Sony Pictures packed the Colosseum at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas late into the evening Tuesday for a CinemaCon presentation spotlighting an enormous film slate that includes “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” an animated Spider-Man feature, “Ghostbusters” and the “Men in Black”/”21 Jump Street” crossover “MIB 23.”
A sizzle reel was initially derailed by audio difficulties, leading studio Chairman Tom Rothman to joke about a silent teaser and the voice of God, which he lamented isn’t always around when it’s needed. “Don’t make ‘Speed 2,’” he cracked. “Could’ve used that advice!”
Rothman began with an overview of the diverse film slate, noting that the studio has a number of “power brands returning, relaunching or being introduced.” However, he emphasized that “it is vital to maintain a commitment to originality. Without leaps into the new and the unknown, there would have been no ‘District 9,’ no ‘Straight Outta Compton,’ no ‘Gravity’ -- indeed, no ‘Avatar.’” He then segued into “two unique and original films. Each with such ambitions.”
The first was Ang Lee’s “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” (Nov. 11), the Oscar-winning director’s follow-up to 2012’s “Life of Pi.” The movie examines the impact of war on a 19-year-old soldier who returns home to be celebrated in a halftime presentation at a football game. The second was “Passengers,” a sci-fi film with a script by Jon Spaihts that Rothman said “was as compelling as any I’ve ever read. And I have read a lot. It’s unique in that it’s both intimate and epic. So to pull it off required not one, but two exceptional actors.”
He then introduced “two of the very brightest superstars in the world,” Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt. “I’ve had the great luck this year to watch this immensely talented man in dailies for two different films,” Rothman said. “And I can tell you, he’s strikingly different but equally riveting and charismatic in both of them.” Of Lawrence he said, “I suppose all I can say is that, in 30 years of riding the celluloid trail, I have never a young actress of such power, grace, range, authenticity and impact. Which is a lot of words for saying she hits the screen – pow!”
The “Passengers” footage began with wide shots of the starship Avalon coasting through space. Text informs us the ship carries more than 5,000 passengers on a 120-year voyage to the Homestead II colony planet in another solar system. However, due to a malfunction, a couple of the passengers awake from hibernation after just 30 years.
Pratt’s character, a mechanic, stirs first and, after discovering that no one else is awake, explores and establishes a routine as he tries to find a way to fix the hibernation pods. One particularly eerie scene takes place in an empty bar with an android bartender. “Shining”-esque, the Avalon could be the high-tech stand-in for the Overlook Hotel.
More than a year later, Lawrence awakens, to Pratt’s surprise and pleasure. The two form a close relationship while still trying to fix the pods, but enjoy the amenities on the Avalon. Unfortunately, problems seemingly arise from the ship veering too near the gravitational pull of a star. One particularly cool striking scene shows Lawrence’s character trapped in a bubble of swimming pool water in zero-gravity.
As the footage ended, Rothman had a small dig for competitor. “For those of us who love movies and movie theaters, I see that and think to myself, ‘Let’s see Netflix do that!,’” he said, eliciting applause from theater owners.
Rothman then handed over the reins to Rory Bruer, president of worldwide distribution for Sony Entertainment, who began by discussing upcoming releases from Tristar Pictures, including Danny Boyle’s “Trainspotting” sequel, which begins production next month, and Edgar Wright’s crime comedy “Baby Driver.” A snippet of footage from the latter, set to Golden Earring’s “Radar Love,” showcased an ensemble cast that includes Kevin Spacey, Jon Hamm and Jamie Foxx.
Bruer then introduced Kristine Belson, president of Sony Pictures Animation, who began with “Smurfs: The Lost Village” (April 2017), a fully animated comedy adventure that “allows us to really recapture the appeal and the charm which has made these so beloved around the world.”
But even more significant was confirmation of the December 2018 release of the animated Spider-Man film. Belson withheld any additional details, saying, “There is so much we want to share with you guys about this one, but at present we need to keep it under wraps.”
“This is a vision of Spider-Man that will take your breath away,” she continued. “Conceptually and visually, it will break new ground, not only for animated movies, but for the superhero genre.”
Bruer returned to introduce footage from Screen Gems’ upcoming sequels “Underworld: Blood Wars” (Oct. 14) and “Resident Evil: The Final Chapter” (Jan. 27). The reel also showcased “When the Bough Breaks” (Sept. 16), a psychological thriller starring Morris Chestnut and Regina King, and “Keep Watching,” a home-invasion thriller starring Bella Thorne and Chandler Riggs.
However, probably the most well-received footage came from director Fede Alvarez’s “Don’t Breathe” (Aug. 26), a horror film that centers on three youth who attempt to take advantage of a blind man who supposedly has a $300,000 cache. The trio breaks into his house in search of the loot, and find a locked door to the basement, awakening the man process. They quickly learn he’s substantially more capable and evil than would appear and must fight for survival as he stalks them in his home. The footage was claustrophobic and riveting, making effective use of the small confines and low lighting in the house the blind man uses to his advantage, eliciting the largest round of applause on the evening.
Bruer returned to discuss Stephen King’s “Dark Tower” saga, stating that, “just as the fans clamored for years for the epic literary universes of Tolkien and J.K. Rowling to reach the big screen, so too has been their decade-long dream to see Stephen King’s most expansive imaginary universe come to life.” He also noted new installments of “Bad Boys” and “Men in Black” are forthcoming, the latter of which will be a “21 Jump Street” crossover film.
Footage was also screened from director Jaume Collet-Serra’s “The Shallows” (June 24), which stars Blake Lively as a young surfer who becomes stranded on rock just 200 yards from shore and circled by an enormous great white shark. In addition to an extended trailer for “The Angry Birds Movie,” scenes were also shown from director Ron Howard’s “Inferno” (Oct. 28), the sequel to “Angels & Demons” that sees Tom Hanks reprise his role as Robert Langdon, and from the animated “Angry Birds Movie.”
The lights as ghostly wails filled the Colosseum, followed by the onscreen appearance of the iconic “Ghostbusters” symbol and then footage of the Ecto-1 in Las Vegas. Director Paul Feig and the stars of the franchise reboot then entered to the sounds of Ray Parker Jr.’s classic theme song.
Unsurprisingly, the iconic Ghostbusters symbol appeared onscreen and segued into footage of Ecto-1 in Las Vegas; then Ray Parker Jr’s classic soundtrack played prior to director Paul Feig and the cast of Ghostbusters entering the Colosseum. Feig led a Q&A with the cast that included novice ghost hunter Melissa McCarthy addressing how she came to believe in spirits. She joked that she “grew up on a farm and I didn’t have any real friends, so I have a very strong belief that people are out there because I was certainly talking to someone out in those barns. Otherwise, I’m just crazy.”
When Feig asked Leslie Jones how “such a beautiful, fine woman as yourself still single,” she exasperatingly replied, “Oh, Paul! The pains of Leslie Jones.” An audience member screamed out love for Jones, she responded, “And I somewhat like you, maybe start to love after we went out a couple of times.”
A clip was screened of the Ghostbusters’ first encounter with an apparition in an old museum, along with footage previously seen in trailers. The encounter involves ectoplasm and a seemingly friendly spirit turning scary while McCarthy, Kate McKinnon and Kristin Wiig razz one another. There was also a cameo by original Ghostbuster Dan Aykroyd who says, “I ain’t afraid of no ghosts,” only for Wiig to correct his grammar.
The “Ghostbusters” presentation was followed by an extended take from Seth Rogen and Evan Golberg’s R-rated animated comedy “Sausage Party” (Aug. 12), about anthropomorphic food products that realize they’re about to be cooked and eaten The star-studded cast includes Jonah Hill, James Franco, Kristen Wiig and Salma Hayek. “The move is just so wrong,” Bruer said. “I mean, in all the right ways.”
Pratt then returned to the stage, where he was joined by director Antoine Fuqua to introduce their remake of the classic Western “The Magnificent Seven” (Sept. 23). The film not only reunites Denzel Washington with Fuqua but also his “Training Day” co-star Ethan Hawke. Pratt was excited to be involved with a Western, as “it was the only thing [his] dad would watch.” Fuqua was particularly proud of the strong cast of “guys who embody men.”
“The Magnificent Seven” was followed by a montage of titles for upcoming Sony releases, including “Bad Boys III,” “MIB 23,” “Zombieland 2,” the “Blade Runner” sequel, and “Robotech” by director James Wan.
Rothman returned to close out the presentation, noting that “Captain America: Civil War” was premiering in Hollywood about the same time as the CinemaCon session. He announced that attendees would have the opportunity to talk to the new Spider-Man actor Tom Holland from Los Angeles, but the live feed was spotty. Instead, Holland walked onstage and announced, “I am Tom Holland. And I am your new Spider-Man!” to a raucous reception from the crowd. He and Rothman announced the new Spider-Man movie would be titled “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” which is appropriate because it revisits the teenage Peter Parker “trying to find his identity.”
Holland then announced the screening of a quick clip from "Captain America: Civil War" where Tony Stark goes to recruit Parker for the fight against Captain America. Stark hangs out with Marissa Tomei’s Aunt May before ultimately talking Parker into joining him.