Thursday, May 23, 2024

CinemaCon 2024 Recap: Lionsgate Studios

Outside the Colosseum at Caesar’s Palace, where all the CinemaCon Studio presentations are delivered, most studios have showcased various art for upcoming releases, with digital signage displaying all sorts of posters and teases. For Lionsgate, they just showcased artwork for one film: “Borderlands.” While they have plenty of releases to be excited about, it’s clear they’re betting big with Eli Roth’s video game adaptation, which is coming later this year.

To kick off the presentation, Lionsgate Chair Adam Fogelson touted the studio’s grosses from 2023, which totaled over a billion dollars, thanks to franchises like “John Wick,” “The Hunger Games,” and “Saw.” Fogelson promised a new era for the studio, one in which developing new and old franchises would be a huge priority for them. These sequels and franchises wouldn’t be made simply because it’s good money, Fogelson promised, but because there are stories worth telling. Quickly, Fogelson looked toward franchises in the works now, including Chad Stahelski directing Henry Cavill in “Highlander,” Daniel Destin Cretton directing a “Naruto” film, Margot Robbie and Lucky Chap tackling a “Monopoly” movie, and Blumhouse producing a new “Blair Witch” installment.

There are a lot of films to look forward to in future years, but Lionsgate teased plenty of movies coming to theaters in 2024 and 2025. First up, hitting theaters in just over a week is Guy Ritchie’s “The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare.” While Lionsgate is excited about that film, they gave us a first look at Ritchie’s next film, another collaboration with Henry Cavill titled “In The Grey.” Cavill took the stage to talk about the film and why he loves working with the “family” on Ritchie’s films but spent a great deal of time chatting about growing facial hair for his roles. He stars in “In The Grey” alongside Jake Gyllenhaal and Eiza Gonzalez. The first look promises a pretty standard Guy Ritchie action thriller. Looks solid, if not very identifiably different from his standard flicks. Cavill also took time to tell the crowd about his training for “Highlander.” He says the swordwork in the film is unbelievable. “You haven’t seen anything yet,” he promises.

Lionsgate highlighted a few horror films throughout the presentation, starting with “The Strangers: Chapter 1.” This home invasion prequel teases how The Strangers came to be. In perfectly creepy fashion, the Strangers themselves appear on stage after the trailer, startling the audience. Another more genre-driven horror film was teased: “Never Let Go,” starring Halle Berry. In the vein of “Bird Box” and “A Quiet Place,” though complete with all their senses, this is an apocalyptic family survival story. Directed by Alexandre Aja, Berry plays a mother protecting her twin sons, neither of whom can leave the house alone lest something ominous comes and snag them. Joining Fogelson on stage, Berry teased, “a world I’ve never seen before. Not in books or movies or anywhere else.”

Eli Roth and Ariana Greenblatt, the director and star of “Borderlands,” took to the stage to tease what Lionsgate hopes will become their next big franchise. Roth described how proud he is of the film: “Filmmaking is a faith-based system. You have to trust that the vision in your head becomes a reality. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t. This time, it really does.” Fogelson also said that the whole cast, including Jamie Lee Curtis, Cate Blanchett, Jack Black, and Kevin Hart, who sent in a fun video, had all seen and loved the movie. They showed an extended look at the film, which, like the other trailers suggest, looks like a cross between “Mad Max” and “Guardians of the Galaxy.” Greenblatt and Roth joked about their incredible experience and shorthand working together. She beamed, “I’ve never been happier on a set than Borderlands.” Will that translate into critical or commercial success? We’ll find out on August 9th.

Fogelson talks about those franchises that have been passed around and discussed for decades, including “Monopoly.” One that he’s had his eyes on is “The Crow,” and he says it was finally ready to be made when director Rupert Sanders and star Bill Skarsgård came on board. He then pitched a brutal new look at the movie, which sees Skarsgård’s character get brutally killed and resurrected. Noting the divisive reactions to the first trailer from fans of the first film, fans of the comics, and people with no knowledge of either, Fogelson says he can’t wait to see what everyone thinks when the movie finally premieres.

We got a first look at three very different thrillers coming soon. The first was “The Killer’s Game” starring Dave Bautista. Fogelson expressed great admiration for Bautista’s “unique and growing star power.” He stars alongside Pom Klementieff and Terry Crews as an assassin giving a terminal diagnosis. Rather than dying sad and alone, he puts a hit out on himself, wanting. When the doctor calls him to say the diagnosis was wrong, Bautista’s character now has to survive against the assassins he put in his own way. Next up was “Flight Risk” by director Mel Gibson and star Mark Wahlberg. In a video message, Wahlberg teased a new side of himself in the role. It’s a bottle story, seemingly taking place almost entirely inside a small plane, where the villainous (and balding) Wahlberg tries to kill Topher Grace. It’s standard thriller fare but could work with the story’s small-scale restrictions. Finally, a “Shadow Force” trailer showcases Kerry Washington and Omar Sy as spies on the run. It looks extraordinarily generic, as its title would suggest, but it does feature a gun-wielding Da’Vine Joy Randolph, so that’s definitely worth seeing.

Ever since “Master of None,” I’ve been dying to see Aziz Ansari’s feature directorial debut. Lionsgate promises it’s coming this year with “Good Fortune.” Ansari took the stage and immediately had the crowd bowling over with laughter. “I know what you’re thinking. ‘Oh no! It’s Henry Cavill in brownface! But no, it’s me, Aziz Ansari.” He talked at length about his love for the theatrical experience and how he truly believes that comedies can still work at the movies, even when so many say they can’t. Though he’s still in the editing process, Ansari showcased an extended look at the film. It follows a poor guy, played by Ansari, who’s tired of doing TaskRabbit chores for rich people like Seth Rogen’s character. Keanu Reeves plays a literal guardian angel, wings and all, who has Ansari and Rogen’s characters switch places to show him that money doesn’t solve everything. The problem is, it does solve his problems. The film looks very funny and insightful. No release date was announced, but it should be ready this year.

While John Wick received shout-outs from the various Lionsgate presenters all morning, we got a bonafide continuation of the franchise with “Ballerina,” possibly stylized as “John Wick Presents Ballerina.” Taking place between “John Wick” Chapters 3 and 4, thus carefully avoiding answering questions posed by the end of the fourth film, footage from “Ballerina” promised action right in line with the rest of the franchise. Ana De Armas stars as a woman seeking revenge for what she experienced as a child. She seeks out help from Wick to develop her into an assassin like him. It’s tough to imagine “John Wick” fans not loving this when it hits theaters on June 6th, 2025.

Finally, Lionsgate wrapped its presentation with an early look at “Michael,” a Michael Jackson biopic directed by Antoine Fuqua. Producer Graham King, who said he hadn’t been to CinemaCon since “Bohemian Rhapsody,” came out to tell us more about the complicated subject of the movie. He acknowledged Jackson’s enormous popularity and complex allegations and promised that both sides would be explored in the film. That’s a significant promise for a movie the Jackson family produced, starring Jaafar Jackson, Michael’s nephew. The footage looked strong, though, with Jaafar looking perfect for the role. It seems like it covers a vast portion of Michael’s life, from early childhood to adulthood. Audiences fell in love with “Bohemian Rhapsody,” so it’s easy to imagine this doing very well when it hits theaters next year.

Lionsgate teased so many varied films throughout the presentation but really focused on developing new franchises. They know audiences show up with a passion for IP they know and love and are dedicated to bringing those stories to the big screen. Hopefully, they don’t neglect original stories while they’re at it.

What was your favorite piece of news from the Lionsgate Studios 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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