The other big news coming out the presentation was Disney and LucasFilms’ plans for the revived Star Wars franchise. Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn confirmed prior reports that the studio plans to release the next three sequels every other summer, beginning with Star Wars: Episode VII in 2015. Spin-off Star War films will be released during the alternating summers.
The big-budget Disney pic — costing north of $225 million and considered one of the riskiest titles on the summer 2013 slate — boasts plenty of pedigree in Verbinski, Depp and producer Jerry Bruckheimer. Depp plays the legendary Tonto, while Armie Hammer takes on the title role.
“The movie is an origins story,” said Verbinski, who was joined on the stage at CinemaCon by Bruckheimer and Hammer as well as Depp, a darling of exhibitors.
Disney is hoping to replicate the wild success of Verbinksi and Depp’s Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. Lone Ranger marks another eccentric role for Depp, whose character’s headgear is a stuffed raven.
“We saw the picture yesterday and it looks terrific,” said Horn, who led the Disney slate presentation. The studio also used the session to unveil a new trailer for Lone Ranger, which opens July 3, the eve of the lucrative July 4th holiday frame.
At least one exhibitor, who had reservations about the project prior to viewing the footage, was pleased with what he saw. “It looks good,” he said.
The footage included two extended scenes. In the first, the Lone Ranger and Tonto meet for the first time. In the second, Tonto saves the Lone Ranger.
The onscreen chemistry between the duo extended to real life.
“Armie is very tall,” Depp quipped. “Which means we aren’t short.”
Horn provided plenty of brevity during his overall presentation, joking that George Clooney is probably the most handsome man on the planet outside of Disney chairman-CEO Robert Iger.
The top executive is no stranger to exhibitors, having appeared at the national convention of theater owners for over a decade as head of Warner Bros.
Horn said the transition from one studio to another wasn’t that difficult, although Disney is different from its rivals in one key regard. “It’s the only studio that is a brand … [the audience] may not know what they are going to see, but they know what they aren’t going to see.”
In touting Disney’s upcoming slate, Horn promoted the fact that Disney now owns Marvel Studios, LucasFilm and Pixar, in addition to its own ranks, live-action Disney and Disney Animation Studios. Disney also distributes DreamWorks titles.
Following Lone Ranger, Disney treated exhibitors to a full screening of Pixar’s Monsters University.
The studio didn’t have to trumpet Marvel Studios’ Iron Man 3, since many exhibitors have already seen the tentpole, which opens May 3 and kicks off the summer box office. “It’s fabulous. I give it an A+,” one exhibitor gushed.