In his opening speech, STX chief Adam Fogelson emphasized how the studio was committed to female filmmakers in the wake of its blockbuster success with Bad Moms — which earned the first A CinemaScore for an R-rated comedy since The Hangover — and the critical acclaim for The Edge of Seventeen.
Besson will keep that girl power coming with Valerian and his leading lady Cara Delevingne. Fogelson praised the French director for his ability to spotlight great female talent before they’re superstars, including Natalie Portman in The Professional, Milla Jovovich in The Fifth Element and Scarlett Johansson’s ability to be a solo B.O. star sans the Avengers gang in Lucy. Deadline’s Matt Grobar last night got a first look at the Valerian 3D trailer and spoke with Besson and Delevingne.
STX also showed off footage from Aaron Sorkin’s directorial debut Molly’s Game, which recently wrapped shooting. A release date still has yet to be announced. The studio picked up the movie for an estimated $9M last year. Jessica Chastain plays Molly Bloom, as injured skier-turned-poker room maestro who ran the most powerful game and ultimately was pursued by the government.
“It’s not often when you find a story that’s cool and has a lot of heart,” Sorkin said about his inspiration. “It’s a lot of fun to tell people a story that they think they know. … There’s more than it being a tabloid story.”
Chastain also appeared onstage with Sorkin and regaled the crowd with how she met the real Bloom. “I like that the film explores female power and what that means in society,” said Chastain.
“Having Jessica is like having a Lamborghini,” Sorkin said about directing the actress. “You don’t have to push your foot on the pedal that hard.”
Fogelson brought out Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg to talk about Mile 22, a project that was first announced two years ago with a script by Graham Roland. Star and director called the pic a brand-new franchise. Mile 22 follows a CIA agent (Wahlberg) stationed in Indonesia who is tasked with transporting a compromised informant from the center of the city to an awaiting getaway plane at an airport 22 miles away.
Mila Kunis also showed up at the end to talk about Bad Moms Christmas, which is going into production next month for a November 3 bow. “It’s interesting that you ask a Russian refugee what Christmas is like,” Kunis joked with Fogelson when asked her about her thoughts on the holiday. Kunis and Fogelson then threw it to a sizzle reel of families and their calamities during the holiday season.
Last April, many CinemaCon attendees walked away from STX’s presentation with their socks knocked off, and this year was even more impressive with a big push into animation: They announced that Robert Rodriguez is directing the Ugly Dolls movie, that Elton John is behind Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and that Eddie Murphy is returning to animation with an untitled feature about Bo the Bull.
Last year, the distributor proved it knew how to cut a clip, and those included Edge of Seventeen and the Matthew McConaughey Civil War movie Free State of Jones, which for a moment there was in the awards conversation. Unfortunately, the movies didn’t deliver at the B.O. In addition, STX announced a Sylvester Stallone project a year ago, complete with the actor’s appearance, but it never came to fruition.
The one film that STX previewed last year that it made good on was Bad Moms, the $20M production that made nearly $180M worldwide, further proving that comedies are not dead at the box office. Said one distribution chief recently about the difficulty in launching male comedies, “You’ve got to have the women nowadays,” pointing to pics such as Bad Moms and Spy.