Once again this year for the 5th annual CinemaCon convention at Caesars Palace all the six major studios will be having presentations with Paramount, as per recent custom, getting the first slot. Instead of the usual Monday night opening, however, ( Universal’s Pitch Perfect 2 was showed off to enthusiastic reaction from the exhibitors), Paramount got the prime Tuesday morning spot right after the official CinemaCon “State Of The Industry” report at the packed Colosseum Theatre. Although these showcases for the majors usually focus heavily on their summer product, Paramount also highlighted some of the rest of 2015 (not any Oscar stuff though) and their 2016 slate which included some news that Brad Pitt, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling and Christian Bale have been cast in Director/Writer Adam McKay’s The Big Short, now in production in New Orleans for the film in which Paramount has teamed with Plan B and New Regency. Plot revolves around a group of investors who figured out how to “short” the housing market just before the financial collapse of 2008.
Par’s Vice Chairman Rob Moore, who said to bear with him because he wasn’t a “morning person” and was instead used to his traditional Monday night slot, highlighted several upcoming sequels and reboots, including another Paranormal Activity for Fall, as well as a reboot of the horror franchise, Rings for November 13th. In between for Halloween will be the original horror comedy A Scout’s Guide To The Zombie Apocalypse which he said the studio was particularly jazzed about because of the title which got laughs from the exhibitors. He also promised the theater owners that Michael Bay was hard at work developing a fifth Transformers movie since the first four have made an astounding $3.7 worldwide, music to the ears of this crowd which is ALL about box office. But first Bay is directing Thirteen Hours, a war movie set around a daring rescue mission in Benghazi that is already set for release on Martin Luther King weekend next January. Bay’s also producing a sequel to last summer’s successful ($485 million worldwide) reboot of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle franchise, Ninja Turtles II, set for June 3, 2016. With MGM , there’s a new Ben-Hur from director Timur Bekmambetov, “but not a remake” says Moore (of the 11 Oscar-winning 1959 epic or its 1925 silent incarnation) that will open in February. And on July 8, 2016 producer J.J. Abrams and new director Justin Lin are promising Star Trek 3 ( the pair spoke briefly via a clip). The comic highlight of the event was Ben Stiller’s pre-taped address in character as Derek Zoolander, confusing this confab with Comic Con and saying he always enjoyed visiting San Diego. He announced the sequel to Zoolander, also for first quarter 2016. “You probably remember the documentary they made about me called Zoolander. It grossed 46 million dollars domestically and a whopping 15, yes 15 million dollars internationally,” he told the exhibs to much laughter. Moore also mentioned that Paramount Animation and Nickelodeon are expecting the upcoming Monster Trucks to launch another major franchise for the sequel -happy studio.
One clip package that drew big laughs was for Daddy’s Home, a promising comedic teaming between Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg that the studio said is only, “coming soon”, but clearly this year. Ferrell plays a straight arrow guy caught up in a rivalry for the affection of his stepkids with their off-the-wall birth father played to the hilt by Wahlberg. A scene where Ferrell hits a cheerleader with a basketball got big reaction. But it was the studio’s two big summer tentpoles that drew most of the attention. They bookend July with Terminator Genisys opening July 1 and Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation on July 31. Both films are coincidentally the fifth installment in their respective franchises, and have David Ellison’s Skydance Productions as the studio partner.It was natural then to have Schwarzenegger, in his familiar Terminator dark glasses and leather jacket, open the proceedings, and Cruise close them.
Schwarzenegger said Moore nixed his idea to fly in on stage in a helicopter, or ride in doing motorcycle stunts or be carried in on one of Caesar’s chariots surrounded by showgirls. Instead he just walked on. “Anyway I know that no one really cares about the big entrances and all of those things, that all you care about is something that I promised a long time ago and that is big , BIG box office. Because we all know that the first three Terminators that I was involved in, which is really the only thing that counts, made over a billion dollars worldwide, and that’s not even adjusted to today’s box office receipts, so think about that,” he said in an overall morning session where the word billion must have been uttered, well, a billion times. He introduced 12 minutes of well-received footage from the film which is still deep in post. Cruise closed the show by describing a truly death defying stunt he pulled off hanging on for life to the outside of a plane, and proving it with behind-the-scenes footage where he said he was “scared shitless”. Introduced by Moore as a star whose films have grossed $8 billion dollars, Cruise clearly had the crowd in the palm of his hands, and also brought along co-stars Simon Pegg and Rebecca Ferguson. He promised a film, also still deep in post, would have plenty of “action, intrigue and twists”. And judging from their reaction to the two specially selected clips (including a car chase on the streets of Morocco with Cruise behind the wheel) and trailer montage, this crowd expects big things from the movie.
With recent changes in place, Paramount is clearly ramping up production and plans to produce more movies than they have in recent years when the studio has put profitability over the numbers of films they make. But the times they are a changin’ and competition is gearing up and coming from unexpected places. STX Entertainment, the new entity and major studio wannabe from Robert Simonds with former studio heads Adam Fogelson and Oren Aviv in tow, has already grabbed next year’s prime Tuesday morning spot from the majors and told exhibitors via an ad, “Please save the date: Tuesday April 12, 2016 9:45 AM .The Colosseum At Caesars Palace”.
Rob “not a morning person” Moore will probably be glad to have the opportunity to go back to Monday night anyway.
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