The largest assembly of international exhibitors and distributors in the world, ShoWest (March 12-15) remains an informative and entertaining stopping-off point on the industry calendar. Yet as next week's 33rd incarnation approaches, there is a growing realisation that the Las Vegas shindig is of more use to some than others.

While the smaller theatre owners typically enjoy their four days in the desert attending sneak previews and panel discussions, corporate consolidation among the larger North American exhibitors means ShoWest is starting to lose its significance for the studios.

Nobody will say it on the record, of course, but the words of one executive - who asked to remain anonymous - sum up the situation: 'AMC, Regal and Cinemark control most of the screens in the country and there are probably just a handful of film bookers that you need to convince to book a picture.

'People will always continue to support ShoWest,' the executive added. 'But it doesn't make sense to put on such a big show any more.'

In terms of promotional dollars these days, the studio focus has shifted to San Diego's Comic-Con convention in July.

That said, there are the usual number of high-profile advance screenings, including two serial-killer thrillers - Paramount's Disturbia with Carrie-Anne Moss and MGM's Mr Brooks starring Kevin Costner - and Picturehouse's salsa-themed biopic El Cantante featuring Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony, plus New Line will be preparing a special event for Hairspray starring John Travolta.

Paramount Pictures International president Andrew Cripps will be in town to give the International Day keynote speech on the overseas market, while Motion Picture Association of America chief Dan Glickman and National Association of Theatre Owners (Nato) head honcho John Fithian return to the podium for their traditional addresses.

It falls on Glickman and Fithian each year to paint a rosy picture of the business, and Glickman will be happy to provide reams of data about the box-office successes of 2006. And with a huge roster of potential blockbusters lined up this year, Bill Clinton's former agriculture secretary should be in fine fettle.

However, the spectre of shrinking release windows looms large, and Fithian will doubtless look to assuage the fears of the exhibition community. Digital delivery will also be writ large on the event, while delegates will also learn about final revisions to the often contentious film-ratings system.

So many initiatives have been launched to thwart piracy over the last few years that the subject no longer takes centre stage.

Honorees include Don Cheadle for male star (Focus Features are screening his forthcoming drama Talk To Me) and screenwriter Bruce Joel Rubin (The Last Mimzy). R/C Theatres chairman J Wayne Anderson and his wife, Nato vice-president and executive director Mary Ann Anderson will collect the ShoWesters of the Year award, while Toho chairman Isao Matsuoka will receive the international lifetime achievement award.