a Warner Bros. Pictures presentation that offered highlights of the studio's upcoming release slate including "10,000 B.C.," "Get Smart" and an entire reel from Robert Zemeckis' "Beowulf."

It was, according to Warners brass, the first time anyone in the world has seen the footage from "Beowulf," having taken delivery of it from Zemeckis as they boarded the plane to travel to the Netherlands.

Will Smith, sporting a sparkly T-shirt with the slogan "I Am Hip Hop" emblazoned on it, conjured a laugh from the crowd with his quip that his movie "I Am Legend" would be in a theater near you, because "it's your theater."

Warner Bros. also showed footage from Brad Pitt starrer "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" to give theater owners "a feel for the scope and look of the movie."

This year's Cine Expo marked the return of Warner Bros. Pictures international distribution chief Veronika Kwan-Rubinek and Sue Kroll, president of international marketing, after a three-year absence from the show.

The duo took the crowd through the studio's timetable of releases, with the next installment in the reinvented Batman franchise, "The Dark Knight," helmed by Christopher Nolan and starring Christian Bale, among the highlights.

Taped messages from filmmakers including Nolan, "10,000 BC" helmer Roland Emmerich and "Speed Racer" producer Joel Silver whetted the audience's appetite.

Applause broke out after footage from the Steve Carell starrer "Get Smart," and Spike Jonze's imagining of the children's classic "Where the Wild Things Are" received a thumbs up from European exhibitors here.

Carell, having declared himself to be American, proceeded to communicate in gobbledygook comprising French, German and Italian before adding, "You don't really hate us do you? I know why. I'm sorry."

At lunchtime, delegates were treated to a "Beowulf"-themed feeding frenzy complete with crazy Viking drummers beating out a rhythm while hunger was sated by roast pig and gallons of wine.

"2008 is beginning to feel a whole lot better for our business after the last few days than it was a couple of weeks ago," one veteran exhibitor said.

This year's attendees also were abuzz Wednesday with the prospect of hosting boxoffice star Tom Cruise, who is expected Thursday to talk up United Artists and its slate of upcoming releases.

Cruise and partner Paula Wagner are set to touch down at Cinema Expo on Thursday to herald a first look at fare from their new-look United Artists including a clip of Robert Redford's "Lions for Lambs." The show will be presented by 20th Century Fox, which is expected to release the titles from the new label internationally.

The duo also is expected to talk about "Valkyrie," the World War II thriller that has landed the actor in hot water with Germany because of his links with the Church of Scientology.
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