Last month, six studios convened in Las Vegas for CinemaCon. Halfway between a major festival and a gross, crass example of commercialization, CinemaCon is an opportunity for studios to show new trailers and clips for their upcoming slate to theater owners and journalists, sparking buzz for their blockbusters, Oscar contenders, and more. And while not every film meets these criteria (Joy, The Happytime Murders), there are always a litany of films that prove to be just as impressive as the packages presented – Les Misérables, Creed, Bohemian Rhapsody, The Greatest Showman, and A Star Is Born, just to name a few. And as these trailers begin to drop online and films begin to gain word-of-mouth, I thought I’d give you all a recap of the most talked about films from each studio, and share with you all the trailers circling the interwebs. Enjoy!
The festival began with STX Entertainment’s presentation. The youngest studio on the roster, STX is coming off of a fairly disappointing 2018. Desperately in need of a major hit, STX has doubled down on a series of smaller, but viable films. For example, they showed footage from their newest take on The Secret Garden, which promises to be a gorgeous crowd-pleaser smartly released around Christmas. Audiences were dazzled by the footage, but keen-eyed viewers noted that hack writer Jack Thorne provided the screenplay. It’s one to keep an eye on visually, and could rake in the big bucks of the holiday season, but I wouldn’t bet too much on this one. Still, I’m sure it’ll make more money than UglyDolls. The horribly-marketed animated feature failed to dazzle audiences, but its music – led by a liver performance by Kelly Clarkson – at least got audiences moving and grooving. In terms of comedy, STX brought two packages to screen for the theaters. The first was Diane Keaton’s Poms, a cheerleading comedy that the actress herself pitched to the crowd (even though Jacki Weaver stole the show), while the second was Dave Bautista’s My Spy, a Cop And A Half/The Pacifier-esque buddy comedy between Bautista and newcomer Chloe Coleman, which audiences found cute and enjoyable. They also pitched a horror film in Brahms: The Boy II, which, despite the efforts of star Katie Holmes, looked as dumb as it sounds.
However, the real stars of the show were two action movies STX used to center their lineup. The first, 21 Bridges, has already seen its trailer end up online, and it has people talking. Starring Black Panther’s Chadwick Boseman, Bridges is a cat-and-mouse thriller surrounding a cop who shuts down the island of Manhattan in the hopes of finding a team of cop killers. The footage had people talking (as did Sienna Miller’s over-the-top accent), and is sure to be a hit with audiences July 12th. Even more exciting, however, is Guy Ritchie’s The Gentlemen. A return-to-form for the director (i.e. a Snatch-esque comedy-thriller), The Gentlemen showed off a hilariously violent sequence including Hugh Grant, Colin Farrell, and Matthew McConaughey. The trio exchange barbs and gunshots, and includes a litany of four-letter words – audiences applauded at the delivery of the line “Is f*ckery afoot?” You can watch clips for 21 Bridges, My Spy, and Poms below.
Of the lot, Warner Bros. had perhaps the strongest slate. Coming off of 2018’s Crazy Rich Asians/A Star Is Born/Creed II 1-2-3 punch, Warner had strong hopes of making the biggest splash possible, and from Oscar contenders to blockbusters, they succeeded. Obviously, the biggest talking point, both in-festival and online, was Todd Phillips’ The Joker. Audiences were amazed by the notion of a tragic take on the comic book villain, especially one inspired by Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy. It’s a solid trailer, and you can see it posted below. Of course, The Joker wasn’t the only interesting footage Warner Bros. released. They also dropped trailers for their entire slew of Oscar contenders. The only one currently available to the public is the adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Goldfinch, which proved to wow both the convention and the Internet. The two most striking aspects were the cinematography by Roger Deakins and the performance by Jeffrey Wright. This could be a major contender come Oscar season. The other three contenders were The Good Liar and Motherless Brooklyn. The Good Liar happened to be the most interesting contender as Bill Condon has never attempted anything like this before. Following an aging conman and the woman he’s trying to swindle, the Hitchcockian thriller featured two impressive performances from Ian McKellen and Helen Mirren, and should the film stick the landing, this could end up being both performers’ big Oscar break (yes, I know Mirren already has one, but doesn’t it feel like she should have more?). Meanwhile, Motherless Brooklyn is the newest directorial outing of Edward Norton, and it looks to be…hoo boy. Based on the Jonathan Lethem novel of the same name, the film follows Norton as Lionel Essrog, a PI trying to solve the mystery of his mentor’s murder. It’s a well-shot trailer, and the cast looks great, it’s just…Essrog is a man with Tourette’s Syndrome. And Norton is really going for it in the trailer. There are only two possible outcomes to this scenario: this is the most untasteful movie of the year, or Norton’s about to win an Oscar. In fact, it’s entirely possible both options end up happening. We’ll see as time goes on. And finally, there was The Kitchen, the all-female crime thriller. The trailer was fine, although audiences weren’t really talking about it, but the studio wisely brought out Melissa McCarthy and Tiffany Haddish to promote it. Haddish stole the show by telling the story about growing up around gangs as a child: “I grew up around all this gangster stuff. I tried to join a gang, but they all said I was ‘too goofy,’ and that I’d probably snitch. I mean, they were right, but…”
Next, Warner Bros. released footage for their slate of blockbusters and crowd-pleasers. Incidentally, the biggest hit was actually an acquisition from Sundance: Blinded By The Light. A Sing Street-style family romp, the film follows a young Pakistani boy living in a small English town in the 80s. A fan of poetry caught between the racism of his town and his upright family life, the boy finds solace in an unlikely source: the music of one Bruce Springsteen. It’s an entertaining trailer, and it has since dropped for the public to see. You can watch below and see for yourself. Meanwhile, a little footage was shown from Wonder Woman 1984 – not enough to create a general sense of the film’s plot, but enough to show everyone that Patty Jenkins wants to make another gorgeous superhero film. After the brief teaser, Warner Bros. dropped a five minute sequence for CinemaCon audiences to get them hyped for Godzilla: King of the Monsters. While the film eventually tanked with critics when it arrived in theaters (I will have a review up later today), they correctly chose to release the Antarctica scene where Ghidorah battles Godzilla. It unsurprisingly got fans excited for the film. And as the movie was preparing to come out around the same time as the convention, the studio thought it would be a good idea to bring out a holographic Detective Pikachu voiced by Ryan Reynolds. Spoiler alert: it was more frightening than cute. And speaking of frightening, the panel closed out with LOTS of footage for Warner’s big horror push later this year. First came some behind the scenes footage for Doctor Sleep, Ewan McGregor’s Shining sequel where he plays grown-up Danny Torrance. The footage was fine, but most audience-goers noted that the footage leaned VERY heavily on the legacy of Kubrick’s classic. Much more relevant was the trailer for It: Chapter Two, which scared most audience members with the creepy footage of the naked old lady and dissolving clown face. Many viewers also noted the performances of Bill Hader and Jessica Chastain, who clearly stole the show. The presentation closed out with two animated announcements that had fans abuzz. The first was the confirmation that SCOOB!, a Scooby-Doo reboot, is definitely coming in the next year. And much more exciting was the confirmation that yes, Space Jam 2 is indeed coming. That got a loud cheer from the crowd when announced. You can watch clips for The Joker, It: Chapter Two, Blinded By The Light, and The Goldfinch below.
The major theme of Universal’s presentation early on the third day of CinemaCon was “animals. Lots of animals.” For some reason, the studio felt that this was the best way to excite audiences – which seems unnecessary, as their 2018 slate both at the convention and in the real world was the talk of the town (they won Best Picture, for God’s sake). But nevertheless, talking and animals won out, as the studio introduced their kid-friendly animation and live-action footage with animals. For The Secret Life of Pets 2, which looked “fine,” Kevin Hart and Tiffany Haddish came out with a bunny and a Shih Tzu, respectively. Similarly, Dennis Quaid came out with his own dog to introduce A Dog’s Journey, the sequel to his wildly successful (and pretty cute) 2017 hit A Dog’s Purpose. Meanwhile, outside of animals, Universal really wanted audiences to know how impressive their past few years have been. In terms of the new talent they’ve unleashed, they name-dropped Jordan Peele repeatedly (he had just made them millions with Us), Marsai Martin from Little came out to talk about how Universal let her pitch the film and made her the youngest Executive Producer in Hollywood history, and Jason Blum came out to announce “Thank God for Jamie Lee Curtis” (in reference to the hugely successful Halloween film from last year). The speaking portion wrapped up with confirmation that Sam Mendes’ currently filming World War I epic 1917 will be released later this year.
As for the footage, it can be divided up into three distinct categories: the Good, The Fun, and the Cats. In the good category, things kicked off with footage for Downton Abbey – specifically, the feature length trailer that shows the King and Queen coming to Downton. It was all very twee and pleasant, and that is the first of the trailers you can see below. Meanwhile, Danny Boyle’s Beatles rom-com dropped a ton of footage that won over the crowd (a decent counter to the bad reviews out of Tribeca the same week), and star Himesh Patel came out to sing “Yesterday” for the audience, which went over like gangbusters. But much to both the audience and Universal’s surprise, the biggest hit of the lineup was Queen+Slim. An artsier project written by Lena Waithe (Master of None) and directed by music video helmer Melina Matsoukas (Beyoncé’s “Formation”), Queen+Slim follows a young couple on their first date (Daniel kaluuya and Jodie Turner-Smith) who have a dramatic run-in with a police officer and end up going on the lam. The trailer wasn’t even finished yet, and not even the creators seemed to know what they had on their hands, but it went over really well. Don’t be surprised if you see Universal give this one a full-court press come Oscar season. Meanwhile, the fun began for Universal when Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg came out to introduce their clip from Good Boys. There wasn’t much more footage than the first trailer, but what they did show was VERY popular amongst the audience. What can I say? People love raunchy children. Also very entertaining was Emma Thompson’s rom-com Last Christmas. The trailer got a few laughs, and audiences appreciated an inside joke surrounding Henry Golding playing James Bond (there’s an Internet campaign for the Crazy Rich Asians actor to take over the role). And of course they closed things out with Hobbs & Shaw, specifically the trailer where Idris Elba refers to himself as “Black Superman.” It’s such a dumb trailer and movie, but my God did audiences eat it up, both in the room and at home when the trailer dropped online.
Which brings us, naturally, to Cats. The buzz surrounding the Cats footage filled the festival for two days, with fans anticipating footage of exactly what this movie is going to look and sound like. And frankly, it did not disappoint. Apparently, the Cats movie will just digitally add “realistic cat fur” to all of the actors and actresses and then just let them roam an absurdly large set of chairs and trashcans and the like. The producers also stated that they will make the actors look “cat-sized,” but no one knows what this means. Jennifer Hudson then came out to sing “Memory,” which was, of course, as good as it sounds. This will be the most hilarious trainwreck in cinematic history. I can’t wait. You can watch the trailers for Good Boys, Hobbs & Shaw, and Downton Abbey below.
Walt Disney Studios
This was a weird year for both Disney and CinemaCon, as this was the first year that Fox didn’t show up. That’s because Disney now owns Fox, a fact they proceeded to rub in by showing a montage of all the movies they now own, meaning clips from The Avengers, Star Wars, Beauty and the Beast, and Alien all rolled together. The recent acquisition made fans even angrier when Alan Horn took the stage and said that he wouldn’t of greenlit Best Picture winner The Shape of Water because “he didn’t get it.” This joke went over about as well as syphilis on a wedding night. Still, the Fox presentation wasn’t a total disaster, as it meant Disney had the biggest hit of the convention: Ford v. Ferrari. The footage actually premiered live last night, and I’ll try to have it posted sometime tomorrow, but audiences were dazzled by a sharp trailer that showcases great performances, great direction, and especially great racing footage. There’s a reason that Disney/Fox moved this film into the middle of Oscar season. Disney then proceeded to showcase their superhero properties, leading off with the first fifteen minutes of Avengers: Endgame (this was the same week as the premiere, so audiences were still unaware of the phenomenon to come). As we all now know, that first fifteen minutes served as a sign of progress for the franchise, and upped the emotional and directorial stakes of the series. It went over pretty well in the room. The same can’t be said for Dark Phoenix, which had a better trailer than the first few efforts, but still failed to drum up any interest in a waning series. Speaking of waning series, Disney also announced that New Mutants would Definitely Be Coming Out, Definitely. To this I say “Sure Jan.” It’s been two years since this film dropped a trailer, and it already got delayed from the original date at CinemaCon (they said it would definitely be August, now they’re saying February). This film is never coming out. They did, however, show a full trailer/sizzle reel for Stuber, the Bautista/Kumail Nanjiani buddy comedy that wowed SXSW. You can see that footage below. Oh, and they showed two seconds of footage for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. Not much to report there.
As for the actual Disney lineup, things kicked off with The Lion King releasing the uncut “Everything The Light Touches” scene for audiences. Some fans grumbled that it’s literally just the original movie verbatim, but everyone agrees that these effects are completely unprecedented. The same can’t be said for Aladdin, which managed to sell audiences on Will Smith by showing the entirety of the “Friend Like Me” sequence, but was mostly just…a lot. Disney also dropped a surprise trailer for Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, a sequel no one wanted. However, Disney’s playing things smart: they’re targeting the gay/drag audience by pitting a conniving Angelina Jolie as the gay icon Maleficent against Michelle Pfeiffer, another gay icon, as another evil Queen. Disney clearly knows what they’re doing with that one. And the presentation ended with the first seventeen minutes of Toy Story 4, which I would love to tell you about but can find absolutely no testimonies for online. I think Disney swore them all to secrecy. Nevertheless, no one disliked the footage, so I think that’s a strong sign. You can see a part of the clip in question from Avengers below, along with trailers for Stuber, The Lion King and Maleficent: Mistress of Evil.
Out of every studio to show up at CinemaCon, no one had a weirder outing than Paramount Pictures. After wowing audiences last year with their packages fro Bumblebee, Mission: Impossible, and Overlord, Paramount showed up this year looking to dominate. And for a while, they did. They kicked things off with fifteen minutes of footage for Rocketman, which sold audiences on Taron Egerton as Elton John and convinced fans that this wouldn’t be Bohemian Rhapsody 2: Historical Discrepancy Boogaloo. And in a surprisingly stellar turn, audiences went crazy for the trailer for Terminator: Dark Fate, which featured an introduction by Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton, and included Hamilton blowing up a multiplying Terminator with a bazooka. It’s a solid trailer, and you’ll be happy to know it went live just a few weeks ago. Paramount even had some luck with some lesser films, like a crocodile horror film titled Crawl (which looks fun) and a live-action Dora movie, which looked fine despite confusing audiences. And in an exciting surprise, Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall showed up in character for Coming To America 2, coming December 2020.
But unfortunately, a lot of Paramount’s heavy hitters ended up hitting the ground hard. First up was Ang Lee’s ambitions sci-fi action thriller Gemini Man. Audiences at CinemaCon and at home alike had mixed feelings on the trailer: while many were impressed by Will Smith’s performance and Lee’s visuals, many fans were disappointed by the generic feel of the trailer – whether or not the film’s a hit, this trailer certainly took it out of the Oscar race. That same lethargy could be felt in the trailer for the disappointing comedy Limited Partners, starring Tiffany Haddish (I’m sensing a pattern) and Rose Byrne. And then…then there was Sonic The Hedgehog. By now you have seen the horrors that CinemaCon was privy to: the mismatched use of “Gangsta’s Paradise, the Jim Carrey performance, and the horrific CGI giving Sonic human teeth. While CinemaCon wasn’t as harsh as the Internet eventually was, it still landed with a resounding thud. Not even Carrey showing up in-character as Dr. Robotnik, throwing popcorn at Paramount executives, and forcing them to show a Robotnik-centered trailer instead (supposedly better than the former) could save the film’s pitch. It’s no wonder the film’s already been bumped to Garbage Day in 2020. You can see that heinous Sonic trailer below, along with trailers for Crawl, Gemini Man, and Terminator: Dark Fate.
And finally, we have perhaps the most successful studio out of CinemaCon, Lionsgate. After a moderately disappointing 2018, Lionsgate needed to strike back, and hard. And at the beginning of their presentation, it didn’t seem like things would go well: the Hellboy footage was as disengaged as the movie, and even David Harbour seemed like he didn’t want to be there. However, things began to turn around when Sylvester Stallone came onto the stage for Rambo: Last Blood. While he didn’t have any new footage (or even the most recent trailer) with him, his charisma won over the crowd and got them pumped for a “surprising and unexpected conclusion.” Lionsgate continued to build with footage from John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum, which got fans pretty excited for what turned out to be a pretty entertaining movie. And they even managed to excite film lovers of all sorts – their trailer for the Christian musician biopic I Still Believe starring AJ Apa aka Hot Archie as Jeremy Camp managed to impress even the most disinterested audience members. It seems like an I Can Only Imagine-esque hit for the studio. However, the best was saved for last, as Rian Johnson, the man behind the brilliant The Last Jedi, came out to pitch his newest film, Knives Out. And he brought along his stellar cast for the pitch, including Daniel Craig, LaKeith Stanfield, Chris Evans, Michael Shannon, Ana de Armas, Don Johnson, Toni Collette, Christopher Plummer, Katherine Langford, Riki Lindhome, and Jamie Lee Curtis, to sell it. And then came the trailer. The film is apparently a classic whodunit in structure, with Craig and Stanfield trying to solve the murder of a wealthy Southern family’s patriarch. Apparently the film is very in-tune with its comedic roots, with the cast all doing over-the-top Southern accents and swearing at each other (Chris Evans telling his family to “Eat sh*t” was a highlight). It played like gangbusters, and it has made the film my #1 of the year. None of these trailers have been released yet, but you can bet your ass I will get them to you as soon as they drop.
Well, that wraps up this year’s CinemaCon. I hope some of these trailers have you excited for the upcoming year of movies, and I hope the news helps you prepare for what may be worth paying for and what might be a rental. I’ll see you all here next year for CinemaCon 2020!