Will Smith is really aching to launch that comeback — and he's ready to recruit some major help.
On Monday night, the embattled actor, joined by onscreen partner Martin Lawrence, kicked off CinemaCon — the annual gathering in Las Vegas where Hollywood studios and their biggest stars unveil previews of their most anticipated movies for exhibitors. The weeklong hypefest is geared to get cinema owners stoked about programming movies. And this year, with ticket sales primed to reach pre-pandemic levels, attendees are ready to embrace the revival.
Sony Pictures kicked off its usual opening-night slot Monday with a taped message from someone whose profile needs a similar boost: Smith. He and Lawrence launched an evening of A-list talent and IP via a recorded message from the Atlanta set of their upcoming sequel Bad Boys 4 — which marks the former Fresh Prince’s first new film project since he slapped Chris Rock at the 2022 Oscars.
"We're sorry we couldn't be there," began Smith, before Lawrence interrupted him. "No, no, we're not sorry we couldn't be there. Because we have to be here."
"OK," Smith said, recomposing himself. "What's up, CinemaCon? We glad we not there! Because we here, and they paying us to be here.
"We're hype! We're excited!"
Smith noted that they were four weeks into shooting the film, which he, Sony and the exhibitors filling the room all hope fans will pay to see in theaters. The first three entries in the series — 1995's Bad Boys, 2003's Bad Boys II and 2020's Bad Boys for Life — collectively earned more than $840 million worldwide. Bad Boys for Life was the top-grossing movie of 2020; it was released in January just before theaters shuttered for the remainder of the year due to COVID restrictions.
There's no release date yet for Bad Boys 4.
Other highlights from Sony’s CinemaCon panel:
The studio showed the first three minutes of Dumb Money (Oct. 20), a Big Short-esque comedic drama from I, Tonya director Craig Gillespie starring Paul Dano as Keith Gill, the rebel investor who led the much-ballyhooed GameStop short squeeze of 2021. Seth Rogen, Sebastian Stan, Pete Davidson, Shailene Woodley, America Ferrera and Anthony Ramos costar.
Spider-Man: Across the Spider-verse
That was nothing compared to the 14 minutes co-director Kemp Powers and voice actors Shameik Moore, Hailee Steinfeld and Issa Rae presented for the much-anticipated animated sequel Spider-Man: Across the Spider-verse. The light-on-action, heavy-on-heart clip focused almost exclusively on the budding romance between Miles Morales (Moore) and Gwen Stacy (Steinfeld).
Kraven the Hunter
Speaking of superheroes, Aaron Taylor-Johnson appeared via video to introduce the first trailer for his upcoming Marvel project, Kraven the Hunter (Oct. 6), but not before answering whether or not the film will be R-rated. "F*** yeah," he proclaimed. The preview emphasized as much, showing about a dozen brutally violent kills, mostly of the Kraven-stabbing-bad-guys-in-the-neck variety.
No Hard Feelings
Jennifer Lawrence and her No Hard Feelings (June 23) director Gene Stupnitsky (Good Boys) made up for some painfully awkward teleprompter banter with an incredibly funny extended clip. Lawrence stars in the raunchy R-rated sex comedy as a woman hired by the parents of nebbish pet adoption clerk (Andrew Barth Feldman) to "date his brains out."
The Equalizer 3
Denzel Washington earned the night's biggest cheers when he was awarded with CinemaCon's Lifetime Achievement Award by his longtime collaborator (and The Equalizer 3 director) Antoine Fuqua. The Training Day Oscar winner kept his comments brief (he told theater owners, "We would be nothing without you!") before introducing the first trailer for The Equalizer 3 (Sept. 1) in which he — you guessed it — kills lots of bad dudes.
But just when we thought Kraven and Equalizer were the night's two biggest murderfests, Napoleon Bonaparte said, "Hold my beer." Sony chief Tom Rothman kicked off the inevitable Oscar campaign for 85-year-old directing legend Ridley Scott (who has been nominated but never has won an Academy Award) as he introduced an epic battle scene from Napoleon (Nov. 22 in partnership with Apple), the filmmaker's upcoming biopic starring Joaquin Phoenix — who, in case you're wondering, does not attempt a French accent.