Sony Pictures distribution chief Rory Bruer began his studio’s slate presentation at CinemaCon late yesterday afternoon addressing the 800 pound gorilla in the room. “There were a few stories written about Sony last year, ” he said to much nervous laughter. It would be the only reference to the Sony hacking debacle in the one hour and fifteen minute show — until Bruer brought out a “surprise guest” at the end (HINT: he just replaced Amy Pascal). Other than that you would never guess it is anything but business as usual at the studio as Bruer presided over an upbeat, and largely promising, look at the future and not the past. Of course, much has happened and it seemed inevitable that new Sony Chairman Tom Rothman would make an appearance. And he came out in classic Rothman form — that is, once he came out. To end the session Bruer teased the star-hungry CinemaCon crowd (like Disney in the morning there wasn’t an actor in sight) strongly indicating he was about to introduce Daniel Craig aka James Bond and star of the studio’s big November 6th holiday kickoff release, SPECTRE. In the only real miscalculation of the entire event, Bruer pulled a fast one on the exhibitors and intro’d Rothman instead. There would be no Daniel Craig. Once he recovered from the clear disappointment of a crowd feeling duped, Rothman made some forceful statements. “Together we have been through as challenging a time as any company can face. But we survived and as you can see from the tremendous , very robust product line you just saw we have more than survived, we have thrived. Sony Pictures is unbroken, unbowed and pushing on to new heights,” he said before going on to thank and praise Amy Pascal (the beneficiary of a rich new production deal at the studio) and several others still on the rolls at Sony including “our boss Michael Lynton” and all 6,000 employees of Sony and the entire exhibition community.
“It’s a new day at the studio. As many of you whom I have known over the years or have heard me on stages such as this one know, I believe in big ass movies for big worldwide audiences. I also believe in rich, diverse slates and you saw one here a little while ago. Diverse slates with films appealing to a wide range of audiences and that’s why we decided to show a lot of stuff so you see the diversity and the richness that’s coming. We are investing in more and bigger films. We’re pushing forward. We’re not retrenching and we’re not retreating, because we believe. Please believe along with us,” he said before announcing some Spiderman news. He mentioned bringing in Kevin Feige and Marvel to produce the next live action Spidey film for release on July 28, 2017 (although he mistakenly announced it as 2007). But as Deadline reported, Sony is further expanding the franchise by bringing in The Lego Movie directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller to create a “new, distinctive fully animated Spiderman movie” for release on July 20, 2018, promising it will be unlike anything you have seen before. “It’s f*****g awesome,” he exclaimed before introducing some previously unseen footage from the new Bond film and a taped message from its director Sam Mendes. It contained some definite spoilers and a casting surprise but Rothman and Mendes asked the CinemaCon crowd to keep it to themselves. In other words what’s previewed in Vegas stays in Vegas. At least this time.
In terms of the slate Rothman spoke of, Bruer labeled it as “serious momentum.” In addition to the November 6th release of their new Bond film from MGM and Eon’s partnership with Sony, he touted the as-yet unfilmed latest Dan Brown book installment, Inferno with Tom Hanks for next year along with Paul Feig’s all -female Ghostbusters and yet another Jump Street flick. Robert Zemeckis arrived on stage to push his narrative version of Phillipe Petit’s journey between the Twin Towers , The Walk (Oct 2) which he said he has been working on for ten years and will be a “huge spectacle” from the newly rebooted Tri Star label. Chris Columbus came on to promote the summer video game character release, Pixels, which he happily described as “not a sequel, board game or movie with Spandex.” It features Adam Sandler and cast battling Pac Man, Donkey Kong and others come to life in the streets.
Although he had no footage to show, Ang Lee appeared via tape to talk up his Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, which is being shot in a revolutionary 120 frame per second format in 3D. He called it “a new way of dreaming.” I call it a new way of trying to get butts in theater seats. The crowd seemed intrigued , but not yet sold perhaps because there was no footage. Director Genndy Tartakovsky came on to show clips from his Hotel Transylvania sequel that played very well , as did the live action adaptation of R.L. Stine’s novel, Goosebumps. Its director Rob Letterman and producer Neal Moritz (Furious 7) came on to introduce some clips of the Halloween release. Moritz, clearly still buzzed over the money he’s minting at Universal led the crowd in chanting the word, billion.
Bruer introduced an extensive reel featuring more product , including some films that have not been seen to date in any form. The lineup included Bradley Cooper in Aloha (May 29), Meryl Streep as an aging rocker in Rikki And The Flash (August), a thriller called Perfect Guy for September, and a couple of holiday releases including an interesting dramatic clip from Concussion with Will Smith sporting a Nigerian accent and very serious tone , and Seth Rogen’s Xmas, a crude comedy with the tag line, “from the guys who almost brought you The Interview.” For 2016 and beyond there were also clips from the disaster film The 5th Wave and a cool scene with George Clooney and Julia Roberts in top form in Jodie Foster’s hostage drama, Money Monster. A blink-and-you-miss-it roll at the end quickly mentioned other titles including Passengers, The Equalizer 2 and a project that was at Fox when Rothman was there, Pride & Prejudice And The Zombies. Of the latter two not much is known except they are titles promised now to the exhibitors who seemed genuinely happy with what Sony was serving them, not only at the cocktail reception that preceded the presentation, but the actual movies themselves.
Now if only Tom Rothman was Daniel Craig.