CinemaCon might sound a little like Comic-Con, but the vibe couldn’t be more different. While its San Diego counterpart is all about building buzz among the fans (many in costume), the Las Vegas-set CinemaCon is about studios showing love for movie theaters and exhibitors (or exhibitionists, as Jeff Goldblum hilariously greeted them). You won’t see any cosplayers at the event held at Caesar’s Palace, unless the suits are secretly paying homage to The Wolf of Wall Street.
Still, there’s plenty of buzz-building and news-breaking that comes out of CinemaCon, as every major studio turns up to trot out celebrities and premiere never-before-seen footage from their biggest films. Occasionally they even show full movies, though that doesn’t always work out well. Read on to find out what the heck we’re talking about.
1. Get ready for a lot more Avatar.
Director James Cameron closed out Fox’s Thursday morning presentation by announcing there were not two — not even three — but four sequels to his 2009 blue-man blockbuster in the works. “Why?” was a common refrain on Twitter, but cynics need look no further than Avatar’s ranking on the all-time highest-grossers list. The sequels will drop in 2018, 2020, 2021, and 2022. Mark your calendars?
2. Finding Dory’s first 27 minutes look fantastic.
Prior to showing Captain America: Civil War in full, Disney surprised CinemaCon by unspooling the first act of its long-in-the-works follow-up to the 2003 Pixar favorite Finding Nemo. Like the original, the sequel — which puts Ellen DeGeneres’s memory-challenged blue tang fish on the forefront as she searches for her own family — looks sweet, funny, and very likely to leave you all choked up.
3. Ben Affleck’s solo Batman adventure becomes official.
Despite that whole Sad Affleck episode, the new Dark Knight was widely considered one of the brightest spots in the otherwise dark and disappointing Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. A standalone Batfleck movie was assumed by everyone and their Martha, but Warner Bros. made it official at the studio’s presentation on Tuesday.
4. Deadpool 2 also becomes official.
In other news brought to you by Captain Obvious, Fox will be producing a follow-up to its R-rated monster superhero hit from February. “The entire creative team, including director Tim Miller and producer Ryan Reynolds, are hard at work on a Deadpool sequel,” said studio co-chairman Stacey Snider. No word yet on if Keira Knightley will actually play Cable.
5. Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence combo is as sexy as it sounds in Passengers.
Pound for pound it was Sony that revealed the most footage, and the highlight came when stars Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence showed off their chemistry with some onstage shenanigans — and then a lengthy trailer for their hotly anticipated romantic sci-fi thriller. The film, directed by Imitation Game’s Morten Tyldum, looks technically amazing, but its best effect is the sexy coupling of the two marquee stars.
6. Now You See Me 2… Now we don’t.
While studios will often show the first few minutes of a movie at CinemaCon, Lionsgate had planned to show the magic-heist sequel in its entirety. But about 15 minutes into the movie (shortly after we meet new Lizzie Caplan’s new character), the screen went black, the house lights went on, and the theater was evacuated. It was later disclosed security had discovered “a suspicious backpack” in the theater. The rest of the film remains a mystery.
7. It’s going to be an amazing year for animation.
Nearly every studio prominently featured tentpole animated films, and it’s safe to say your kids are going to be happy campers in the coming months. Disney showed 27 minutes of Dory, Universal played 20 minutes of Sing, Warner Bros. showed first looks at Storks and The Lego Batman Movie; Fox brought out Vanilla Ice to rap “Ice Age Baby;” Illumination’s The Secret Life of Pets drew big cheers; even DreamWorks’s Trolls played better than you’d expect. And then of course there’s Sony’s R-rated 'toon Sausage Party. As Variety noted, it’s going to be a tight race for the Best Animated Feature Oscar.
8. Screening Room seen as major threat.
While the words “Screening Room” were rarely uttered, Sean Parker’s $50 home movie plan was top of mind at CinemaCon. Nearly every studio exec who took the stage made some reference to it while arguing there’s no substitute for the communal, big-screen experience. “It’s essential for movies to be offered exclusively in theaters on their initial release,” Screening Room’s most high-profile opponent, James Cameron, said to cheers.
9. Will Smith finally “met” Jared Leto.
In October, Will Smith said he “never actually met” his Suicide Squad costar Jared Leto despite spending six months together, since the Dallas Buyers Club Oscar winner remained in character as the Joker the whole time. The two shared the stage together at CinemaCon, and Smith told Yahoo Movies that they had finally met for real two days earlier. “He’s a nice guy!” Smith said. “He’s not the kind of guy that’ll send a rat and a dead pig to your rehearsal,” which was something Leto actually did (in character) during the film’s production.
10. John Wick 2 appears to somehow up the kill count.
Keanu Reeves’s revenge thriller John Wick delighted viewers with its sheer over-the-top violence, in particular for just how many people the titular hero eliminates in response to his dog being killed (unofficial count: 77). Well, we counted at least 10 or 12 people Reeves shoots in the face during a two-minute trailer for the sequel alone. So get ready.
11. STX makes a name for itself.
It was competing with studios that have been around for a century, but the 18-month-old STX Entertainment (which launched with last summer’s sleeper hit The Gift) had attendees buzzing about its impressive slate. Highlights included the Civil War epic Free State of Jones, the raunchy laugher Bad Moms, and the coming-of-age drama Edge of Seventeen. Most impressive: They’re all original stories… so far, anyway.
12. Baywatch gets ballsier.
Paramount’s upcoming big-screen take on the bikini-clad '90s sensation Baywatch drew many comparisons to the hit 21 Jump Street in its raunchifcation of and self-aware take on its source material. Amazingly, it will mark one of four R-rated comedies for Zac Efron this year — the others being Bad Grandpa, Neighbors 2, and Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, which also premiered a scene to big laughs at CinemaCon.
13. Benedict Cumberbatch taking on the Grinch.
In one of the Con’s biggest casting announcements, Universal announced the Doctor Strange star would voice Dr. Seuss’s iconic green rogue in 2017’s animated version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas. The studio also revealed Steve Carell’s Gru would have a twin brother (Dru) in Despicable Me 3, and South Park co-creator Trey Parker would voice its villain.
14. La La Land makes for intriguing musical.
There’s plenty to be excited about in regards to La La Land, which marks Whiplash writer-director Damien Chazelle’s sophomore effort and reunites Crazy, Stupid, Love-rs. Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. A first trailer had some flashy style and decidedly (500) Days of Summer vibe. Set in the City of Angels, it could be heaven for musical fans.
15. Kevin Hart is everywhere.
The man who commanded the most stage time had to be Kevin Hart, who stumped for his buddy-comedy Central Intelligence (costarring Dwayne Johnson) at Warner Bros.’s presentation and came out twice during Universal’s: for his action movie-meets-concert film What Now? (an idea so crazy it might just work) and the animated Secret Life of Pets. The theme among them all? Hart is amping up the action. Even his cartoon bunny Snowball in Pets kicks some butt.