Thursday, May 23, 2024

CinemaCon 2024 Recap: Paramount Pictures

As rumors swirl about a potential sale or merger, Paramount Pictures took the stage at CinemaCon to tout their commitment to movies and the theatrical experience. Paramount CEO Brian Robbins even joked about the merger, saying, “My colleague (Paramount Distribution President) Chris Aronson is also raising money to make a bid for the studio. He’s got a Kickstarter.” While board members are stepping down and the company’s immediate future isn’t clear, Paramount didn’t shy away from planning for its future slate. On stage in front of a crowd of movie theater owners and exhibitors, Robbins announced a dizzying amount of projects to hit theaters in future years before turning toward the upcoming releases in 2024.

“Gladiator II” was at the top of Paramount’s mind as they kicked off their presentation. A remix of footage from the original “Gladiator” was tweaked to announce the arrival of Aronson on stage. “From Solider to Studio Executive,” the footage teased before a legion of Roman soldiers marched on stage, flanking a chariot carrying Aronson. It’s a perfect fit for the venue; the CinemaCon presentations take place in the Colosseum at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas. They saved more from “Gladiator II” until the end, milking their most anticipated movie of the year throughout the show.

Robbins took time to celebrate Paramount as the home of the “most talented filmmakers” around before listing off a wild list of upcoming projects, mainly from auteurs and admired directors. Damien Chazelle will have a film coming to theaters in 2025, though Robbins didn’t share any other information about it. Edgar Wright is directing a new version of “The Running Man” starring Glen Powell. Ridley Scott will tackle a new film about The Bee Gees. A “Star Trek” origin film is coming from director Seth Grahame-Smith. “South Park” creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone will debut a new original musical on July 4th, 2025, with original music from Kendrick Lamar.

He didn’t stop there. Robbins listed off IP and franchises getting new installments. “Scary Movie” will be coming back. A reboot of “The Naked Gun” series is coming, starring Liam Neeson and director Akiva Schaffer. After years of teasing, “G.I. Joe” and Transformers will unite for a live-action feature, following up on the promise of “Transformers: Rise of the Beasts.” A new, R-rated, live-action adaptation of the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” graphic novel “The Last Ronin” is on its way. On the animated side, “PAW Patrol 3” and “Spongebob: Search for Squarepants” will arrive in theaters in 2025. As announced at last year’s CinemaCon, a new “Smurfs” musical will come in 2025, starring Rihanna, who also provides original music. And the long-gestating “Aang: The Last Airbender” is on its way from the original creators, with a villain voiced by Dave Bautista. He flew through this list of upcoming features so fast that it was hard to take it all in. There are lots of great films to look forward to from Paramount Pictures in 2025.

They then turned their attention to their theatrical slate for 2024, starting with John Krasinski’s “IF.” Krasinski introduced a new trailer via a video from London, where he’s finishing the film. This showcased the story in which a matchmaking service helps connect abandoned imaginary friends with kids. Otherwise, they’ll disappear. Paramount hopes this will be a big hit for families on May 17th.

Krasinski teased another project he’s got his hands on this year: “A Quiet Place: Day One.” Lupita Nyong’o and Joseph Quinn came out on stage to discuss the massive scale of this new entry in the series. The extended trailer showed that off, too. In the footage, you really get a sense of the new environment. In the previous “A Quiet Place” films, we’re primarily relegated to the countryside, but “A Quiet Place: Day One” takes place in New York City on the day of the attack. It’s noisy and much more chaotic. It’s a fresh look at this world that could be different enough from the first films to work.

Changing directions, Chris Hemsworth and Brian Tyree Henry appeared to talk about their exciting new animated feature, “Transformers One.” They play younger versions of Optimus Prime and Megatron before they became the legends we now know. Directed by Josh Cooley (“Toy Story 4“), “Transformers One” takes place on Cybertron long ago. They introduced the first-ever trailer for the film, along with an extended sequence presented in 3D. While the film looks like a lot of fun, it’s exciting to get a theatrical animated film focusing on the side of the Transformers we don’t usually see; the animation is less than stellar. It’s very competent work, but there’s no sense of stylization or interesting visuals, making it look blocky, like a Netflix show with a much bigger budget. Hopefully, the story will be enough to captivate audiences when it arrives in theaters on September 13th.

Paramount next teased “Sonic The Hedgehog 3,” with Jim Carrey returning as the evil Dr. Robotnik. They show us the first trailer for the film, in which Robotnik has let himself go as he awaits news of Sonic. When he goes to find the blue hedgehog, Robotnik enlists a new partner to help him, Shadow. The footage looked very funny, with Jim Carrey continuing to go all out in this role.

Next, they had some fun showcasing “Smile 2.” Paramount debuted the trailer, in which Naomi Scott plays a pop star who has to deal with…smiling fans. It looks like a much bigger take on the first hit film, amping the budget while keeping the creepy scares intact. Afterward, they turned the CinemaCon cameras around and highlighted some of the distributors from Regal and Cinemark while a creepy woman smiled right behind them.

Finally, it was time for “Gladiator II.” Surprisingly, none of the film’s cast or crew were on stage to tease the movie, even though Joseph Quinn was just backstage. Nevertheless, Ridley Scott, Denzel Washington, Paul Mescal, Pedro Pascal, Quinn, and Connie Nielsen sent in a behind-the-scenes featurette, talking about their excitement for the new story. Scott says that “Gladiator II is “possibly even more extraordinary than the first film.” They showcased the first-ever trailer for the movie, which looks truly stunning. The footage showed naval battles in the Colosseum, along with gladiators fighting monkeys, rhinos, and more, and teased a head-to-head battle between Mescal and Pascal’s characters. Quinn was a particular standout in the footage, looking absolutely mad as the crazed emperor. While this may sound silly, the most wonderful thing about the footage is just how similar it looked to the first “Gladiator.” As with any blockbuster, there’s a danger nowadays that it could’ve been drowning in CGI and poor visual effects, but this film looked excellent. Tangible sets and locations helped it feel vibrant and aligned with the first film.

Amidst their shocking number of announcements and trailers, Paramount’s recognition of the movie theater exhibitors stood out. More than the other studios who have presented thus far, Paramount took time to recognize specific theaters for their contribution to cinema, including Classic Cinemas in Illinois. This was a nice touch that reinforced their commitment to the theatrical experience. Hopefully, a merger will not endanger the spirit of preserving the power of the movies.

What was your favorite piece of news from the Paramount Pictures 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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