CinemaCon may be filled with exclusive movie previews and appearances from celebrities, but the truth is that at heart it’s a corporate meeting, a chance for studio executives to tell theater owners about the latest product. As such, the presentations can be a little dry. So Lionsgate made a wise move for the final exhibition of the convention, when attendees are a little fatigued. Instead of using an executive as host, the studio brought out comedian Kevin Hart, who repeatedly reminded the audience his concert movie Let Me Explain arrives July 3.
“Normally I hear that this is a snooze-fest,” Hart said in his introduction. “It’s my job to make you not fall asleep.” He succeeded well at that, keeping the presentation moving between celebrity guests and presentations of footage. He first brought out Lionsgate CEO John Feltheimer, who praised Hart and announced the studio had signed a deal for his next movie Quick & Easy only an hour before the presentation. Feltheimer premiered a look at the studio’s new animated logo, which was followed by a brief onscreen appearance from Tyler Perry as Madea, promoting the upcoming A Madea Christmas and reminding everyone in the audience to turn off their cell phones.
Hart returned to introduce Morgan Freeman and Isla Fisher, stars of the heist thriller Now You See Me. The actors tossed to their movie’s trailer, which features four magicians (Fisher, Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson and Dave Franco) pulling off incredible robberies and showering their audiences with cash.
Next was the trailer for the horror movie You’re Next, about a home invasion that takes place during a family gathering and features masked intruders reminiscent of The Strangers.
Following the trailer, Richie Fay, Lionsgate’s president of distribution, appeared onstage in one of the animal masks from the movie to introduce the trailer for RED 2, the sequel to the hit 2010 action-comedy loosely based on Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner’s comic-book miniseries. Diverging even more extensively from the source material, the follow-up features the return of Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren and Mary-Louise Parker, plus the addition of Anthony Hopkins as a mad scientist who helps the retired secret agents in their search for a missing nuclear bomb. Catherine Zeta-Jones also joins the cast as a femme fatale who has a history with Willis’ character.
Fay also presented premiere footage from Escape Plan, which stars Sylvester Stallone as a security expert wrongly imprisoned in an ultra-sophisticated maximum-security prison code-named The Tomb, and Arnold Schwarzenegger as an inmate who helps to him break out. It was exactly what you’d expect from a collaboration of the two old-school action-movie titans.
Hart returned to introduce Joss Whedon, on hand to discuss his black-and-white Shakespeare adaptation Much Ado About Nothing. The filmmaker joked that the movie would be “the summer tentpole franchise of 2013,” and compared his love of Shakespeare with his love of superheroes. “It’s been a passion for me my whole life,” he said. “Like superheroes, it’s a second language for me.” Setting up a clip featuring comedic interplay between actors Alexis Denisof and Amy Acker (both Whedon regulars), Whedon said he wanted the movie to reach out to people who may not be familiar with Shakespeare. “Everybody is invited. Everybody is included,” he said.
The next person Hart introduced was … himself. He talked in more depth about his concert movie, saying that “to date, this is my best work.” Clips from the movie featured Hart riffing on single life, crazy women and his biggest fears.
Hart then brought out Lionsgate Co-Chairman Rob Friedman to talk about three of the studio’s franchises based on popular novel series. Friedman first mentioned Divergent (March 2014), an adaptation of the dystopian 2011 novel by Veronica Roth. “We believe this will be the next big franchise,” he said of the movie, which stars Shailene Woodley (The Amazing Spider-Man 2). Moving on to a more imminent debut (with footage to show), Friedman introduced young actors Asa Butterfield and Hailee Steinfeld of Ender’s Game, based on Orson Scott Card’s renowned science fiction novel.
Butterfield and Steinfeld announced the world premiere of the trailer for their movie, which began with narration from Harrison Ford as the commander who recruits young Ender Wiggin (Butterfield) for an epic galactic war. There were plenty of space battles, along with appearances from co-stars Viola Davis, Abigail Breslin and a face-tattooed Ben Kingsley.
Ford took the stage following the trailer, and in his typical sleepy, grumpy manner, talked about what drew him to the movie. “I was attracted to it not just for the scale of it and the power of it visually, but there’s a great story here,” he said. “It’s going to touch people’s hearts, especially young people.”
Not surprisingly, the presentation’s big finale was The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, with director Francis Lawrence and stars Liam Hemsworth and Elizabeth Banks on hand to introduce the trailer, which had already premiered online. Lawrence noted the movie had finished production and was in the process of being edited, and that certain scenes were shot with IMAX cameras. “We’ve really been able to ratchet up the emotion and the scope,” he said. The presentation wrapped up with the trailer, but no new footage.