Universal’s Simon Hewlett and Niels Swinkels kicked off a presentation at CineEurope with a reel touting the studios hits and the year so far. The company recently passed the $3B mark worldwide, and the $2B milestone at the international box office in record time, spurred on by such pics as The Fate Of The Furious, The Mummy, Fifty Shades Darker, Split, Get Out and Illumination’s Sing.
Along with cheering Illumination’s Despicable Me 3, which started overseas rollout this past weekend, and Minions 2, Uni paid tribute to DreamWorks Animation’s history with a reel of its greatest. Uni parent Comcast acquired DWA last year in a $3.8B deal. It begins releasing films from the studio in 2018.
On Uni’s main studio slate there had to be a shout-out for Jurassic World 2. From the set in Hawaii, stars Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard shared their excitement about the next installment in the mega-franchise (and a lack of high heels). They have been sworn to secrecy about the plot, but this one is gearing up to be an interesting take, particularly given it’s got Juan Antonio Bayona directing. The Barcelona-born Bayona was here two years ago to talk about A Monster Calls. Jurassic World grossed $1.67B for the studio in 2015; the next film releases a year from this week.
Also coming up on Uni’s slate is the adaptation of Philip Reeve’s book series Mortal Engines from Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh with their Hobbit VFX protege Christian Rivers making his feature directorial debut. Production is underway in Wellington, New Zealand on the future-set pic that’s releasing in December 2018 and has all the same department heads from the Hobbit and Lord Of The Rings series
Tapping into the La La Land duo of Damien Chazelle and Ryan Gosling, Uni also talked up First Man which follows NASA’s mission to land Neil Armstrong on the moon and the years 1961-1969. It has an October 12, 2018 date.
Of the Scarface reboot, which is written by Joel and Ethan Coen, Hewlett reminded CineEurope attendees that Uni brought the first movie to the screen in 1932’s Howard Hawks-directed version. Paul Muni led that film and this one puts Diego Luna at the head of the table. Of course since then there was the iconic Brian De Palma 1983 version with Al Pacino. But Hewlett said, “We believe it’s time for a retelling for this generation.” That one sniffs into theaters in August 2018.
While Tony Montana doesn’t conjure a singing-in-the-aisles type sensation, Uni proudly talked up “summer joy” with the July 2018 release of Mamma Mia! sequel, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again. The original 2008 cast is returning, along with some new faces and all new music based on ABBA’s tunes. The 2008 Universal musical starring Meryl Streep, Colin Firth, Pierce Brosnan and more continues to play in cinemas every summer and the follow-ups’ July 2018 release should work as solid counter-programming against World Cup soccer. Uni today showed some new footage mixed in with a reminder of the original phenomenon that grossed $610M worldwide.
Also highlighted was the Tom Cruise-starring American Made. A trailer was shown for the Doug Liman-directed real-life story of pilot Barry Seal, a hustler who is tapped by the CIA to to run one of the biggest covert operations in U.S. history. Domestic releases is set for September 29.
A teaser for Pitch Perfect 3, which the studio releases at Christmastime domestically, also piped up. The female-empowerment aspect may get a bump from the fact that co-star Rebel Wilson recently won a defamation lawsuit against Bauer Media in Australia over a series of defamatory articles and has promised to give to charity any money she receives.
Uni further teased Fity Shades Freed, the trilogy-ending title that should push the franchise past $1B with a 2018 Valentine’s Day release. The current global gross on the first two installments is $784M.
Focus Features titles touted included extended footage from Charlize Theron-starrer Atomic Blonde which is also screening in full for exhibitors here in Barcelona. Focus had earlier shown a clip of Theron’s bad-ass MI6 agent to attendees of its 15th anniversary beach party in Cannes. Reception has been rousing. It releases next month.
Sofia Coppola’s Cannes Best Director winner The Beguiled further peppered the showings here, as did Garth Davis’ Mary Magdalene starring Rooney Mara and Joaquin Phoenix. Said the execs, the film has “the potential to tell a story of a significant historical character that most people have heard of by name, but to who history has been full of misrepresentation.”
On the upcoming slate from Legendary are Pacific Rim: Uprising, with “a lighter set-up and design” and Rawson Marshall Thurber’s Skyscraper. That one stars Dwayne Johnson as a former FBI hostage and rescue team leader and war veteran who is in charge of security for skyscrapers on assignment in Hong Kong. Framed for a security breach, he becomes a wanted man on the run who must clear his name and save his family held hostage inside the city’s tallest building. Per Hewlett, on July 13 next year, John McClane “will finally meet his match.”
Skyscraper was the subject of a multi-studio bidding war for rights and should pay off given Johnson’s global star power — and particularly with the Chinese elements involved.
Jason Blum’s Blumhouse got a big shout-out with a trailer for Happy Death Day, the Jessica Rothe-starrer that’s a kind of Groundhog Day meets Scream.
Uni’s Working Title lineup includes Victoria & Abdul, the Stephen Frears drama that traces Queen Victoria’s unlikely friendship with a young Indian clerk. An extended look at the warmly emotional pic was unspooled in Barcelona. It releases September 22 and looks like it could be Venice-bound given Frears’ and Dench’s history with that festival.
CineEurope also got an exclusive look at the Martin Scorsese exec produced The Snowman, a crime drama based on the Jo Nesbo book and starring Michael Fassbender. Gary Oldman-as-Winston Churchill drama Darkest Hour was another highlight with extended footage. Oldman told a CinemaCon audience earlier this year that he spent over 200 hours in the make-up chair to become Churchill and “carried around half my body weight” in prosthetics to add pounds to his slight frame. This is looking like an awards role for the prolific actor with a November 24 domestic release set.