With a chorus line of 40 Samba-dancing Vegas showgirls parading through the audience to the stage for a performance of a song from the upcoming Rio 2 (4/11), 20th Century Fox got its CinemaCon presentation off in style. And the studio earned high marks for attempting to put a little showmanship that has been missing from some other presentations this week. Hey this is Vegas. Let’s liven it up, folks. And Fox did.
This is not to say the rest of their “show” was not all about showing off footage from their 2014 slate. It was, but clearly they put a lot of work into impressing these theatre owners who responded strongly to what Fox was offering. Distribution President Chris Aronson appeared with a feather headdress on (he looked pretty hot) but quickly took it off for a more corporate look as he welcomed the crowd and got things rolling including those previously reported remarks regarding NATO ‘s John Fithian and 12 Years A Slave. He pointed out that the studio’s total worldwide boxoffice was $3.39 billion, the fifth consecutive year they have exceeded the $3 billion mark. He then introduced 20th’s Chairman Jim Gianopulos who expertly hosted the event as he does each year, actually managing to sound like he’s not reading stuff off a prompter – an art both he and Disney’s M.C. Alan Horn have mastered. He launched right into it by announcing “we are starting summer in April this year” and bringing on Cameron Diaz and Leslie Mann to introduce clips of their comedy The Other Woman. Then it was time for the “tentpoles” as he intro’d a clip package featuring the opening scene and trailer from X Men: Days Of Future Past (5/23), extended footage from How To Train Your Dragon 2 (6/13) from their partnership with DreamWorks Animation and a harrowing scene from Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes (7/11) , the latter really whetting the exhibitors appetite. Let’s just say it involves a couple of drunk guys, a playful-seeming ape and an Uzi. Wow. Even Shailene Woodley, star of 20th’s June 6th romantic drama The Fault In Our Stars, said she was still shaking from the Apes footage when Gianopulos brought her on.
Regarding the latter, the Chairman said the business isn’t all about franchises and special effects extravaganzas (although based on what has been on display most of this week you could have fooled me) and pointed to this film as an exception. Woodley wears an oxygen tube through her nose during the whole film and is a cancer patient, not exactly typical summertime fodder but Fox is so high on the film, based on the best-selling book, they are giving it a prime summer launch and it looks like smart counter-programming to all the bigger films out there. The Great Gatsby did very well with the female audience in its May launch last year and this would seem to fit that niche. Gianopulos pointed out the trailer has been one of the most popular in YouTube history. Woodley, riding high this week as star of the No. 1 film Divergent, said she would have done the movie even if only offered a job as a P.A. or caterer and she praised Fox for not trying to hide her look in the movie or in its marketing materials. “They are re-writing the definition of what a female lead can be in a film,” she said about the opportunity to play Hazel Grace Lancaster. As for the fall, there were brief mentions of a couple of animated entries. Book Of Life from Guillermo del Toro and another DreamWorks Animation film, Home with Big Bang Theory’s Jim Parsons as one of the leading voices opposite Rihanna and Steve Martin. September 19 brings a Young Adult novel adaptation of The Maze Runner and on October 3rd, Ben Affleck stars in David Fincher’s dark drama, Gone Girl also based on a best-seller about a husband suspected of murdering his wife. That date is a good luck one for Affleck as it was the same week his Best Picture winner Argo opened in 2012. There were first looks shown for both this morning as well as a rough cut of a great scene from director Matthew Vaughn’s Secret Service in which Colin Firth single-handedly takes on a group of British punks. Samuel L. Jackson co-stars in the October 24th thriller about a covert rogue agency. It got a noticeably strong reaction.
For the past couple of CinemaCons, Fox has showcased special presentations of major Holiday fare and Oscar hopefuls like Life Of Pi and The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty, but this year their most likely entry in that regard, the biblical epic Exodus Gods And Kings directed by Ridley Scott and starring Christian Bale, has nothing ready yet to show so it was just mentioned, as was another December release Night Of The Museum 3 which just started shooting.
The Fox show ended with another crowd-pleasing stunt as Damon Wayans Jr. and Jake Johnson came dressed as cops with bullhorns to disrupt Gianopulos’ closing remarks, but of course it was all a set up to promote their August 13th comedy, the Luke Greenfield-helmed Let’s Be Cops, which looks to cash in on the same audience that flocked to Universal’s Ride Along earlier this year.
Next up is Warner Bros this afternoon, followed by the closing night awards show.
Awards Columnist Pete Hammond - tip him here.