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Universal’s CinemaCon presentation was packed with footage from its upcoming titles, including an extended preview of Sing 2 and first looks at Michael Bay’s Ambulance and Scott Derrickson’s Ethan Hawke starter The Black Phone.
Kicked off by Jim Orr, Universal’s president of domestic theatrical distribution, eight Universal films were introduced via video by stars including Matthew McConaughey, Jamie Lee Curtis, Hawke and Jennifer Lopez, joined by employees of movie theaters across the country.
“Few businesses felt the pandemic hit as hard as yours did,” said McConaughey, who returns to Illumination’s Sing franchise to voice Buster Moon. “Sadly we did lose some of the theaters along the way, but most of you found ways to power through and are now back in business, providing a service that was so missed by so many of us. This year we felt it was especially appropriate to show a little love and appreciation for the workers in your theaters.”
Written and directed by Garth Jennings, who also helmed the original, Sing 2 features returning members of the ensemble cast that includes McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon and Scarlett Johansson. It opens Dec. 22. In the sequel, Buster Moon and his performers prepare to launch a stage extravaganza and try to persuade a reclusive lion rock star Clay Calloway — voiced by Bono, in his animated film debut — to join them. The clip begins with rocker porcupine Ash (Johansson) on stage, performing the U2 classic “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.”
Jake Gyllenhaal introduced Michael Bay’s Ambulance, which is due out Feb. 28. “I fervently believe there will always be a theater audience for great big movies like Ambulance,” said Gyllenhaal, who stars opposite Yahya Abdul-Mateen II in the film that unfolds during a single day in Los Angeles.
In the first footage from the film, Abdul-Mateen’s character’s wife needs surgery, so he goes to Gyllenhaal’s character for help. Gyllenhaal’s character offers a chance to join a robbery of $32 million. The robbery goes wrong, and soon they are on the run in an ambulance with a dying LAPD officer and an EMT as their prisoners. It is reminiscent of Heat or Training Day — if Michael Bay directed those films.
Hawke appeared on camera to introduce The Black Phone, the Jan. 22 horror film from director Scott Derrickson. Hawke revealed he is hesitant to play a villain, but decided to sign on because of his respect for the filmmaker, who directed the star in Sinister. Said Hawke: “I have a no-bad-guy policy as an actor, but I broke it to work with Scott again.” In the first trailer, a young boy is kidnapped by Hawke’s character, a creepy man with a van and black balloons. The boy is imprisoned in a basement room with nothing but a black phone. The phone appears to be broken, but he starts receiving calls. The voices on the other end of the phone are the man’s other victims, who offer tips for the boy’s survival.
Ben Platt, introduced Dear Evan Hansen, based on the Tony-winning musical of the same name; Curtis brought footage for her sequel Halloween Kills; Lupita Nyong’o introduced The 355; and Lopez debuted the first trailer for rom-com Marry Me — in which she sings for the first time in a film since Selena and which opens Valentine’s Day weekend.
Anthony Ramos helped to share the first footage of Dreamworks Animation’s The Bad Guys, based on the children’s books by Aaron Blabey.
Lisa Bunnell, president of distribution at Focus Features, then took the stage to introduce Focus’ video presentation. In the clips, director Edgar Wright said his “happy place in life” is his favorite seat in a theater as he introduced new footage from his upcoming thriller Last Night in Soho. Kenneth Branagh introduced the first trailer to his Belfast, saying “It is in many ways my most personal film.” Helmer Robert Eggers showed footage from The Northman, in production on location in Iceland.
The studio also showed the first trailer from the upcoming Downtown Abbey: A New Era, which showed many of the returning castmembers, including Maggie Smith, Michelle Dockery, Laura Carmichael, Jim Carter, Hugh Bonneville and Elizabeth McGovern. It’s slated to open this spring.
The studio closed out its panel with a look at Jurassic World: Dominion, from director Collin Trevorrow and due out June 10, 2022. The behind-the-scenes footage gave a look at original Jurassic Park actors Laura Dern, Sam Neill and Jeff Goldblum reprising their roles, as well as Jurassic World’s Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas sharing their admiration for working with the veteran actors. “This movie asks a single question: if dinosaurs lived amongst us, would you be safe?” said Trevorrow. “And the answer is no.”
The studio also thanks theater owners for their partnership in making F9 a summer hit. “We believed…Fast 9 could help galvanize a more robust return to theaters,” said Veronika Kwan Vandenberg, president of distribution for Universal Pictures International, as she introduced a clip featuring cast members.
CinemaCon concludes Thursday with highlights including panels from Paramount and Lionsgate.
An earlier version misstated the title of the Halloween film showcased at Cinemacon.
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