Friday, December 1, 2023

CinemaCon 2023 Recap: Warner Bros. Pictures

Despite celebrating its 100th Anniversary, Warner Bros. Pictures arrived at CinemaCon with something to prove. President and CEO David Zaslav has endured much criticism since he took over the studio in 2022. Yesterday, he took the stage to present the studio’s impressive upcoming slate and unequivocally commit to theaters. “We tell the stories, and you bring the people in,” Zaslav told the audience of theater owners. “We believe in the full-windowing of theatrical releases. We’re in no rush to bring movies to Max.”

Before Zaslav took the stage, Warner Bros. Domestic Distribution Chief Jeff Goldstein and International Distribution Chief Andrew Cripps jogged out in bright pink suits while “Barbie Girl” blasted in the auditorium. “As Barbie says, everybody looks better in pink,” Goldstein joked. The team behind “Barbie” confirmed this later in the presentation, as Zaslav brought out director Greta Gerwig and stars Margot Robbie, Ryan Gosling, and America Ferrera. “Everyone knows Barbie,” Robbie says, “but she’s never been on the big screen before. It was an exciting opportunity!” Gerwig introduced a new trailer for the movie, which hits screens on July 21st. This new footage highlighted the comedy and had the CinemaCon audience in stitches. On playing Ken, Gosling said that he had “doubted his ‘Kenergy'” but that Gerwig was able to conjure the character from him. The team especially highlighted the practical set of Barbieworld that was built for the film. “I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I think I finally understood how Dorothy felt,” Gosling said as he reflected on the first time he walked on the set. It’s obvious how excited the Warner Bros. team is about “Barbie.” They’ll likely have a significant box office hit on their hands this summer.Another film that seems poised for big bucks at the box office is the new musical adaptation of “The Color Purple.” Oprah Winfrey and director Blitz Bazawule introduced a new trailer for the movie, which touts that this is “not your mama’s Color Purple.” The footage looked stunning, as to be expected from cinematographer Dan Lautsen (“John Wick: Chapter 4“), with Winfrey noting the blend of magical realism with authentic human moments. The song “Hell No” seems to be the movie’s anthem, with Danielle Brooks getting many moments to shine in the trailer. Brooks, Taraji P. Henson, and Fantasia joined Winfrey and Bazawule on stage to discuss “The Color Purple.” Choking up, Fantasia described how this movie healed her and believes it will do the same for audiences this Christmas.

One of the most hotly anticipated properties given a first look at Warner Bros.’s presentation was “Dune: Part Two.” Director Denis Villeneuve joined Timothée Chalamet and Zendaya on stage to present an early look at some footage from the movie, which is still having its visual effects work completed. Villeneuve says that while “Dune: Part One” was more a contemplative film, “Dune: Part Two is much more of a large-scale action epic. He said everything was new for the film: sets, locations, etc. He also revealed that the entire movie was shot in full IMAX. To no one’s surprise, the footage was stunning. It revealed glimpses of new characters played by Florence Pugh and Austin Butler, among others, while doubling down on the huge scope set by the first film. The trailer showed Paul developing as a leader and even riding a Sandworm. As big as “Dune: Part One” turned out to be, even scoring ten Academy Award nominations and netting six wins, “Dune: Part Two” could be even bigger when it comes out November 3rd.

Warner Bros. proved they want to remain in the Timothée Chalamet business by also showcasing Paul King’s “Wonka.” The first trailer opened with notes from “Pure Imagination” and revealed impressive sets for this Willy Wonka origin story. Chalamet teased that this is the story of the man who would become Gene Wilder’s version of the character. While we didn’t hear any of the original music coming from this musical, we did get to see Hugh Grant as a tiny, bright orange Oompa Loompa. Chalamet’s performance in the trailer wasn’t overtly eccentric, but there’s a lot more to see as we wait for the December 15th release date.

Before wrapping the show with the upcoming DC releases, Warner Bros. showcased its more thrilling features. The trailer for “The Meg 2: The Trench” teased the prehistoric origins of the giant creature and had plenty of jump scares. For fans of the first film, this will be another big, fun adventure that lands in theaters on August 4th. Next up, they revealed footage from “The Nun II,” where a young girl enters a church in Romania, only to have The Nun appear behind her. After the footage, nuns flooded the auditorium, scaring the CinemaCon attendees in real life. Taissa Farmiga and Storm Reid shared about how creepy the filming locations themselves were, promising a deeper look at the mythology of “The Conjuring.”

Finally, DC revealed more extended looks at their 2023 DC Studios releases. While many hoped to hear more about future films, the studio exclusively highlighted “The Flash,” “Blue Beetle,” and “Aquaman And The Lost Kingdom.” James Gunn couldn’t be there, but introduced his co-CEO, Peter Safran, via. video feed. The CinemaCon crowd was treated to the first trailer for “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom,” which showcased extensive underwater world-building, along with some of the horror elements that director James Wan accomplishes so well. Next, “Blue Beetle” director Angel Manuel Soto took the stage with stars Xolo Maridueña and Ariana Barraza. Maridueña emphasized how much his character’s family plays a part in the film and that “Blue Beetle” is a smaller-scale story, more relatable than “world-ending” destruction.Last but not least, director Andy Muschietti joined Safran on stage for one final tease of “The Flash.” While the CinemaCon audience was the first public audience to see the completed film later in the day, the Warner Bros. team still pushed their love for it. Gunn and Zaslan called “The Flash” the greatest superhero movie they’ve ever seen. Despite Ezra Miller’s recent criminal actions, which went unmentioned, Muschietti praised the actor as one of the best he’s ever worked with. He says Miller’s comedic chops were something he hadn’t seen before, and they elevated the film. It won’t be long now for audiences to judge this for themselves when the movie releases on June 16th.

Zaslav delivered an admirable slate of movies for theater owners to look forward to, along with their audiences. “Ultimately, we’re a storytelling company. We’re not in the broadband business; we’re not in the phone business,” Zaslav said, referring to the new Warner Bros. Discovery ownership. To the theater owners in the room, Zaslav commented on their vital partnership. “We tell the stories, and you bring the people in.”

What was your favorite piece of news from the Warner Bros. panel at CinemaCon this year? Please let us know in the comments section below or over on our Twitter account.

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Daniel Howat
Daniel Howat
Movie and awards season obsessed. Hollywood Critics Association Member.

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