“Netflix, my ass,” Sony Motion Picture chairman Tom Rothman said to the CinemaCon audience after screening a clip from “Blade Runner 2049” Monday night. As mighty oaths go, that disparagement of the streaming giant may not make the history books. However, it could serve as a battle cry for the struggling studio, which came in a distant fifth in studio market share last year.
A studio in transition is never a pretty picture, and Rothman knows his job is on the line. Although he’s attended this convention many times as co-chairman of Fox, Rothman is now tasked with moving this slow-moving studio ocean liner back into profitable waters.
This has proved tricky, as disappointments such as “Passengers” didn’t deliver the audiences the studio banked on. Nonetheless, Rothman announced that dark sci-fi romance had just passed $300 million worldwide (not a robust figure for a $110-million movie with global marketing costs), along with the last “Resident Evil” installment, which was a far better return on investment.
There may be some hope in the form of Edgar Wright’s lower-budget “Baby Driver,” which is now pushed from August to June 28 after its rapturous SXSW reception and current Rotten Tomatoes status of 100%. Wright introduced stars Ansel Elgort and Jon Hamm, after wowing the theater owners with the movie’s whiz-bang opening car chase.
Less promising were some forgettable animation entries presented by Sony distribution chief Rory Bruer, including sequels to “Hotel Transylvania” and “Smurfs” (“The Lost Village”), plus “The Emoji Movie” and Will Gluck’s “Peter Rabbit” live-action/animation hybrid starring James Corden in the title role. The studio is doubling its animation output, but how will these compete in the world of Disney and Pixar?
As Rothman introduced the heavyweights of the Sony lineup, he said the studio is banking on “long-term giant literary properties and signature directors.” This includes “The Girl in the Spider’s Web” (even without Rooney Mara), and director Nicolaj Arcel and writer Akiva Goldsman’s surreal dream landscape for the Stephen King franchise title, “The Dark Tower,” starring well-matched Matthew McConaughey as the Man in Black and Idris Elba as the Gunslinger.
After years of contractual exile, Marvel is collaborating on the animated “Spider-Man” with “The Lego Movie” creators Phil Lord & Chris Miller. And Jon Watts’ live-action “Spider-Man: Homecoming” (July 7) follows Tom Holland’s appearance as teen Spider-Man in “Captain America: Civil War.” Now he’s carrying his own reboot as a high-school Peter Parker trying to get a handle on his powers, counseled by avuncular Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.).
One movie Rothman left marketing chief Josh Greenstein to introduce: Jake Kasdan’s revisit to the “Jumanji” franchise for Christmas, starring Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black, Karen Gillan, and Nick Jonas.
Clearly, Rothman is salivating over the “expanded mythology” in “Blade Runner 2049” (October 6) which Denis Villeneuve directed for producer Ridley Scott in Budapest. The footage looks gorgeous and as befits the director of “Arrival,” stunningly designed. Ryan Gosling costars with Harrison Ford and joined Rothman on stage.
The Sony docket also includes high-concept horror films like morgue nightmare “Cadaver” (January 2018) and “Proud Mary,” starring Taraji P. Henson (blazing guns, spike stilettos). “Nightcrawler” scribe-director Dan Gilroy returns with Denzel Washington in an untitled thriller. Ellen Page stars in a glossy-looking remake of “Flatliners.” And Scarlett Johannson and Kate McKinnen costar in Lucia Aniello’s “Rough Night,” a “Bridesmaids” black comedy about four women on a Miami vacation gone bad.