Instead of showing trailers for each of Universal's upcoming films during the studio's CinemaCon 2016 presentation in Las Vegas, Chariman Donna Langley promised a focus on a smaller selection of films that highlight the range of the studio's output. All of the footage was unique to CinemaCon, and rather than relying on star power, Universal's presentation would be primarily filmmakers, with a lone celebrity guest among them.
Things kicked off with director Duncan Jones discussing "Warcraft," his new film based on "World of Warcraft," Blizzard's incredibly popular MMORPG. "'World of Warcraft' has captivated millions of players from all corners of the world for more than a decade. I know what a responsibility it is," Jones said of taking on the adaptation which debuts June 10. He then introduced the premiere of a new trailer for the movie, featuring a grand fantasy world, with giant beasts and humans battling each other, and a human warrior teaming up with a green-skinned princess. "War is upon us," ominously warned main character Anduin Lothar (Travis Fimmel of "Vikings").
Director Tate Taylor then took the stage to introduce his adaptation of the bestselling novel "The Girl on the Train," by Paula Hawkins, due out October 7. "Every so often, there's that book," Taylor said of the novel that spent a year on the New York Times Bestseller list. "Everywhere you go, people are reading that same book. Even on the page it was very cinematic." He touted star Emily Blunt as "one of the most talented actresses of our time. What Emily has done with this role is nothing short of breathtaking." He then introduced the premiere of the trailer, featuring Blunt as a troubled suburban woman who becomes the primary suspect in the murder of her ex-husband's mistress.
Producer Frank Marshall joined next to discuss "Jason Bourne," the fifth film in the franchise featuring the return of star Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass, which opens July 29. "It's taken almost 10 years for us to find a new story for our character Jason Bourne," Marshall said. "We wanted to get the story right. We found a great new story that's contemporary, that brings back all of the things that are familiar from the other movies, but with a fresh new take." He praised the realism of the series and promised the new movie would feature "the best Bourne chase ever," shot just outside CinemacCon's 2016 home, Caesars Palace on the Las Vegas Strip. Marshall then cued up the premiere of the new trailer, which began with some flashes of the previous movies and Bourne saying "I remember everything." It also showcased some intense moments from that Las Vegas chase, as well as new co-stars Tommy Lee Jones and Alicia Vikander.
Adding a dose of star power, actor and comedian Kevin Hart was introduced by legendary boxing announcer Michael Buffer -- of "Let's get ready to rumble!" fame -- as the "least anticipated fight in the history of CinemaCon." Hart entered through the crowd flanked by showgirls, doing his best to rouse the typically sedate industry audience. "This is why I love coming here, because the energy is always so low," Hart joked. He described the concept behind his latest stand-up concert movie, "What Now?", filmed in August 2015 at Philadelphia's Lincoln Financial Field and opening October 14. "I want to take a concert film and I want to take an action movie and I want to combine them," he said. A clip from the movie featured a James Bond-style action sequence inside a casino, co-starring Halle Berry and Don Cheadle, followed by snippets of Hart's performance in front of a massive audience.
Langley returned to introduce Chris Meledandri, founder and CEO of Illumination Entertainment, the animation house responsible for "Minions," "Despicable Me" and more. The CEO showed off a look at his production company's upcoming slate and several big announcements. "Our filmmaking aspiration is simple: To put smiles on people's faces," he said. Appropriately enough, he started off with the Minions, first in a previously released clip promoting movie theaters, and then in the premiere of the all-new short "Mower Minions," which will show alongside Illumination's "The Secret Life of Pets," in theaters July 8. The short features the Minions attempting to start up a gardening business so they can buy a fancy blender advertised on TV.
Moving to "The Secret Life of Pets," Meledandri showed the first 10 minutes of the movie, followed by a trailer highlighting the character of Snowball the rabbit, voiced by Kevin Hart. Meledandri touted a voice cast including Louis C.K., Eric Stonestreet, Jenny Slate and Albert Brooks, "each of them a pet lover, which informed their performances." The clip focused on C.K.'s Max, an extremely loyal dog who waits all day for his owner to return to work, and featured glimpses at what some of the other pets get up to when their owners are not at home. In a trailer that followed the opening minutes, Snowball recruits Max and some of his fellow pets into what looks like an underground society of runaway and abandoned pets.
Meledandri introduced two new characters that will appear in "Despicable Me 3," out June 30, 2017. "Gru will discover that he has a long-lost identical twin brother named Dru," Meledandri said, with stat Steve Carell voicing both characters. "The heart of 'Despicable Me 3' is sibling rivalry." The movie's villain is Balthazar Bratt, voiced by Trey Parker of "South Park." "Nobody had ever asked him to do a voice outside of his own projects," Meledandri said. He showed off some concept art and animation tests of both Dru, who has a full head of blond hair, and Bratt, a former '80s child star clearly still stuck in the past. "Bratt is driven to supervillainy as a result of the abrupt cancellation of his TV series when he hit puberty."
While Meledandri didn't have much to show for the studio's animated adaptation of "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" beyond animation tests appear to adhere closely to Dr. Seuss' art style, but he did have one major announcement to make about the project. Benedict Cumberbatch will voice the Grinch when the film is released November 10, 2017. "We were looking for a voice that could express comedic wickedness while embodying vulnerability," Meledandri said of casting the part.
Meledandri ended Universal's presentation with an extended look at the first 20 minutes of "Sing," releasing December 21, from writer/director Garth Jennings. The animated movie set in a world of anthropomorphic animals stars Matthew McConaughey as a koala theater impresario who puts on a singing competition, with contestants voiced by Seth MacFarlane, Taron Egerton, Reese Witherspoon and Scarlett Johansson, among others. All of the voice actors in the film will be doing their own singing. Meledandri promised the movie would feature 85 songs, "ranging from Sinatra to Drake." Much of the clip was in very rough stages, but it showcased plenty of singing, along with McConaughey voicing a fast-talking hustler of a koala.