Cinema Expo, the annualtrade show and conference for the exhibition industry in Europe, kicked off onMonday (June 21) with a high profile presence from United InternationalPictures (UIP), and some tentative optimism about the rollout of digital cinema.

Yesterday was dubbed"UIP day" by Cinema Expo and Jeffrey Katzenberg's attendancecertainly upped the executive quotient for the distributor - in lieu of anyacting superstars in Amsterdam. The DreamWorks co-founder, whose films are handled overseasthrough UIP, made a whistle-stop visit to Amsterdam to accept the conference'sexcellence in film-making award, and to talk up DreamWorks' future animationprojects.

Katzenberg showed exclusiveearly footage of Shark Tale and Madagascar, next summer's digital animation starring the voicesof Ben Stiller, David Schwimmer, Chris Rock and Jada Pinkett Smith. Counting SharkTale and Madagascar, DreamWorks is working on 10 animated features atvarious stages of production, two of which are set for release in 2005.

"This is [DreamWorks']tenth anniversary, and on both the animation and live action front it's a greatyear for us," Katzenberg told delegates.

Following that, UIP chairmanand CEO Stewart Till and president and COO Andrew Cripps were on hand tointroduce 18 titles set for release between now and early 2005. Most came withexclusive footage or trailers, including The Bourne Supremacy, Anchorman, Sky Captain And The World Of Tomorrow, Alfie,Bridget Jones: The Edge Of Reason,Nanny McPhee and Thunderbirds.

There were no stars on hand,but Tom Cruise, Jude Law, Will Ferrell, Matthew Lillard, Thunderbirds director Jonathan Frakes and Taylor Hackford, allcontributed personalised taped messages for the Cinema Expo crowd.

Till and Cripps stressedUIP's marketing support for the titles. "We will support all of our filmswith aggressive marketing that is tailor made for each country," Tillsaid.

Also on hand at UIP'spresentation were DreamWorks' production co-chiefs Walter Parkes and LaurieMacDonald, who unveiled exclusive footage from Michael Mann's Collateral and Brad Silberling's Lemony Snicket's A Series OfUnfortunate Events, both of whichare co-productions between DreamWorks and Paramount Pictures.

"Lemony Snicket is second only to Harry Potter among the most popular kids books," Parkes tolddelegates. "And we went for a level of sophistication and film-makingscale to appeal to the whole family."

With such early footage onshow, piracy remains a big deal at Cinema Expo, which runs until Thursdayevening. Attendees pass through metal detectors at the entrance to screeningsand were warned on day one that security staff with night vision goggles wouldbe monitoring screenings.

At the UIP presentation,Stewart Till quipped: "Andrew and I only rehearsed this morning, andalready pirate DVDs of the presentation are available on the streets ofHammersmith."

Earlier in the day, JohnFithian, president of the National Association Of Theater Owners, acknowledgedthe painfully slow progress of digital cinema rollout, but argued it wasnecessary that the process was not rushed. "The first question anyone asksis, why is it taking so long'" he said. "The process is taking solong because it needs to take so long -- it should take this long."

Speaking at a seminarupdating digital cinema, Fithian added that he believed that standards process-- governing how digital cinema is rolled out -- was 80% there, but stillexpressed concerns over technology. "Make it as simple as possible,"he urged.

Discussions about the tardyexpansion of digital is almost a tradition at Cinema Expo, now in its 13thyear. "Have things changed'" asked Jan van Dommelen, president ofUNIC. "Yes: there are more cinemas, there is the UK Film Councilinitiative (to install digital screens) but we are still talking about thefuture. A lot of people, perhaps in Brussels, thought it would happen a lotquicker."