Paramount Previews ‘Star Trek Into Darkness,’ ‘World War Z,’ and “Pain And Gain’ for Theater Owners in Las Vegas

Mark Deming
Movie Talk

While DVD, Blu-Ray, cable, Video On Demand and streaming services comprise a large and growing portion of the movie business, the biggest and most prestigious share of the market still belongs to theatrical release, and the major studios are always eager to get on the good side of the folks who own and run America's multiplexes.

Anyone looking for proof need only look to Las Vegas, where CinemaCon, the annual convention of the National Association of Theater Owners (NATO), kicked off Monday at Caesar's Palace. The highlight of Monday's events was a star-studded presentation from Paramount Pictures, who took the opportunity to show off some major upcoming releases, with several noted actors, writers, and directors on hand to talk up the product.

Paramount's extravaganza, hosted by Vice Chairman Rob Moore, began with Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Alice Eve, and John Cho taking the stage to show off eighteen minutes of highlights from "Star Trek Into Darkness," the upcoming sequel to 2009's wildly successful reboot of the "Stark Trek" franchise. While director J.J. Abrams was reportedly too busy overseeing final post-production details to attend (the movie opens in just over a month), screenwriter Damon Lindelof joined the actors, and discussed how story and characters have evolved from the first film.

Pine said Captain Kirk will deal with bigger challenges here, declaring, "In the first film, Kirk got the chair a bit too prematurely. In this installment, we see Kirk earn the chair." Quinto promised fans will see more of Spock's usually submerged emotional nature this time around. And the 3-D footage screened included spectacular scenes of Spock diving into a volcano, the Starship Enterprise travelling underwater, and Kirk hurtling through space.

The "Star Trek" crew was soon upstaged by the arrival of Brad Pitt, who was there to talk about his new thriller "World War Z," a tale of the living versus the undead that will open June 21. Pitt told the audience, "I just wanted to do a film that my boys could see before they were 18. I think you are going to like this as much as my boys will." Pitt also added that making "World War Z" was a crash course in zombie lore and legend: "Four years ago I knew nothing about Zombies but now I consider myself an expert," he said.

Pitt then introduced several clips from the movie, some in 3D and some in 2D. Exhibitors got to watch several zombie attacks, a siege on Jerusalem, and a sequence where the zombies attack the living trapped aboard an airliner. While "World War Z" reportedly went significantly over schedule and over budget, those at CinemaCon were said to be impressed with what was screened.

And while the previous guests showed bits of upcoming films and tried to butter up the theater owners on hand, Michael Bay opted to show a whole movie and speak his mind about his work and reputation. Bay screened "Pain and Gain," his new action comedy in which Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne Johnson play a pair of body builders turned kidnappers. While the stars couldn't make it to Vegas, Wahlberg and Johnson did appear in a greeting taped for the occasion, plugging the movie's April 26 release.

Bay, however, seemed defensive, reminding his audience, "I've been helping to fill your theaters for more than a decade." Bay also declared that "Pain and Gain" was intended to be a personal, "small" movie after years of facing criticism that he was only capable of massive special effects epics such as the "Transformers" pictures. That didn't mean Bay wasn't willing to plug such future, non-personal productions as "Transformers 4" and the "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" reboot.

As if to confirm that bigger is generally considered better at CinemaCon, Paramount also announced a five-film partnership with IMAX as the big screen format becomes a growing force for box office returns. And the studio also dropped a few more big names, showing brief clips from a number of other works in progress, such as "Anchorman 2," "Paranormal Activity 5," Martin Scorsese's "The Wolf Of Wall Street," Jason Reitman's "Labor Day," and Alexander Payne's "Nebraska."