Warner Bros went completely virtual at CinemaCon on Tuesday with a pre-recorded hourlong reel sans executives onstage. We understand that the lack of brass had nothing do with Covid, nor any kind of day-and-date head-ducking, rather their senior ranking domestic and international distribution guys were unable to attend the confab for respective personal commitments. Warners does have other members from its distribution team attending the confab who were in the audience.
Projected on the big screen in Caesars’ Colosseum Theatre, Domestic Distribution president Jeff Goldstein greeted everyone at the top of the reel followed by Warner Bros Pictures Group president and chief content officer Toby Emmerich.
Goldstein addressed the elephant in the room, the studio’s 2020 pandemic theatrical-day-and-date HBO Max model, saying that “controversial choices” were made “but we worked through it all with you, our partners.” Deadline has consistently heard from exhibitors that Warner Bros has been generous with its day-and-date rental terms unlike some of their rivals.
“Going to the theater is simply in our DNA,” assured Goldstein, “and that will never change. That won’t be replicated in any way.” Despite creating ire in town last December with plans to go day-and-date in theaters and on HBO Max with their 2020 slate, Warner Bros course-corrected earlier this year by announcing a commitment to a 45-day theatrical release on its 2022 event titles. In hindsight, the studio has been on the right side of history in predicting how long Covid would last, and giving moviegoers a choice at a time when they may be on the fence about heading out of the house as the Delta variant spikes.
Andrew Cripps, Warner Bros’ International president echoed Goldstein’s sentiment: “Watching Godzilla vs Kong on your iPad doesn’t have the same impact as going to the movies.”
“We couldn’t do it without your passion,” said Emmerich to exhibitors. “Together we have found a way to make it work, and the future looks bright.”
Goldstein thanked exhibitors for their “innovations” over the past year to optimize attendance, implementing cinema safety and their involvement in robust marketing campaigns. “Together, we win,” Goldstein said in his parting words.
Despite the noble slogan over the last year that “The Big Screen Is Back,” Goldstein reminded the room that Warners has had product in cinemas since a year ago (starting with Christopher Nolan’s Tenet).
Tuesday’s reel showed trailers from James Wan’s Malignant, Will Smith’s tennis feature King Richard and The Sopranos prequel The Many Saints of Newark, as well a tribute piece to Cry Macho filmmaker Clint Eastwood.
The biggest piece of steak was the trailer for Matrix 4 now known as The Matrix: Resurrections. Warners showed the same trailer from DC Fandome for Matt Reeves’ The Batman, which is purely theatrical for 2022, currently dated on March 4, as well as some behind-the-scenes from the pic (i.e., shots of Batmobile stunts).
The studio also showed an extended piece of footage from October 22’s Dune of a group of spacemen, including Oscar Isaac, landing on the planet of Arrakis where the highly coveted spice remains. We see Timothée Chalamet and Josh Brolin running through a rumbling desert, disrupted by the great sandworm, as they jump and board a space freighter.
Introducing that footage, director Denis Villeneuve said of Chalamet’s Paul Atreides arriving on Arrakis, “Strangely, he will feel at home in a place he’s never been before.” Added Villeneuve, “I’ve dreamed about Dune for a long time… I want people to be excited, most of all I want them to be moved. To make this movie is like a dream come true.” A new trailer for the film also played. The pic will hit the fall film festival circuit with its world premiere in Venice on September 3, followed by TIFF later that month.
Given how we are expected to return to CinemaCon early next year, Warners will show off more then, i.e., The Flash, Elvis, Fantastic Beasts 3, and more.