Batman & Fantastic Beasts Highlight Warner Bros. CinemaCon Panel
Warner Brothers opened their CinemaCon presentation with a sizzle reel of marquee films developed by the studio, concluding with a splash of upcoming titles like Suicide Squad and Central Intelligence. As the reel wrapped, Warner Entertainment Chairman and CEO Kevin Tsujihara took the stage. Tsujihara made some big promises to the exhibitors in attendance, that he would not let new technology or any middle man come between the iconic studio and the cinema operators. His talk leaned heavily on the upcoming DC slate of at least 10 films over the next 5 years, one of which he confirmed will be a standalone Untitled Batman Reboot directed by Ben Affleck.
Tsujihara thanked the audience and brought up two of his key execs, Sue Kroll, President of Worldwide Marketing and Distribution, and Veronika Kwan Vandenberg, President of Worldwide Distribution. Both women, the keys to the worldwide success of the marketing and distribution of the Warner roster, ushered praise and gratitude on the exhibitors attending and gave a round of acknowledgements to the many others in their respective organizations, and throughout Warner, that are working hard to carry on the gold-plated legacy of the studio across a broad slate of films. Finally, Kwan Vandenberg announced the host for the evening, Mario López.
Mario López took the stage with an easy bounce and familiar manner earned through years hosting the entertainment TV-zine, Extra. Lopez claimed his fan cred and excitement at being there for such a great presentation of the many electrifying titles on the Warner slate. After waxing enthusiastic for all things superhero, he tossed to Ben Affleck and Amy Adams as they took the stage to introduce a preview reel of the upcoming DC comics films.
During the reel, Cavill, Leto, Affleck, Gadot and Zack Snyder all got time to speak to the power and magnitude of the DC characters and their place in the DC universe. As well as the connection they have to fans, generally. They promised bigger and more connected films and stories that will resonate with audiences.
Wonder Woman footage was shown, cutting to previously released Suicide Squad clips, and then to footage from Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and that film's massive premiere, touting the film's global box office performance. The Suicide Squad portion of the sizzle reel picked up with Will Smith, Margot Robbie and David Ayer talking about the mythos behind this band of super villains. Ayers puts it most poetically stating the following.
"Who better to fight a super villain than a group of super villains?"
Wonder Woman then gets more screen time as she deflects bullets from her legendary gauntlets before attending a formal party in a flowing gown and riding a horse into battle. Justice League Part 1's logo appeared as the narrator teased how we'll learn about these characters. Jason Momoa talked about Aquaman, if only very briefly, before The Flash, Cyborg and others got a quick shout out.
As the reel ended, David Ayer, the Suicide Squad director, took the stage and called out the entire leading cast of his film. Will Smith hollered and massaged the crowd into a shouting fervor as he told everyone how spectacular the film is and assured the exhibitors that it will fill their theaters and sell lots of 'stuff' for them, alluding to them making tons of money on their concessions as this anti-hero pic brings audiences in droves. The pic's latest trailer was then shown, with the hard-hitting soundtrack literally shaking the massive Colosseum. While there wasn't anything new, it's amazing to see this full clip on the giant screen.
At the close of the clip, Lopez introduced Russell Crowe who was there to pitch The Nice Guys. Crowe skipped the teleprompter to riff impromptu and delighted the laughing crowd with talk about working with his co-star, Ryan Gosling, before he tossed to the trailer for the film (developed by the team that brought us Lethal Weapon). The trailer showed a very funny action buddy-pic which, despite its 1970's setting, looks certain to entertain.
Up next, Lopez brought out Emilia Clarke to introduce and discuss Me Before You, a dramatic romance that promises a complex tale of love and loss as Emilia Clarke and co-star Sam Claflin waltz through a seemingly fairy-tale courtship that transcends Sam Claflin's character's handicap and the underlying sense of doom and finality that permeates his back story.
To lighten the mood, not with levity, but with horror, Lopez brought out James Wan, Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson to discuss The Conjuring 2, the latest tale from the 'true' files of Ed and Lorraine Warren, who head to England to investigate poltergeist activity. Wan thanked the exhibitors for making The Conjuring a big success, and then introduced the rather electrifying, tension-inducing trailer for the latest installment which releases June 10.
Carrying on the horror vein, Lights Out, produced by Wan, but directed by David F Samberg, is up next, with the director and his star, Teresa Palmer trotted out to the stage to toss to the trailer. Lights Out looks to be a taut and scary thriller as a fast-paced clip full of jump cuts reveal some kind of 'creature' or specter that stalks with the lights out.
Next up, Lopez introduced a pre-recorded clip from Dwayne Johnson, whom this crowd has seen, now, a few time, from the Baywatch set. Dwayne Johnson thanked everyone in the audience (again) for getting his pictures out to audiences and introduced the director and his co-star in Central Intelligence, Rawson Thurber and Kevin Hart. Hart riffed, as he picked on Johnson, with a bit of self-deprecating humor before getting into the clip, which promises a movie with "a little Hart and a big Johnson". This isn't the first time we've seen this footage, with Johnson taking the cowering Hart through an intense battle in an office building before jumping out a window and landing, many stories below, on an inflatable gorilla. We see in the clip that Johnson used to be a grotesquely overweight and uncool kid in high school, who has worked out six hours a day, every day, for 20 years to become the man he is today. There's lots of humor and action in the quick preview of this new buddy-pic that looks to be a lot of fun, in the same style as Rush Hour and Lethal Weapon.
Margot Robbie came back to the stage, this time accompanied by Samuel L Jackson, Alexander Skaarsgard and Christoph Waltz to introduce The Legend of Tarzan, which they promised is truly a 'legend' and unlike previous tellings of this well-known tale of Tarzan and Jane. The clip cuts quickly through the back story of Tarzan to a 'present day' where he's married to Jane and must saver her from the film's villain. Although familiar, the action sequences, battles and explosions are certainly not what you've come to expect from this story.
The final film in Warner's summer 2016 line-up, War Dogs, is up next. Bradley Cooper, who produced, and the film's director, Todd Phillips took the stage. Cooper told a funny story about making The Hangover in a parking lot that he recognized on his way in, with 'balls' juggling on his neck for 8 hours as retakes of the very funny scene, that fans of the film will remember, occupied his entire day. Phillilps and Cooper also thanked the exhibitors before introducing the previously released footage of a film that promises to be a funny, if somewhat 'tragic', tale of success and bad choices.
Animation then took over the Warner pitch, as Lopez brought out Nicholas Stoller, Phil Lord and Chris Miller, who entertained with jokes about their work and their contracts at Warner before introducing a clip featuring a full roster of upcoming animated films, including The LEGO Batman Movie, which promises to explore the dark knight at home and asks if, despite losing his parents in a violent episode that he witnessed, "can Batman be happy?". S.C.O.O.B. (a Scooby-Doo pic), The Lego Movie Sequel, Storks and more are highlighted before Stoller returned to the stage to introduce Storks co-director Doug Sweetland and two of the film's voice-actors, Andy Samberg and Katie Crown. A bit of comedic improve, in which Crown steals the show, ensued. And then a clip from the film shows why Storks is a very solid family animation that should do well with a variety of audiences, especially families, telling a tale of a 'new' stork role (delivering packages for an e-commerce giant) and what happens during a chance return to baby-delivery duty.
Lord and Miller returned to talk The LEGO Batman Movie. Suddenly, the voice of Batman boomed out with Batman jokingly introduced as the writer-director of the movie. Then Will Arnett (the voice of Batman in the Lego pics) took the stage. The trio discussed why Arnett should have been in Storks, where Lego Batman would fly along with the storks before the storks fly off and the camera sticks with Batman. A rather funny clip of The LEGO Batman Movie takes the screen introducing Batman's life at home and adoption of a young boy who, hilariously, takes on the identity of Robin Hood.
To wrap-up the show, the cast of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them took the stage, with Colin Ferrell playing the cool, collected head among the quartet before tossing to the footage. This new film from JK Rowling promises, perhaps, a more immersive look into the 'wizarding world of Harry Potter' (without, of course, Potter, himself - or his cadre of friends). The clip plays to a magical and mystical parallel world filled with magic and battles between 'good' and 'evil'. If the clip is to be believed, though, the new tale will launch a tall new franchise that Warner and Rowling can ride into the future. Rowling has scripted this, herself, for the screen and looks to be entrenched to drive a fantastically satisfying new franchise forward with Warner.