Published on May 16th, 2018 | by Michael Newman0
Looking to my left I can see Dakota Johnson and to my right the incredibly talented (and extremely funny) Tiffany Haddish. I am sitting a couple rows behind Samuel L. Jackson and only a few seats away from Anna Kendrick. You’d be forgiven for thinking that I had somehow scored the seats of a lifetime to the Academy Awards, however I am instead describing my last night of CinemaCon. The stars came out to shine at CinemaCon 2018, an event celebrating all things cinema, particularly for the numerous theater owners around the world, and it was an event unlike any other I have ever had the opportunity to experience. CinemaCon is where the production companies go to show off their upcoming titles, the stars go to share their movie making experiences and the movie enthusiasts go to celebrate the experience of seeing movies on the big screen. The four-day event would introduce me to a world that sadly very few outside the industry get to experience first-hand.
This was my first opportunity to attend CinemaCon and I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. I knew from the schedule that there would be plenty of studios showing off new and upcoming movies, that the stars would be in attendance to promote their films and that vendors from around the world would be showing their wares to eager theater owners. Even going in with this knowledge I wasn’t prepared for the sheer magnitude of what I was about to experience, or that by the end of the event I would have an entirely new appreciation for the movie going experience. CinemaCon wasn’t only about what movies were going to be released, but also about the challenges that theater owners contend with every day. Every major film studio began each presentation with their own personal commitment to push back on day one streaming and attempt to preserve the movie going experience. The fear of companies such as Netflix or Hulu, bringing instant streaming of day one releases to audiences around the world was a common concern, and one that the studios and owners pledged to work to avoid.
This event was entirely too large to write a single article about, so I decided it would be best to break it down into more bite size pieces, a three-part series of the CinemaCon experience if you will. Even spreading the coverage out over several days, I probably cannot even begin to touch the immense magnitude of what I experienced and encountered but I will certainly try. So, come with me on a journey into the CinemaCon experience…
The show started off with Sony Pictures, and a very excited Will Ferrell taking the stage and singing his own rendition of Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On”, which certainly didn’t feel out of place in the packed Colosseum at the luxurious and amazing Caesars Palace. Will shared his exciting news that he had just won $50,000 on roulette in the hour leading up to the show, showing that even someone who is “a man of means” can get swept away in all the excitement that Las Vegas has to offer. We weren’t there for Vegas gambling stories though, and without skipping a beat, he went on to share footage of his upcoming Sherlock Holmes spoof Holmes and Watson. The star-studded event was only getting started however, and Will Ferrell would be followed by many of today’s hottest stars. Some of the more notable actors in attendance were Matthew McConaughey promoting his upcoming movie White Boy Rick, about an FBI informant turned drug dealer, as well as Gina Rodriguez showing her new action-thriller Miss Bala. Sony also shared some upcoming sequels that were in the works including Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation and Equalizer 2. Everything they showed was intriguing, but Sony saved their biggest reveal for the end. Onto the stage strolled epic film director Quentin Tarantino and Hollywood legend Leonardo Di Caprio, to introduce their upcoming film Once Upon A Time in Hollywood. The movie takes place in Hollywood’s golden era in the 60’s, and many have said that it will be Tarantino’s best screenplay to date. While there hasn’t even been a single frame shot, it will bring Brad Pitt and Leonardo Di Caprio together on-screen for what is sure to be a film for the ages.
Day two started with Disney’s presentation, a studio with probably one of the biggest lineups of the year. While the studio surprisingly didn’t bring any stars to this very public event, it certainly didn’t disappoint with the star powered films that they will be bringing to the theaters this year. Everyone was treated to an extended scene of Avengers: Infinity War, as well as footage from the soon-to-be-released film, Solo. Keeping with Disney’s kid friendly movies, they announced the upcoming release of the Dumbo live action film, which will be directed by Tim Burton and starring Danny DeVito. We were also treated to some extended footage of Mary Poppins Returns and the absolutely awe-inspiring intro to Disney’s upcoming live action film, The Lion King. I was amazed at just how far CGI animals have come since the early days of the first Jumanji movie. The live action Jungle Book animals were almost impossible to distinguish from their live counterparts, but The Lion King looks to up the ante even further. I can’t wait to see how the finished film turns out.
Day two concluded with the STXfilms presentation. STXfilms, for those who are not completely familiar with them, is an up and coming studio with some big names signed on for some incredible films, and they brought quite a few of those stars on stage to give the inside scoop on their upcoming movies. The wonderful Jennifer Garner was there to introduce her action-packed film Peppermint, as well as other notable actresses such as Shailene Woodley showing her upcoming true story inspired film Adrift and Jennifer Lopez who wasn’t at the show but offered a video message about her upcoming comedy Second Act. Last but not least, the presentation concluded with Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg introducing their action film Mile 22. Mile 22 is a new franchise featuring Mark Wahlberg as an elite American intelligence operative who is aided by a top secret tactical command unit. The tagline reads, “Option 1: Diplomacy, Option 2: Military, Meet Option 3” and appears to be a cross between Jason Bourne and Mission Impossible.
And so, the curtains draw to a close on the first two days of CinemaCon. There was a good mix of dark dramatic films, high action thrillers, and family friendly choices. We got to catch our first glimpses of not only those in front and behind the camera, but also the theater operators who open their doors to the movie goers and film fanatics every day. CinemaCon has started with a bang, but if you thought they couldn’t go any higher, just wait and see what Day 3 brings.
To Be Continued…
Day three of CinemaCon 2018 began with a bang, or maybe more appropriately with a sugar rush…as Universal Studios brought doughnuts, lots of amazingly colorful and delicious doughnuts representing their upcoming films. I thought it would be really hard to top the doughnuts, but the Universal Studios presentation was another fantastic showing of upcoming films and incredible stars. Jamie Lee Curtis went on stage to introduce us to the new upcoming Halloween movie. The movie is not a reboot, but rather a sequel to the first Halloween movie, where Michael Meyers has been locked up in an insane asylum since the events of the first movie and escapes in 2018 to continue his night of terror. The dynamic dinosaur duo of Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard were also there to show the first 5 minutes or so of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom and Ryan Gosling introduced his new film First Man, where he portrays Neil Armstrong and details the trials and tribulations of the Apollo Moon Landing.
Universal was not done yet though, not by a long shot. Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson and James McAvoy were next to take the stage to introduce their upcoming sequel to Unbreakable and Split… the much-anticipated movie, Glass. This movie once again pits Bruce Willis against Samuel L. Jackson and his new partner in crime James McAvoy in a battle of wits and supernatural abilities. The star-studded Universal presentation concluded, with what could only be described as one of those events that a person will only experience once in their lifetime. Amanda Seyfried came on stage to show us a preview of her upcoming sequel Mama Mia! Here We Go Again…but it was what happened after the preview that left myself and everyone in the Colosseum speechless. The one and only Cher, who is also in the Mama Mia! sequel, came on stage to sing the ABBA classic Fernando. It was incredible and definitely a memory that will last a lifetime.
Paramount Pictures was next on the agenda, and they kept things going with some high-octane hits of their own. The show began with some of the first footage we’ve seen so far of the new upcoming Transformers movie Bumblebee. I have to be honest, Bumblebee has never been a favorite character of mine (even growing up in the early 80’s with the Gen 1 cartoons, I was never a fan). I do like that they have Bee back in his familiar yellow Volkswagen form though, even if he still (annoyingly) doesn’t talk. This movie is meant to build on Bumblebee’s character and focus on a more story driven Transformers experience over the previous Michael Bay, explosion focused titles. The soon to be released film, Book Club was introduced next by none other than the stars themselves, Jane Fonda, Diane Keaton, Candice Bergen and Mary Steenburgen.
I was really enjoying Paramount’s presentation so far, but then they topped it off with what I feel was probably the coolest event of the entire show. The legendary Tom Cruise walked out on stage to promote his upcoming movie, Mission: Impossible – Fallout. This wasn’t your typical introduction and quick movie clip however, this was a 30-minute discussion on how Tom Cruise did a stunt where he was performing a HALO (High Altitude; Low Opening) jump out of an airplane over 30,000 feet. He discussed not only how the stunt (which he performed himself) was done, but also the tech that had to be created so that it could be done. The discussion of a special helmet face plate being built just so Tom’s face could be seen during the jump and how they literally had 3 minutes to film the scene before they lost sunlight (and their lives) was an incredible look into how much goes into making even just one 4-minute movie scene. I had heard that Tom prefers to do much of his own stunt work, but I never understood just HOW much he actually did or the risks he regularly takes to give the very best performance to his audience. I’ll never watch a Mission Impossible film the same way again.
Well folks, that wraps up CinemaCon 2018 – Part 2. You may be asking yourself, can it get any better than this? To get the answer you will have to tune into Part 3 (but here is a little spoiler – it does!).
To be continued (again)…
Well, we finally made it to Day 4 and our wrap up of CinemaCon 2018. To say I was overwhelmed by the amount awesomeness that I had seen so far would be an understatement, but Day 4 would prove to be just as fantastic, beginning with the presentation from 20th Century Fox.
The 20th Century Fox presentation started in the most Deadpooliest of ways, with showgirl dancers decked out in Dead Pool attire, performing “One” from A Chorus Line. It was a fitting way to not only introduce Deadpool 2, but also start off the show. Fox continued its showcase with George Tillman Jr.’s The Hate U Give and the amazing film Bohemian Rhapsody featuring Rami Malek as the iconic Freddie Mercury from Queen. My main reason for attending however was to catch a glimpse of the new The Predator trailer, and a glimpse is what I got. If you would like to find out what I thought of it, my summary and review can be read here: http://sknr.net/2018/04/30/the-predator-trailer-sumnary/
The final studio presentation was Lionsgate, and they certainly weren’t going to let CinemaCon end without some fanfare of their own. The presentation was hosted by the very talented and funny Lil Rel Howery (from Get Out) who provided many laughs and numerous sneak peeks of his new movie Uncle Drew, about a bunch of older basketball stars coming out of retirement to win a local neighborhood tournament. Next up were Mila Kunis and Kate McKinnon who introduced their new comedy/spy movie The Spy Who Dumped Me and Blake Lively and Anna Kendrick showing a little of what to expect in their upcoming thriller A Simple Favor. Unfortunately, Gerard Butler was not able to attend in person, but he did provide a personal CinemaCon greeting and a look at his new submarine movie Hunter Killer.
Lionsgate ended with Jamie Foxx appearing on stage to introduce his new film Robin Hood where he will be playing everyone’s favorite sidekick, Little John. This version of Robin Hood will be a little bit different take on the classic tale and legendary heroic outlaw as it appears to be more action oriented and less historically accurate than the versions we’ve seen in the past.
CinemaCon wouldn’t be CinemaCon if we didn’t at least take a moment to discuss the convention floor where numerous vendor supply companies showed off the latest and greatest theater technology and concession treats. As one would expect there was plenty of mouth watering popcorn to go around, and some of the most amazing caramel corn I have ever had the pleasure of eating. There were also lots of candy vendors (after all what is a movie without candy) and exhibitors showing off specialty cups and merchandise for all of the big premieres expected this summer. The convention floor also had companies showing off examples of their incredibly comfy premiere cinema seating and demonstrations of the 4D movie experience utilizing virtual reality and moving seats. It was an amazing opportunity to explore the more business side of things that make up the movie going experience.
This brings us to the end of our story, or rather brings us back to where this article began, the CinemaCon “2018 Big Screen Achievement Awards”. Those of you who have stuck with me through this entire journey have probably already figured out that most of the stars I only got to admire from afar. While our seats for all of the studio presentations were excellent (particular thanks goes out to 20th Century Fox for providing us with fantastic VIP seats), we still hadn’t had the opportunity to truly be part of the show. Call it luck, serendipity, what-have-you, I was fortunate enough to be given 5th row seats to the awards ceremony. What I didn’t know at the time is that I would be sitting only a few rows away from the stars being presented with awards that evening. Yep, we were right in the middle of all the action. So much so that, my wife almost inadvertently struck up a conversation with Dakota Johnson (she is still talking about Dakota’s stunning yellow dress), and me being the absolute Star Wars fanboy I am, was shocked to be sitting just a few rows away from Felicity Jones. At the beginning of this article I mentioned several stars that were seated around us, but there were many more. Many who have made amazing contributions to the film industry, such as the Lifetime Achievement Award winner, the incredible movie icon Jodie Foster. A few others that were honored at this year’s event included, Jack Black who received the CinemaCon Visionary Award, Jonah Hill who received the CinemaCon Vanguard Award and Ryan Coogler who was aptly given the title of Director of the Year. The Big Screen Achievement Awards honored some incredibly talented individuals for their amazing contributions to the movie industry and it was a great way to finish out this star studded, action packed event.
Well, this concludes my journey of CinemaCon 2018. I hope you enjoyed my little retrospective recap as much as I enjoyed recalling the excellent memories of my week of movies and fun. Hope to see you again next year, CinemaCon!