Studios present their latest offerings at ShoWest

ShoWest, the annual schmooze-fest for theater owners and film execs, is usually a celeb-filled Las Vegas blowout. But this year, star power was dimmer as many studios (Disney, Paramount, Universal) avoided the big Sho. Despite the industry’s titanic profits, it’s no longer cost-effective for Hollywood to butter up every exhibitor in the free world. Or, as one film exec said, ”We need to cut down on marketing, advertising, and Kevin Costner.” Still, ShoWest had a few highlights:

HORROR SHOW Sony’s luncheon should have been a cakewalk. Besides having actual stars, including Julia Roberts, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Nicolas Cage, the studio had an extended look at Godzilla, the convention’s most eagerly anticipated trailer. But after making exhibitors sit through a tiresome Vanna White-hosted presentation, Sony finally trotted out its clips — and they featured more Matthew Broderick than monster mash. Not that Broderick isn’t scary…

LET’S GET SMALL DreamWorks returned to the drawing board — with animation and computer wizardry — and hit the jackpot with surprisingly appealing clips of Antz, a cartoon about a neurotic insect (voiced by Woody Allen), and Small Soldiers, in which dolls programmed with military software come to life. The best response came for Paulie, a slapstick comedy about a smart-ass parrot (think Babe with a beak).

THE BEST PART OF BREAKING UP — NOT! Miramax’s ShoWest debut was overshadowed by the ongoing soap opera known as the Matt Damon & Minnie Driver show. The recently split Good Will Hunting couple, who received the convention’s Stars of Tomorrow awards, had to put on their best smiles as harried Miramax publicists scrambled to keep a diplomatic distance between the two. (At one point, Driver gazed tellingly at her fingernails when Damon’s name was called.)

TRUTH IN ADVERTISING AWARD Emcee Tom Arnold, who, in introducing the Screenwriter of the Year prize, declared, ”This is where we distinguish the best scripts from the ones they send me.”