Pete Hammond

Wednesday afternoon it was Sony‘s turn at bat to strut its stuff at CinemaCon in a no-frills, slickly produced reel that ran the gamut of the kind CinemaCon2014_badgeof movies the studio is known for. There were no stars on hand as is custom for many of these presentations, but Sony prefers instead to serve up cocktails at a pre-reception and let the movies do the talking for themselves. And leading the pack was certainly Spidey as the studio prepares to launch yet another Amazing Spider-Man flick with Andrew Garfield reprising the role for a second time. Set to launch it in some markets mid-April, and domestically as the official start to Hollywood’s lucrative summer season on May 2nd, Sony showed off about 30 minutes of footage from the new film and exhibitors were obviously happy to see it. Anything that’s made as Sony-Pictures-Worldwide-Acquisitions__140208020736much money as this franchise is always a welcome guest at this convention. And distribution chief Rory Bruer was not shy in touting its virtues, even mentioning that the studio plans to further milk the franchise by launching a number of spin-off films including an Avengers-style Sinister Six edition as well as a movie toplining Spidey villain Venom. Oh what a tangled web they are weaving in Culver City, but after a weak 2013 summer, Sony is hoping to come roaring back strongly in this year’s hot weather months. In fact, as Bruer recounted last year’s successes there was no mention of a disappointing summer, only fall as he talked up the substantial hits Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2,  Captain Phillips and American Hustle — the latter two garnering a total of 16 Oscar nominations including much box office success.

amazing spider man 2In addition to The Amazing Spiderman 2, there are a couple of other sequels on the summer burner including Think Like A Man Too and 22 Jump Street. Judging from the audible reaction to the latter, theater owners can’t wait for the latest pairing of Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill. The clip played very strongly, as did a much talked-about preview of the raunchy comedy, Sex Tape starring Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel as a couple trying to spice up their sex life by making what turns out to be anything-but-a-private sex tape. This broad adult comedy appears to have breakout potential just as Diaz’s Bad Teacher did.

In an extensive reel that looks like it is trying to have something to appeal to everyone, there was a faith-based Greg Kinnear film called Heaven Is For Real; an inspirational sports drama When The Game Stands Tall; a super-creepy looking horror sextapefilm from Jerry Bruckheimer called Deliver Us From Evil (haven’t there been about 23 movies with that exact title?); yet another wild Seth Rogen/James Franco comedy The Interview; a violent action franchise possibility The Equalizer with Denzel Washington; and some potential Oscar fodder including World War 2 drama Fury with Brad Pitt; and an untitled Cameron Crowe-directed dramedy shot in Hawaii with Bradley Cooper. There’s even a remake of Annie for Christmas, but this time with an urban touch as Jamie Foxx and Quvenzhané Celebrity Sightings In New York City - September 25, 2013Wallis star in the durable musical that has already been transferred twice to the big and small screens. It all looks commercial as Sony attempts to turn straight back into a consistent hit factory. Bruer spoke to that as he also talked up 2015 prospects like animated sequels to Adam Sandler’s Hotel Transylvania and The Smurfs (which is dropping the live action component); the Dan Brown novel Inferno; another Sandler vehicle Pixels; and a James Bond movie. You cannot EVER have enough of Bond, James Bond.

I was happy to see Sony, which has been going through a bit of a hard-knock life lately with layoffs, controversy and other distractions, come back strongly with smart adult-driven movies in the fall like American Hustle and Captain Phillips which seemed to work on a box office and artistic level. I hope there’s room for more of those. They more than proved their worth money-wise and gave the studio a prestige factor you can’t always get with spinoffs and sequels. There’s no doubt the 2014 reel promised a lot of stuff that had a familiar feel in one way or another, but it also promises stability, something Sony would certainly welcome right now.

Awards Columnist Pete Hammond - tip him here.