Sony Entertainment motion picture group chairman Tom Rothman emphasized at the studio’s CinemaCon presentation tonight that “Global rights are a big part of our portfolio” and that “the emerging challenge that confronts exhibitors and studios is the balance between familiarity and freshness.”
“You will hear about many movies tonight that have name recognition in the world,” said Rothman, “We have a number of power brands that are relaunching and are being re-introduced. And yet at Sony, we also believe it’s vital to maintain a commitment to originality. Without leaps into the unknown, we would not have District 9, Straight Outta Compton, Gravity or Avatar.”
And thus, the first film Rothman presented was Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, Studio 8’s title from Oscar-winning director Ang Lee. The former 20th Century Fox studio chief reminded everyone at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace that four years ago, he stood on the stage presenting Lee’s ambitious and groundbreaking Life of Pi. This time around, Lee is employing “an ultra high frame rate that will allow the audience to feel the contrast of intensity of war and the rest of life,” said Rothman. Based on Ben Fountain’s novel, the film follows an infantryman’s final hours before he returns to Iraq with his fellow soldiers. It’s also a TriStar release.
Rothman then wowed the crowd with the next big sci-fi film during the fourth quarter, Morten Tyldum’s Passengers starring Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt. Onstage Lawrence said, “I’m a writer in New York who wants to complete the first 120 year journey to another planet, come back and write about it. It’s very ambitious.” Always the charmer, she stumbled through her pitch and then joked, “I’m sorry! Tickets are half off!” She also revealed that she use to work in a movie theater and that, of course, drew great applause with this crowd. Pratt described his character as “a mechanic type of guy who fixes things and uses his hands. In the world that they live in, he has become obsolete, and he travels to a distant planet.” Romance ensues. They’re stuck on a ship. It’s very Kubrickian. Joking back and forth, Lawrence asked Rothman, “Should we get off stage?” “No, you’re killing it!” exclaimed the Sony chief. It comes out on Dec. 21, six days after Disney’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Just when we thought we’ve seen every thinking man sci-fi film out there, along comes Passengers. Sony cut a great trailer here as it stands head and shoulders above those for Gravity, The Martian and Interstellar.
Responding to the mind blowing footage, Rothman said, “I see amazing movies like that and say, ‘Let’s see Netflix do that!'”
Rory Bruer, Sony domestic distribution honcho then took over hosting duties, trotting out the slates for TriStar, faith-based label Affirm, Screen Gems and later on Columbia Pictures. Pete Hammond will weigh in with his critical analysis of both Sony and Warner Bros.’ wares here at CinemaCon. Bruer reiterated Rothman’s mandate about creating films for a global audience. In fact, it was a family affair tonight for the executives. Michael Lynton Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton was in the audience giving his support of Rothman, Bruer and later on Sony Animation’s Kristine Belson who were engaged with hosting duties.
Bruer spoke about TriStar’s offerings under Hannah Minghella: their Cannes Film Festival title Money Monster and Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting 2. For the latter, there was a very early teaser which showed clips from the original Miramax movie with a title card at the end that read “Shooting Starts in May”.
Belson spoke up her slate, specifically how Smurfs: The Lost Village would turn a whole new page in the big screen franchise. Demi Lovato is providing the voice of Smurfette. Belson also showed off concept art from their Emoji Movie which opens on Aug. 11, 2017. Daring to say the least, a film about little face balls that live in a city. “It’s about power and self expression,” said Belson.
In Dec. 2017, Sony is opening their untitled Nativity movie. This is essentially The Greatest Story Ever Told from the donkey and animals’ perspective. Don Bluth had a similar adorable short for Disney back in 1978 which accompanied the 1978 reissue of Pinocchio. That film was told from the perspective of the boy who is selling the donkey to Mary and Joseph (essentially he can’t sell the donkey throughout the movie until the the couple shows up). September 2018 is the release date right now for Hotel Transylvania 3. There’s also an animated Spider-Man movie coming out Dec. 2018 from Phil Lord and Chris Miller.
Segueing to their Columbia lineup, Sony showed a trailer for their June 24 Blake Lively thriller The Shallows, and this title takes the shark film in a whole new direction, with lush tropical shots, and sharp auteurish angles. It stars Blake Lively, and it’s directed by Jaume Collet Serra. This isn’t some Z-grade ‘when animals attacks’ thriller. The third mezzanine press section was in awe.
Then Sony got its stunt on. The lights shut off, green spotlights started flickering. Footage played of the Ghostbusters mobile cutting corners in Las Vegas up to the front of Caesars. Then Paul Feig and the Ghostbusters femmes Melissa McCarthy, Leslie Jones, Kate McKinnon and Kristen Wiig. “The originals loom large for me, I love an underdog story,” said McCarthy who just opened her husband Ben Falcone’s second directorial The Boss to No. 1. Feig bantered with the girls which got some scattered laughs. McKinnon described her time on the set dealing with her costume as “I was pleased there was room for my crouch to breath this summer. Thanks for coming!”
But then the fivesome launched two clips and more extra footage. Essentially the scene was the lead-up to where Wiig, McCarthy and McKinnon encounter the ghost at the museum, before it pukes slime on Wiig’s character. Then there was the scene where Jones asks for a job at Ghostbusters HQ. We see Chris Hemsworth, their hunky assistant, get possessed by ghost and pop wheelies on a motorcycle. There’s even a bit where Dan Aykroyd as a taxi driver stops for to pick Wiig up. The button on their scene is he drives off saying “I ain’t ‘fraid a no ghost” to which Wiig yells out, “Sir, I believe it’s correctly said, I am not afraid of any ghost.” VFX were spectacular — we got to see a new big ghost villain, a bobbing Jack-in-the-Box type head as well as footprint that could belong to Mr. Staypuff. However, it’s fair to say, the clip drew more applause than laughs.
Pete Hammond will have a deeper analysis tonight, including The Magnificent Seven, which Antoine Fuqua and Pratt showed off tonight.