Best In Show for CinemaCon 2017 goes to Twentieth Century Fox, which closed out its presentation with a full-throttle Hugh Jackman seduction in honor of his P.T. Barnum biopic, “The Greatest Showman,” which will be released Christmas Day.
Jackman turned on his Broadway charm for the exhibitors, walking them through the passion-project original musical directed by newcomer Michael Gracey. There was extended footage from the film (complete with music by Oscar-winning “La La Land” lyricists Justin Paul and Benj Pasek), which stars Jackman as Barnum, Michelle Williams as Barnum’s rags-to-riches wife, and Zac Efron as an acrobat who soars through the air with the greatest of ease. And then there were the audience members/Fox employees who brought it home by singing and dancing in the aisles.
It was nice to see that even $4 billion in global box office doesn’t mean resting on your laurels. Commandeering the show — and the studio — were chairman Stacey Snider with her lieutenants — production president Emma Watts, Fox 2000’s Elizabeth Gabler, and Fox Animation Studio’s Vanessa Morrison, with distribution chief Chris Aronson.
Going forward, there’s big-scale space epic “Alien: Covenant” from Ridley Scott, starring Michael Fassbender as another robot gone rogue amid swarming VFX, and “War For the Planet of the Apes,” from Matt Reeves, starring Andy Serkis as Caesar and Woody Harrelson as the human commander committed to destroying all things ape. With live mo-capped apes riding horses through the snow, Watts was right to praise FX house Weta, which will likely be up for another VFX Oscar.
Kenneth Branagh presented his glossy-looking Agatha Christie whodunit, “Murder on the Orient Express,” praising the hair and makeup and costumes and sets and cinematography as well as his all-star cast of Michelle Pfeiffer, Josh Gad, Judi Dench, Willem Dafoe, Daisy Ridley and more. Tech considerations are likely.
Theater owners also welcomed comedy duo Amy Schumer and Goldie Hawn as daughter and mother in a South American kidnapping comedy, “Snatched,” marking Hawn’s big-screen return after 14 years.
On the would-be Oscar front, Fox also has Hany Abu-Assad’s (“Paradise Now”) “The Mountain Between Us,” an adaptation of the Charles Martin novel starring Kate Winslet and Idris Elba; “Red Sparrow,” an adaptation of the novel by former CIA officer Jason Matthews starring Jennifer Lawrence as a Russian woman who is trained to become a seductress in the Soviet security service; and the animated “Ferdinand,” the story of a soft-hearted bull that wants to find his family. Voice talent includes John Cena, Kate McKinnon, Gina Rodriguez, Bobby Cannavale, and David Tennant.
All of this, plus ongoing franchises such as Blue Sky’s “Ice Age,” Marvel’s “X-Men” (“Logan” has passed $600 million worldwide), and “Deadpool,” the highest-grossing R-rated film of all time.