Entertainment Roundup – CinemaCon Edition: State of the Industry, STX, Paramount & Disney

The State of the Industry: Past, Present and Future

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According to President-CEO of the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) John Fithian, the movie industry broke new domestic and international box office records in 2016 and 2017 is off to a great start in first quarter with the largest March in cinema history.

And just who are those wonderful people out there in the dark? Millennials! NATO statistics show that 55% of frequent moviegoers (those going to at least four movies during the past two months) fall into the 18-34 age range, and movie-going by this key demographic as well as 25-39 year-olds was up once again over the previous year, driven in part by the new reclining seating. (So Millennials love movies and putting their feet up…La-Z-Boy, have we got a target audience for you!)

“Open and diverse societies drive movie attendance,” said Fithian, noting that Hispanics are the most frequent moviegoers, and that Asian and African-American audiences are on the rise. “NATO benefits from a global worldview.”

 

STX Entertainment

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After making its debut on the CinemaCon stage just last year, STX was back to start the day off with a great presentation and a new slate featuring a little something for everyone.

First up was the technology and social media thriller The Circle, based on the book by Dave Eggers. Emma Watson plays Mae, a young employee who rises through the ranks at the biggest tech company in the world and is encouraged by the company’s founder, Eamon Bailey (Tom Hanks), to engage in a groundbreaking experiment that pushes the boundaries of privacy, ethics and ultimately her personal freedom.

STX is also stepping up its blockbuster game with the Luc Besson epic Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, based on the French graphic novels that have inspired a generation of sci-fi filmmakers. The worldwide trailer debut was a 3-D spectacle of astounding brightly-colored visuals, and even the young star Cara Delevingne couldn’t resist going out into the audience to see it for herself on the huge CinemaCon screen.

Molly’s Game, written and directed by Aaron Sorkin, tells the true story behind the headlines of Molly Bloom (Jessica Chastain), the infamous “poker madam” who rose through the social circuit to became an organizer of underground poker games for the Hollywood and Wall Street elite, and ultimately, the Russian mob. “It isn’t often you come across a story that is both cool and has a lot of heart, and this one does,” Sorkin noted on stage, “It’s fun to tell people a story that they think they know.”

On the animation front, they have several fun films in the pipeline including Ugly Dolls; an untitled animated Eddie Murphy project that tells the story of a bull that wants to be a rodeo clown; and the Tim Rice/Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, produced by Elton John’s Rocket Pictures in association with Really Useful Group. “Go, go go Joseph you know what they say…Hang on now Joseph you’ll make it (on the big screen) some day!”

Other STX films include The Foreigner starring a dark and compelling Jackie Chan playing a former assassin searching for justice after a London bombing kills his daughter; Renegades, an action movie featuring a group of Navy Seals trying to recover lost Nazi gold at the bottom of a lake in enemy territory; the survival-at-sea story Adrift; Den of Thieves; and Mile 22, the start of a new trilogy starring Mark Wahlberg.

But comedy fans should especially be looking forward to A Bad Moms Christmas, the follow-up to the smash R-rated comedy Bad Moms, starring Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell, Kathryn Hahn, Annie Mumolo, Jada Pinkett Smith and Christina Applegate spreading their own unique take on holiday cheer. STX chairman Adam Fogelson, who called Christmas “the Super Bowl for mothers,” asked Kunis how she celebrated the holiday growing up. “It’s a funny question to ask a Russian refugee who’s a Jew what Christmas was like,” Kunis quipped, before adding that her family celebrated all holidays once they moved to America. “Christmas was just another reason to get the whole family together and be debaucherous.” You may want to add this movie to your “naughty” list this holiday season!

 

Paramount Pictures

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Paramount was up next, with a galaxy of stars and a new slate that focused on franchise power, branded content and great filmmakers.

Dwayne Johnson got the crowd going and lead the “Avengers of the Beach” to the stage to bring the audience the extended Fuchsia (FU for F***king Unbelievable)-band trailer for Baywatch, which was everything you’d expect and…um…so much more.

In what may be the strangest genre shift ever seen on a CinemaCon stage, former VP Al Gore then made a surprise appearance between a clip and a trailer for his new documentary, An Inconvenient Sequel – Truth To Power, walking onto the stage to Nelly’s Hot in Herre and reminding us that the debate about global warming is far from over.

A look at the Natalie Portman-Oscar Isaac sci-fi thriller Annihilation was next, based on the book of the same name by Jeff VanderMeer.

The discussion then turned to branded content, with Paramount’s motion picture group president Marc Evans promising that the studio will be working even more closely with its sister Viacom TV brands like Nickelodeon on animated films including Sherlock Gnomes opening on January 12 and Amusement Park opening on August 10, 2018.

Matt Damon took the stage twice during Paramount’s presentation, first with Julianne Moore and director George Clooney for Suburbicon, a dark, quirky Cohen Brothers film about what Clooney called, “Flawed people making some really bad choices along the way.” Damon later returning to the stage with director Alexander Payne and co-star Kristen Wiig to introduce “a bite-sized morsel” of Downsizing, a movie set in a not-so-distant future world where people have the option to be shrunk down and live their lives on a smaller scale to make their money go further and combat overpopulation. If the CinemaCon audience reaction is any indication, this fresh, original movie is going to be one to watch.

And it wouldn’t be a Paramount presentation without a look at the next Mission Impossible (6), which begins on April 8 in London, India, Paris and New Zealand filming in IMAX 3D. Look for it to hit the big screen July 27, 2018.

The studio then closed its presentation by highlighting its most successful franchise with the main cast on stage and a 15-minute sneak peek at Transformers: The Last Knight, which director Michael Bay touted as being the first to be shot entirely in Imax 3D. The key to saving the future lies with the unlikely alliance of Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg), Bumblebee, an English lord (Anthony Hopkins) and an Oxford professor (Laura Haddock) to save the world.

 

The Walt Disney Studios

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After bringing in 7.6 billion in global box office last year, when Disney talks, exhibitors listen. The final studio presentation of the day was a very short and sweet 12 ½ minutes, as distribution chief Dave Hollis chose to let the upcoming slate from Disney’s five studios (Marvel Studios, Walt Disney Animation, Disney Studios, Pixar and LucasFilm) speak for itself, including a full screening of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.

It looks like another banner year for Disney, with a list of what seem to be practically guaranteed hits including Marvel’s Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 (May 5), Thor: Ragnarok with the return of the Hulk (November 3), Black Panther in his own film (February 16, 2018) and Avengers: Infinity War (May 4, 2018); Pixar’s Cars 3 (June 16) and Coco (November 22); Disneynature’s Born In China; and of course Lucasfilm’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi on December 15 (which picks up just where we left off on the Cliffside with Luke Skywalker) and the untitled Han Solo Anthology during Memorial Day weekend 2018.

Disney’s presentation concluded with Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, the fifth movie in a 14-year-old franchise that has grossed more than $3.7 billion combined. Opening on May 26, it is sure to be a hit with anyone who loved the previous movies, and stars Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow, Geoffrey Rush as Barbossa and Javier Bardem as Captain Salazar. Brenton Thwaites and Kaya Scodelario play the new characters, while Orlando Bloom returns as Will Turner. Plus, there’s a random cameo by Paul McCartney that was rated “Arrrr!”

Up next, Universal, Focus Features and Warner Bros.

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