Joshua Rich
March 14, 2007 AT 07:25 PM EDT

Three of this summer’s biggest movies — Transformers (pictured),Ratatouille, and Pirates of the Caribbean 3 — were in the spotlight yesterday,as ShoWest moved into its second day in Las Vegas. If you pony up to see these and other likely 2007 blockbusters, you may be contributing to the biggest year ever at the box office.

Or so suggested two of the movie industry’s top lobbyists. The opening ceremonies for the exhibitors’ annualconvention featured addresses from MPAA honcho Dan Glickman, whopredicted a strong year ahead at the box office and stressed continuedvigilance in enforcing the movie ratings system and anti-piracy efforts, andNational Association of Theater Owners head John Fithian, who cited strong 2006financials while thumbing his nose at skeptics in the press who’ve argued that themovie business is going down the drain. (Who, me?) Fithian also seemed tointroduce a new euphemism to the lexicon — “movie theft” (that is, piracy) — because “we want to stop using that Johnny Depp image for this problem.”

Arrrrr, and speaking of, uberproducer Jerry Bruckheimer wason hand to present the worldwide premiere of the trailer for Pirates of theCaribbean: At World’s End, in which, it seems, all of Jack Sparrow’s nemesesunite to duel their foes in driving rainstorms. The theater proprietors inattendance cheered for the clip of the film, which opens May 25th.

Then, director Brad Bird (The Incredibles) took the stage to introduce a12-minute piece of footage from June 29’s Pixar extravaganza, Ratatouille.The movie centers on the cuddliest little rodent imaginable, a scrappy fellernamed Remy (voiced by The King of Queens’ Patton Oswalt), who loves to cook andfinds himself running around the kitchen of a fancy Paris restaurant where hebefriends a bumbling “garbage boy” who’s down on his luck. For those keepingtrack, the CG wizards at Pixar have now perfected realistic-looking toys,bugs, fish, superheroes, cars, rats, and food, which seems to be all over the placein this film. Less realistic in Ratatouille: the fact that its French characters(and critters) all speak English to each other. C’est la vie.

But the day’s main course was yet to come: a surprise presentation of about 20minutes from this summer’s most perplexing potential blockbuster,Transformers, which opens on the Fourth of July.

Director Michael Bay took the stage, telling the crowd that the three clips he brought weren’t necessarilythe best ones in the film, they were just the most complete (and some of them,in fact, weren’t finished). Still, I’ve gotta say, the scenes looked prettycool, and they may just have assuaged my fears that this movie is going to be adopey mess that will do a disservice to a beloved part of my childhood. Fromthe looks of things, Transformers plays a lot like War of the Worlds, withalien robots wreaking all sorts of havoc on Earth. But instead of a hoodied single dadinexplicably hoofing it to Boston, here the human heroes include some studly U.S.servicemen (including a wise-cracking Josh Duhamel and Tyrese Gibson) who getattacked by the Decepticons in the desert of Qatar, and a smart-alecky suburbanteenager (Shia LaBeouf) who loves skateboarding, The Strokes, chihuahuas, and,apparently, porn, and who comes face-to-headlights with the Autobots.

As for OptimusPrime & Co., they look pretty cool, actually — think of the souped-up carsin the Fast and the Furious movies and add in a shiny semi rig. Anyway, lots of stuffblows up, lots of products are placed (HP, Chevy, etc.), and there are a plentyof laughs at the expense of wind-breaking babies, Indian phoneoperators, and, um, masturbating teens. In other words, your typical summer actionflick. And hey, I guess I’m psyched to see it now. What about you?

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