CinemaCon Wrap: Hollywood Gambles Big With 'Fifty Shades,' 'Godzilla,' 'Transformers,' 'Planet of the Apes'
For four days in late March, the major Hollywood studios took over the cavernous Colosseum theater at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, hoping to win big with theater owners at their annual convention, CinemaCon. This year, the studios brought fewer stars, but plenty of new footage, showing for the first time clips from Fifty Shades of Grey, Gone Girl and Secret Service, and revealing more from upcoming summer tentpoles like Transformers: Age of Extinction, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Godzilla and The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
And while there were plenty of reveals in most of the presentations, those hoping Disney would have news on Star Wars: Episode VII were sorely disappointed. "Patience, you must have," Walt Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn said, channeling his best Yoda imitation. Geeks were further disappointed when Horn had little to say on the Avengers sequel Age of Ultron --- other than that the final script was in his briefcase. (The lack of news in Disney's presentation was likely due in part to the fact that CEO Bob Iger announced several new plans during Disney's annual meeting of shareholders just one week earlier.)
One noteworthy difference from previous years' conventions was the lack of 3D used during the presentations. While Sony (which showed 30 minutes of The Amazing Spider-Man 2) required the audience to don 3D glasses for its presentation, most studios chose to show their footage in 2D (in part due to the fact that some of the work was unfinished).
Here, The Hollywood Reporter takes a look back at what the studios brought to the stage, what worked and what fell flat:
Paramount (March 24)
Paramount kicked off CinemaCon with new footage from its trifecta of summer tentpoles: Transformers 4, Hercules and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The Hercules trailer, starring Dwayne Johnson, played very well with the crowd, presenting plenty of big action anchored by the charismatic Johnson as the larger-than-life character. An extended look at Age of Extinction was even more of a crowd-pleaser, showing Mark Wahlberg dealing with his daughter (Nicola Peltz) being abducted by Lockdown (a Deceptacon). Appearing to introduce the footage, Wahlberg stunned the crowd when declaring that Michael Bay's Transformers series is "the most iconic franchise in movie history." However, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, starring Megan Fox and CG-created turtles, got a lukewarm reaction from the crowd.
Universal (March 25)
Universal showed off the first footage from Fifty Shades of Grey, the buzzy adaptation of E.L. James' erotic novel. "Nobody outside the studio has seen a frame of footage," said Universal Pictures chairman Donna Langley before the clip rolled. Many attendees noted that the footage was considerably tamer than expected, most likely in order to not offend the more conservative theater owners. The trailer mostly focused on leads Dakota Johnson (Anastasia Steele) and Jamie Dornan (Christian Grey) meeting and giving each other smoldering looks. There was one brief glimpse of Johnson's character in a black blindfold, but that was as salacious as it got. Other crowd-pleasing highlights of Universal's Tuesday presentation included clips from comedy A Million Ways to Die in the West (that got plenty of laughs) and sci-fi pic Lucy, starring Scarlett Johansson. Angelina Jolie introduced the first footage of her biopic about World War II POW Louis Zamperini, Unbroken. Exhibitors were impressed with what they saw.
Disney (March 26)
Disney didn't have any news to share about Star Wars or Age of Ultron, and went a lot lighter on new footage compared to the other studios. Footage from the live-action Cinderella (starring Lily James and Cate Blanchett) was shown for the very first time, and theater owners believe it will play young, always a plus. The warmest reception, however, was for Pixar's Inside Out. While the trailer had premiered earlier at D23 over the summer, the innovative story about the emotions inside a young girl's head was warmly received at CinemaCon.
Sony (March 26)
Sony didn't disappoint in presenting 30 minutes of footage from The Amazing Spider-Man 2. The studio was the only one to show a significant amount of one of its summer tentpoles, and the crowd seemed satisfied overall with the four scenes that were presented. The remainder of the studio's event included clips from summer pics 22 Jump Street, Think Like a Man Too, Sex Tape, The Interview and action-thriller The Equalizer, and the first footage for Fury, David Ayers' WWII tank drama centering on Brad Pitt as the leader of a close-knit tank crew. Exhibitors say Fury is sure to play heavily to older males.
Fox (March 27)
Based on the studio's presentation, theater owners believe Fox could be in the best position of any studio this summer and fall. Fox pleased the crowd with some very strong clips, including the opening scene from X-Men: Days of Future Past, a longer look at Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, and a first look at Matthew Vaughn's Secret Service. The scene from Secret Service was big hit, showing Colin Firth playing a well-dressed secret agent kicking butt with panache. Exhibitors believe DreamWorks Animation's How to Train Your Dragon 2 will easily match, or exceed, the success of the first film. Among dramas, Fox shared the first footage from David Fincher's Gone Girl, starring Ben Affleck. Cameron Diaz and Leslie Mann showed up to tout The Other Woman, while Shailene Woodley talked about her upcoming YA film adaptation The Fault in Our Stars.
Warner Bros. (March 27)
Warner Bros. brought the most talent (Johnny Depp, Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman, Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore, Melissa McCarthy, Channing Tatum and Mila Kunis) of any studio, but had a little less first-look footage to go along with it. There was a long look at Godzilla, which wowed the crowd, plus the first footage from Clint Eastwood's Jersey Boys and the YA adaptation If I Stay. Even Adam Sandler didn't want to talk about his own movie when he took the stage after the Godzilla footage screened: "Never mind Blended -- how about that f---ing Godzilla!" Warners is banking heavily on sci-fi this summer, between Transcendence, starring Depp and Freeman, Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt starrer Edge of Tomorrow, and Jupiter Ascending, starring Tatum and Kunis. Reactions were mixed, but no one is ready to count out Depp or Cruise.