Day 3 and some 6,000 delegates packed into Caesar Palace’s Colosseum to see Universal’s presentation, again early in the morning. Some of them must have even got up for breakfast or the two seminars already concluded by 9.15 am.
Donna Langley, Uni's Chairman took the podium to announce that they had the best first quarter in the studio’s history this year with Split, 50 Shades Darker and the box office phenom Get Out. Last year's success owed much to The Secret Life of Pets ( the sixth biggest global box office hit) and Sing (half a billion dollars worldwide). So two new franchises were born and sequels are in the works.
Natalie Morales then took over to host the presentation which started with Illumination, Uni's partner in animation, which Langley had lavishly praised and thanked. CEO of Illumination, Chris Meledandri, came onstage with Steve Carell who does the voice of Gru in the Despicable Me movies -- “the best character ever in the history of cinema,” according to Carell. Apparently, he tried out various accents on his kids eight years ago when he was preparing for the first one, and they laughed the most at the peculiar eastern European accent he settled on. In the third iteration coming out this year, Gru will have a twin brother, Dru, with the same accent but at a higher pitch and more manic energy, long blond hair flowing. Carell will voice both.
The Mummy clip was next introduced by Tom Cruise via video from London after an extended Q and A with director Alex Kurtzman and stars Sophia Boutella, Annabelle Wallis and Jake Johnson. Kurtzman described the 64 takes in the zero-gravity chamber on board a plane as “a lot of barfing”. Not Tom Cruise, though. He's a superhero in real life too.
Girls Trip has Queen Latifah, Jada Pickett Smith, Regina Hall and Tiffany Haddish who all go off to New Orleans to have fun and get in trouble. Another Q and A with all of them.
Atomic Blonde, starring and produced by Charlize Theron is a stylish action movie with a lead who's “a bitch” according to the star - present to introduce the clip. She’s also an MI6 spy and the story is set five days before the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Universal’s presentation wrapped with Vin Diesel and The Fate of the Furious. This one sets up an upcoming trilogy and expands the role of Kurt Russell - “unless they decide to kill me off” he quipped, as he and Tyrese, Ludacris and Theron (the new villain) joined Diesel onstage. Diesel promised the best ever movie because he feels like Paul Walker “is looking down on us and we don't want to let him down.” Then he went on to announce that the movie would be screened for the CinemaCon delegates right then and there, to screams from the audience.
Wednesday’s marathon continued with Focus Features hosting a lunch and then making the presentation. Focus is now 15 years-old and under new management, back to its early days of character-driven dramas. Chairman Peter Kujawski introduced a reel of its previous hits. Though no footage was shown, exhibitors were reminded of the untitled Paul Thomas Anderson film starring Daniel Day-Lewis now in production which will be ready for Christmas.
Shaun Robinson took over the MC duties and introduced a video from London in which Judi Dench talked to the delegates about her new movie Victoria and Abdul, the story of the Queen (who she had previously played in Mrs. Brown) and her unlikely friendship with an Indian clerk played by Ali Fazal. The pic is directed by Stephen Frears.
The Book of Henry had a clip introduced by director Colin Trevorrow and star Naomi Watts. Watts plays a single mother who discovers a book written by her son with a plan to rescue a neighbor’s daughter from harm. She decides to put it into action.
Sofia Coppola’s new The Beguiled was next with the director and stars Colin Farrell and Kirsten Dunst present to talk about it. It’s the remake of a 1971 film told from the women’s point of view when they rescue a soldier and bring him into their school.
The presentation wrapped up with Darkest Hour- Gary Oldman playing Winston Churchill over a span of five weeks at a crucial point in WWII. Oldman talked about his 2.45 am pickups to sit for three and a half hours in makeup, wearing half his body weight in a fat suit. “But I couldn’t wait to get to work,” he said. He was unrecognizable in the clip.
Warner Bros.’ The Big Picture was the last presentation of the day. Sue Kroll, President of Worldwide Marketing and Distribution said 2016 had been their second-best year ever with a global box office take of $4.9 billion. She was the only one who made a passing reference to the controversial topic of ‘windowing’ (in distribution lingo, the process of making a movie available to an audience) that has apparently consumed CinemaCon this year, though not in any of the events I attended. Kroll heaped praise on WB’s best franchise – Harry Potter – the top grossing one of all time, and talked about the expansion of the DC universe with their upcoming superhero movies.
Maria Menounos came on as host, introducing Christopher Nolan, who introduced footage from Dunkirk, telling the exhibitors that theatrical was the only platform he was interested in. In the battle of Dunkirk, soldiers were faced with a choice of surrender or annihilation, he explained, saying this story was close to his heart but he never felt ready to make the movie until now. “Rather than a war film, it’s a survival story.” Dunkirk stars Mark Rylance, Tom Hardy and Cillian Murphy.
Footage from two horror films was next – Annabelle Creation and It from Stephen King. No stars but appropriate screaming from the audience.
Producer Denise di Novi’s directorial debut Unforgettable was introduced by her and stars Katherine Heigl and Rosario Dawson. It appears to be a crazy ex-wife revenge story.
Bastards, presented by its star, Ed Helms, seems to be in the Hangover mode – it’s the directorial debut of the latter’s cinematographer and deals with two brothers (Helms and Owen Wilson) looking for their father that their mother couldn’t remember – they were conceived in the druggy ‘60’s. Mother happens to be Glenn Close. Another comedy was the Will Ferrell-Amy Poehler The House, about parents who decide to raise money to send their daughter to college by opening a casino in their house. Get the pun?.
Charlie Hunnam introduced King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. The footage seemed a rather revisionist take on the legend – after all, the director is Guy Ritchie who did the revisionist Sherlock Holmes movies. Hunnam called it “a little bit cheeky, a little bit naughty.”
Blade Runner 20149 was again shown as WB is doing domestic distribution, and this time director Denis Villeneuve and stars Ana de Armas and Jared Leto (in what can only be described as a Rastafarian hat) were on stage to talk it up.
We have The Lego Ninjago Movie to look forward to as Dave Franco and Justin Theroux came to explain. Though we will have to wait till 2018 for Aquaman, according to Jason Momoa, with long flowing locks as far away from Khal Drogo as one can get. Director James Wan, via video, showws us some concept art for the movie - Momoa is on his way to join him in Australia tonight to start shooting.
Chris Pine and director Patty Jenkins showed us footage from Wonder Woman, and Gal Gadot said hello via video from Israel, presumably.
Aquaman and Wonder Woman are also part of the Justice League, and director Zack Snyder made an appearance with Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Momoa, Ezra Miller and Ray Fisher to sell WB’s big budget movie out in November.
We wrapped up Day 3 with the Pioneer of the Year award to Cheryl Boone Isaacs, President of AMPAS, at a dinner sponsored by the Will Rogers Motion Picture Pioneers Foundation, a charity that has raised money for veterans of the industry suffering illness, injury or life-changing circumstances for decades.