“The reality of the motion picture business is that a film is not truly complete until it plays in a theater,” Peter Kujawski, chairman of Focus Features, said today during the label’s presentation at CinemaCon. It is the shared experience “that makes our human experience better.”
Kujawski then introduced a Focus reel that included a host of previous films from the banner including Milk, The Theory Of Everything, Moonrise Kingdom, Lost In Translation, Dallas Buyers Club, Coraline, The Pianist, Kubo And The Two Strings, Loving and Brokeback Mountain, which set the mood for what was to come. “As we look ahead, I can say, hand on heart, that our 2017 is the best lineup we’ve ever had.”
With that, Focus president of distribution Lisa Bunnell, who had been a film buyer at Lowes and Landmark, took over to introduce the new slate. For more than 20 years she was an attendee at ShoWest and then CinemaCon before moving into the Focus Features ranks.
The first film she introduced was Stephen Frears’ Victoria and Abdul and star Judi Dench, who stars as Queen Victoria and addressed the crowd on a pre-taped video, saying, “I’m sorry that I can’t be with you today, particularly because I heard that Britney Spears is in town. Victoria and Abdul is a remarkable true story about a remarkable and unexpected friendship… enjoy your time in Vegas and remember if you’re playing blackjack, split the aces and the 8s.”
Next came The Book of Henry‘s Naomi Watts and director Colin Trevorrow who introduced the film clip. Trevorrow, whose film comes out in June, asked for exhibitors to play the movie and then joked: “I promise it will make as much money as Jurassic World did in its third Wednesday.” Following that was a peak at the film’s trailer.
Kirsten Dunst, Colin Farrell and Sofia Coppola came to promote the thriller Beguiled, which also stars Nicole Kidman who was not present. Dunst and Coppola have worked together before and to that point, Dunst said: “It’s nice that we’ve both been able to grow in this industry together. At this point, all she has to do is throw me a look and I know what I need to do.”
The film, adapted from the Thomas Cullinan novel, takes place at a Southern girl’s boarding school against the backdrop of the Civil War. Farrell portrays an enemy soldier who is injured and comes to the school for help but becomes something much different than a place of healing for him.
Asked about being surrounded by so many women in the film, Farrell talked about the women in his family especially his grandmother who was very strong. “I’m used to being around talented and strong and kind and brilliant women so I was really spoiled this time,” he said. Farrell then started singing “Luck Be A Lady Tonight,” which garnered a laugh from the crowd. “It was a really lovely time and having so many people of the female species around was really great.”
Continuing the theme of strong women, Atomic Blonde got yet another push today as actresses Charlize Theron, Sofia Boutella and director David Leitch came to the stage to talk again about the film which had been promoted also in the morning as part of Universal Pictures’ slate.
“I’m a tall girl and can look like Big Bird really easily,” said Theron. “We still joke about it. It’s not pretty. I took that very seriously and I said, look the movie is not going to work if I don’t get this down.” Leitch said that the actress was being modest in that “there is an aptitude that Theron has” as an action star. And he should know as he used to be a stunt coordinator.
Theron said at one point Leitch turned to her and said, “There’s a whole sequence in the third act, he said you know in that scene with the Russian? There’s going to be a big shootout.” Focus then released an action sequence that went on for nine minutes and 50 seconds of Theron as fighter/action star. The crowd went nuts for it.
One of the biggest highlights of the reel was seeing Gary Oldman completely transform to portray Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour. Focus unveiled the film’s first clip and it was Oscar-worthy (see related story here).
Although there was no footage of the film, Focus said how excited they were to have in production Paul Thomas Anderson’s untitled film that will star Daniel-Day Lewis, Lesley Manville and Vicky Kreips. It’s still on track for a 2017 release. We’re thinking holiday.