Hollywood studios will descend on Caesars Palace in Las Vegas on Monday for CinemaCon, where they will show theaters owners and press what they have in store for the remainder of the year via a parade of stars and buzzy footage.
It’s also a chance for studio executives and other industry leaders to soothe any concerns about ongoing instability at the box office as Hollywood heads into the summer season, beginning with the debut of Avengers: Infinity War on April 27. Tracking for that tentpole is enormous, suggesting the latest Disney and Marvel production has a shot at eclipsing Star Wars: The Force Awakens ($248 million) to score the top domestic debut of all time.
Highlights of the four-day gathering in Las Vegas will also include Charles Rivkin’s first CinemaCon speech as chief of the Motion Picture Association of America. He’ll be among a slew of industry notables on hand Wednesday night to fete Tom Cruise when the actor receives the Will Rogers Pioneer of the Year Award, an honor generally reserved for executives. (Cruise is only the second movie star to be named Pioneer of the Year, following Bob Hope in 1980).
And on Thursday, Stacey Snider could take her last turn on the CinemaCon stage as chairman-CEO of 20th Century Fox Film before Disney acquires much of the 20th Century Fox empire, including the storied movie studio. Fox’s presentation is sure to spark talk of what studio consolidation means for theater owners, who rely on a diversity of content. No one is sure whether this will be Fox’s last time presenting on its own at CinemaCon.
And while many of the specific movies being featured in the studio presentations have already debuted first-looks, trailers and a wide range of accompanying promotional materials, there are still key questions that could be answered by the four-day whirlwind of showboating, which commences Monday night with Sony’s presentation.
For example, is there room for two Jungle Books?
At CinemaCon, Warner Bros. will reveal more about its live action/CG retelling of Rudyard Kipling’s classic The Jungle Book, which it has now titled Mowgli and set to open Oct. 19. Kipling’s 1894 collection of stories was also the subject of Disney’s Jon Favreau-directed The Jungle Book, which was a critical and financial success when it opened in 2016, earning $966.6 million worldwide as well as collecting strong reviews and an Oscar for its visual effects. Disney also is planning a sequel, though Favreau is currently busy directing his next feature, Disney’s The Lion King.
Warners’ film will return audiences to the Indian jungle. Directed by multihyphenate Andy Serkis (a master of performance capture, he also plays Baloo), it features a cast that includes Christian Bale, Benedict Cumberbatch and Cate Blanchett. Said to be a darker film version of the material, it was originally titled Jungle Book: Origins, with a fall 2016 release. But with frequent comparison to the Favreau film while both were in production, the release date was moved, and last December, it was confirmed that the title would be Mowgli, further differentiating it from the Disney film.
No trailer or even footage has been released from the film, so this could be theater owners’ first glimpse at what Serkis has spent years working on.
Will Bohemian Rhapsody sing in the wake of Bryan Singer?
Late last year, Bryan Singer was very publicly fired from Fox’s Bohemian Rhapsody, a Queen biopic that had been in development for years. A few days later it was announced that Eddie the Eagle director Dexter Fletcher was brought on to finish out the high-profile biopic. (Fletcher is also set for the Elton John biopic Rocketman for Paramount.) Other than images of star Rami Malek looking like a pitch-perfect Freddie Mercury, very little has been announced about the movie, which had its release date pushed up from a Christmas debut to a Nov. 2 bow. Will CinemaCon be the place that Fox sets out to establish a new, more upbeat narrative for Bohemian Rhapsody?
What’s the future of the Transformers franchise?
Michael Bay’s five Transformers films, the first of which opened in 2007, have collectively grossed $4.38 billion, but the bots are showing signs of aging. The third and fourth films in the Paramount franchise each topped $1 billion. But the fifth, last summer’s Transformers: The Last Knight, had a sizable box-office drop with $605 million worldwide.
At CinemaCon, audiences can expect a glimpse of the first spinoff, Bumblebee, which opens Dec. 21. It will be the first that isn’t helmed by Bay. Stepping into the director’s chair is Travis Knight, the Laika stop-motion studio head who made his feature directorial debut with Oscar-nominated Kubo and the Two Strings. Bumblebee — which will team the title bot with Hailee Steinfeld — is Knight’s first live-action feature as director. Can the 1980s-set film reinvigorate the franchise?
Will Aquaman be the DC hero Warners needs?
After the massive success of Wonder Woman and the underwhelming reception of Justice League, it is unclear what steps Warners and DC is taking to forge a cohesive presence in the increasingly crowded superhero space. Aquaman is next up on the DC slate (out Dec. 21), but very little is known about the stand-alone and a trailer has yet to debut. (Last year, director James Wan sent in a concept art sizzle reel to CinemaCon.) The Jason Momoa starrer will also be the first DC release after the early 2018 shake-up at DC Films. In January, New Line exec Walter Hamada was tapped to oversee production of the studio’s comic book movies, joining Geoff Johns. Will Aquaman be the diving off point that the DCU needs? (As fate would have it, Warners‘ presentation on Tuesday afternoon will follow an off-site screening of Marvel’s Infinity War for exhibitors and media.)
Which film will survive the Christmas crush?
This year’s Christmas crush at the box office commences on Dec. 21 when Aquaman, Fox’s Alita: Battle Angel, Sony’s Holmes & Watson and Paramount’s Bumblebee debut. That means the majority of major studios have a horse in the holiday race that weekend, followed by Disney’s Mary Poppins Returns on Dec. 25. Emily Blunt and Lin-Manuel Miranda star in Mary Poppins Returns, a sequel of sorts that is set in Depression-era London, and is the studio’s next big non-Marvel, non-Star Wars live-action offering after A Wrinkle in Time underperformed in February. Disney has never had a particularly large presence at CinemaCon because its own conference, D23, has always acted as the place where the studio debuts new footage, trailers and concepts for its audiences. The first footage from Mary Poppins Returns was well-received at last year’s D23 presentation, and a trailer was released during the Oscars, so the film isn’t much of a mystery. Still, the studio panel presentation could signal if the family film will hold its ground this holiday season.