Wednesday night was Sony‘s night to shine at CinemaCon in Las Vegas as they became the first major studio to simply present a straight and slickly produced product reel rather than a more elaborate dog and pony show in which stars, directors and producers are trotted out to briefly plug their movies in front of the assembled exhibitors. For Sony though it was strictly business beginnning with a dry plug for their digital efforts ready to play in top notch and newly equipped theatres. Get the hint, theatre owners? President of World Wide Distribution Rory Bruer led the charge for Sony’s 2012 slate. He mentioned the studio had a record five films slated for IMAX presentations this year and a “kick-ass product reel” that rivals anything he has previously seen in his quarter century at the studio. As for the nuts and bolts of the slickly produced reel, it is clear Sony is largely playing it safe with titles that will be easily recognized by consumers with The Amazing Spider-Man reboot, another James Bond, Men In Black 3, Total Recall and an 11th Adam Sandler comedy. This is the kind of slate that doesn’t keep studio execs up at night wondering if their job will be on the line. It is full of sure things and Sony topper Amy Pascal has shrewdly created a mixture of styles and film offerings designed to appeal to just about everyone, at least based on past habits.
Starting off the reel was the action-packed August release, Total Recall, a total remake with Colin Farrell and Kate Beckinsale of the action flick that made tons of money for Tri Star and helped further establish Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sharon Stone as major movie names. The reel also featured a Joseph Gordon Levitt drama, Premium Rush now promised for August along with what looked to be another by-the -numbers dumbass Adam Sandler comedy, That’s My Boy set for June in which he is the immature half of a father /son team that also features SNL’s Andy Samberg. Sandler, whose November Sony comedy Jack And Jill recently pulled off a complete sweep of the Razzie Awards as the year’s worst, tends to mint money for the studio and the exhib crowd ate it up. Following that one of the more promising titles, at least as far as adults are concerned , is recent three-time Oscar winner Meryl Streep’s latest, Hope Springs, an August release which is being sold as a light comedy from David Frankel , the director of her The Devil Wears Prada, but which is really what I am tipped is an Alexander Payne-style darker dramedy that features an Oscar-level Best Actor performance from co-star Tommy Lee Jones who plays Streep’s sexually deprived hubby. Steve Carell is their shrink. It looks good, maybe a little better than that, and thankfully something the studio can tout during awards season.
There were more promising films on the reel including the Bruce Willis-Joseph Gordon Levitt action drama Loopers set for September along with Fall entries like Here Comes The Boom with Kevin James as an unlikely cage fighter, and the pop soul musical remake, Sparkle with American Idol’s Jordin Sparks and the last film appearance of the late Whitney Houston in her movie comeback. One to see. Then there was the latest James Bond pic, Skyfall (November) which saw its intriguing teaser trailer world-premiered for the exhibitor crowd. The 3D portion of the reel contained extended looks at May’s Men In Black 3, Resident Evil 3D: Retribution due in September, the animated Hotel Transylvania due at the end of September and of course, the rebooted The Amazing Spider Man with Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone. The preview of that one was a highlight of the reel and focused on an awkward high school hall encounter between the pair as well as the non-stop action the rest of the film promises and provides.
And with that it was done, a presentation in under an hour that highlighted what Sony wanted to be highlighted and lifted the exhib’s box office-hungry heart beats along the way. Before beginning his no-frills presentation Bruer took time to note that the studio’s early 2012 releases, Underworld: Awakening, The Vow, 21 Jump Street and last weekend’s $33 million dollar grosser, Think Like A Man, all opened to the No. 1 position and/or major bucks at the box office. Of course three of those were from Clint Culpepper’s Screen Gems label which has been having a particularly good year so far and has been leading the early 2012 Sony charge up the top of the charts. Aardman’s funny and clever toon The Pirates Band Of Misfits is next up for Sony this Friday but there was no mention of it from the stage.Among future titles highlighted by Bruer are another 3D round with The Smurfs, a Will and Jaden Smith father-son teaming on After Earth, a serious Tom Hanks project, 3D reboots of The Evil Dead and Robocop as well as a Roland Emmerich disaster flick. White House Down ( not to be confused with Black Hawk Down). In other words nothing out of Sony’s wheelhouse but the kind of bread and buttered popcorn fare that makes the studio one of Hollywood’s most dependable suppliers. Still you hope and pray for another The Social Network or Moneyball just to keep things interesting.
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