Outside the entertainment industry, it's a little-known convention, a trade show where theater owners and executives discuss the latest developments in vegetable oils for the cinema popcorn machine, an event that is about as exciting as, well, watching corn pop. But ShoWest '97 draws Hollywood stars like nothing short of the Academy Awards.

Though the show officially opened with Monday's keynote address from MGM Chairman Frank Mancuso (warning the industry of the dangers of over-expansion), the first serving of star power was delivered at a luncheon Tuesday, sponsored by Sony to highlight the studio's summer and fall releases. Emcee Alex Trebek introduced a string of stars, writers and directors who came to the microphone one by one to sway theater owners into booking their movies.

"We spent seven-and-a-half weeks shooting in South America," rapper-turned-movie-star Ice Cube said of Anaconda, which received enthusiastic "oohs" and "ahs" when the special-effects-laden trailer was played. "I couldn't wait to get back to South-Central." Harrison Ford was in town to promote two Sony films, Devil's Own (co-star and nemesis Brad Pitt was noticeably absent) and Air Force One. "I've traded the Millennium Falcon for Air Force One," the actor deadpanned, alluding to his role as Han Solo in the Star Wars trilogy.

The very short Danny DeVito showed up hand-in-hand with the very tall Uma Thurman to pitch their dangers-of-cloning film, Gattaca. "I just want you all to know that we had nothing to do with the sheep," an obviously delighted DeVito said, referring to recent headlines about the successful cloning of sheep in Scotland.

Others on hand? Cuba Gooding Jr. hammed it up with Old Friends co-star Jack Nicholson. "Come on Jack, show me the money." Julia Roberts and Dermot Mulroney teased each other playfully and received spirited applause for the trailer of their summer melodrama, My Best Friend's Wedding, which Roberts called "the only mushy love movie all summer. And scores of others: Michael Keaton, Helen Hunt, Gwyneth Paltrow, Alicia Silverstone and Rene Russo to name a few.

"We don't get anything like this back home," said Trish Watson, who traveled from Winnipeg, Canada, to scope out the coming fleet of films. "I bumped into Antonio Banderas when I was walking out. The biggest thing we ever got at home was Scott Barstow, who was in that Disney movie about the Iditarod."

And that is exactly why the stars fly in from film sets, vacations and Beverly Hills bistros for just a couple of minutes on a crowded dais.

The show continues through Thursday night.

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