At this morning’s CinemaCon presentation of 20th Century Fox‘s 2012 product reel, co-chair Tom Rothman began by mentioning several future projects in various stages of production or pre-production. Those included new editions in the Die Hard (A Good Day To Die Hard set for Feb 14 2013), Percy Jackson, Planet Of The Apes and Wolverine franchises in addtion to a comedy reteam of Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn in The Internship. But the emphasis at the event was on the studio’s slate for this year leading up to their big Christmas epic and Oscar hope, Ang Lee’s The Life Of Pi (see: Fox World Premieres Stunning Footage Of Ang Lee’s 3D ‘The Life Of Pi’).
Kicking off with the Fox summer lineup co-chair Jim Gianopulos cited three 3D films including Ridley Scott’s return to the sci-fi format he championed for Fox in the original Alien – now back in form with their June 3 release Prometheus. Also highlighted was the Abe Lincoln action(!) drama Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (“the title says it all”, cracked Gianopulos) that comes from a creative teaming of director Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted) and the prolific Tim Burton, who has had projects touted by three different studios here this week. Also talked up was the latest sequel in their $2 billion franchise, Ice Age: Continental Drift, which is set for July; the R-Rated comedy Neighborhood Watch starring Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and Jonah Hill as neighborhood watch captains who team to save their community from an alien invasion; and the third installment in Fox’s successful kids series, Diary Of A Wimpy Kid: Dog Days set for August. The CinemaCon crowd of exhibs who packed into the Caesars Palace Colisseum seemed to respond well to all of them, even in the brief trailer-like teaser fashion they were presented. Prometheus was particularly well-received and the Ice Age clip involving a fearsome giant crab received lots of verbal response as did Neighborhood Watch. Of course, the latter’s title has received a lot of unwanted publicity in recent weeks because of the Trayvon Martin shooting (Fox even had to alter some promotion in Florida where it happened), but it’s clear this raucous alien comedy has nothing else in common with alleged shooter George Zimmerman, who was a Neighborhood Watch guy himself. One sequence in which Siller, Vaughn and Hill blow up a cow really got the attention of the conventioneers. Fox has recently done well with its Three Stooges comedy, and it looks like they have another three stooges of a different stripe in this comic trio’s casting. Overall, the summer slate looks 100% commercial for Fox, which is just what this crowd wants to see, even if Ice Age is the only certified blockbuster series with a sequel on tap for the studio this season. That may be one of the reasons Rothman cited all the franchise projects coming up next year and beyond in his opening remarks.
For fall, more original drama is on tap with two based-on-a-true-story films. One is Won’t Back Down, an inspiring school-set tale that looks to be in the Lean On Me mode and stars Viola Davis and Maggie Gyllenhaal as mothers who try to singlehandedly transform their children’s horrible inner-city school. There also is Of Men And Mavericks, starring Jonny Weston as surfer Jay Moriatry, who set out to ride the death-defying big waves at Mavericks in Northern California. Gerard Butler plays his mentor, a veteran surfer; Butler was nearly seriously injured doing his own surfing stunts during production. Due to illness, director Curtis Hanson had to leave the production during filming, and the movie is being finished by Michael Apted. The brief surfing footage shown this morning looked, in a word, awesome. Fox’s big fall boxoffice hope, though, is the sequel to Liam Neeson’s action drama, Taken 2. Based on the footage, this one promises more of the same that we saw in the first film, which grossed a suprising $145 million domestically even though it was a late January release.
The Fox holiday lineup consists of the aforementioned The Life Of Pi and the family comed Parental Guidance, which Gianopulos puts in the league of Cheaper By The Dozen or Alvin And The Chipmunks in terms of family appeal for that time of year. Billy Crystal, Bette Midler, Marisa Tomei and a bunch of kids star in the flick, which explores what happens when the grandparents get stuck taking care of the little ones. The preview shown ended with a very funny scene with Crystal that gives new meaning to the phrase “potty humor”; it drew a large audible reaction from the crowd. Before getting into the Life Of Pi segment, Rothman and Gianopulos ran a small film touting the longtime Fox relationship with James Cameron, George Lucas, Ridley Scott, and Tim Burton, who all delivered testimonials to the legacy of the studio. It ended with Pi director Lee.
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