The 10 minutes of The Hobbit footage unveiled during Warner Bros’ slate presentation at CinemaCon today might have garnered the least-enthusiastic response among attendees of the studio’s summer slate presentation for exhibitors. That despite its revolutionary 48-frames-per-second format that left the crowd torn over the admittedly unfinished clip. The crowd seemed much more responsive to the other films Warners trotted out from its summer schedule. First up, Warner Bros topper Jeff Robinov introduced Tim Burton, director of the studio’s May release Dark Shadows, who said he was a devoted fan of the original ABC gothic soap when he was in school and bonded with his frequent star Johnny Depp on their mutual love of “weird cultural phenomena”. With that he brought on Depp, who just simply waved to the crowd and said he hopes they enjoy it. They seemed to, especially the twisted comic tone of the footage.
Robinov next brought on director Christopher Nolan to intro his third in the Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises (July 20). Robinov noted Nolan has only made seven films but they have collectively grossed $2.5 billion — music to this crowd’s ears. A selection of short scenes were shown to nice effect, and Nolan noted he’s been working on this trilogy now for nine years so it is nice to be able to go out on this kind of scale; one third of it was filmed with IMAX cameras. Following the footage, Rock Of Ages director Adam Shankman was a little perplexed. “I just watched that and I wanted to say, ‘You fucker, that’s some badass shit!’”. As for his own film, which opens June 15, Shankman said he went to New Line and Warners and said “I want to make a movie I haven’t seen before. I want to make a movie with Tom Cruise in ass-less chaps. When I saw the play on Broadway I was stunned because every straight man there knew all the lyrics to every song”. The footage, mostly what’s in the trailer, was very well received. I have seen the whole film and it delivers. Cruise could even find himself with a Supporting Actor Oscar nomination. He dominates every scene he’s in as veteran (off his) rocker Stacey Jaxx.
Perhaps the most vocal reaction from the crowd came during footage from the August 10th political comedy The Campaign, a raucous laffer starring Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis as candidates throwing mud at each other. Director Jay Roach introduced it saying they decided to release it in August in case the real campaign turned out to be funnier than their movie. The clips drew huge laughs, with Robinov promising that was just a small sample of what we can expect.
On tape from Australia director Baz Luhrmann said the Warners brass had to convince him to show his “untouched” footage of the holiday release The Great Gatsby, a rare 3D drama starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire and Carey Mulligan. As exhibs put glasses on to watch it, seems he didn’t have to worry based on the response. This is pure Baz in Moulin Rouge – form delivering a visual style with elaborate costumes and sets that promises a Gatsby like no other, certainly not the still-life 1974 flop starring Robert Redford.
After The Hobbit presentation Robinov mentioned several other 2012 titles including Magic Mike, Gangster Squad, Cloud Atlas and Gravity as well as Argo, from director and star Ben Affleck, which one Warners exec told me at this year’s Oscars could be their big contender next year. Looks like they might have a few, but whether The Hobbit can come close to replicating the Oscar and box office success of the Lord Of The Rings trilogy is a question that may come down to something as “simple” as 48 frames.
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