Thursday, May 23, 2024

CinemaCon 2024 Recap: Warner Bros. Pictures

Pink dominated Warner Bros’ presentation at last year’s CinemaCon shortly before “Barbie” became the biggest hit of 2023. That celebration continued at their presentation this year, opening up with a sizzle reel of Warner Bros.’s biggest hits throughout the decades set to the music of “Barbie.” Executives Andrew Cripp and Jeff Goldstein thanked the movie theater owners and exhibitors in the CinemaCon crowd for helping to create viral moments around “Barbie,” making it the biggest hit in Warner Bros. history. “Not everyone believed in ‘Barbie,’ but you did,” they said. “You helped bring pink fever to the world.” Warner Bros. didn’t spend too much time looking backward, though. Cripp and Goldstein came on stage decked out in Beetlejuice stripes, ready to dive right into this year’s new crop of releases.

After taking the stage, Warner Bros. co-CEOs Michael De Luca and Pamela Abdy led the rest of the presentation, interviewing all the stars and directors about their upcoming features. First up: “Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga.” George Miller, Anya Taylor-Joy, and Chris Hemsworth celebrated the 45-year history of the “Mad Max” franchise before teasing their new film. “This is the story of one woman’s commitment to relentless hope,” said Taylor-Joy. They kicked off an extended sneak preview of “Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga” broken into three chapters: “1: Her Odyssey Begins,” “2: A Warrior Awakens,” and “3: Ride Into Vengeance.” The stunning footage felt right in line with the quality of “Mad Max: Fury Road,” promising insane action and gorgeous imagery. Miller praised Taylor-Joy, saying what a pleasure it was working with her. “If the apocalypse came, she’s one of the first people I’d want to hang out with.” “Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga” will debut at Cannes shortly before it releases to theaters on May 24th.

Next up was Ishana Night Shyamalan for her debut feature film “The Watchers.” She teased the film as equal parts thriller, fantasy, and horror. Shyamalan talked about the “blissful timing” of discovering A.M. Shine’s novel as she was looking to make her first film and how she saw “endless cinematic potential” for the story. She then debuted the second trailer for “The Watchers,” giving us a better picture of the story than the more vague first trailer. The new trailer should be available soon, as we aren’t too far away from “The Watchers” release into theaters on June 14th.

A brand new Superman logo appeared on the screen next, accompanied by John Williams’ classic “Superman” theme. James Gunn couldn’t join CinemaCon live this year but thanked the CinemaCon crowd via video for supporting “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” last year. Besides the logo, there wasn’t anything to show from the new “Superman” film as it’s still in production, but Gunn’s partner Peter Safran came on stage to talk about a different sort of Superman movie. Warner Bros. picked up the documentary “Super/Man: The Christopher Reeve Story” at Sundance. Safran told the crowd that he and Gunn lobbied Warner Bros. to buy the film and wanted to do everything in their power to release it. It’s rare for the studios to give this sort of airtime to a documentary, but it’s a perfect fit for WB. They debuted the lovely trailer, and a few sniffles could be heard around the press section. Clearly, Warner Bros. believes they have something special with the documentary, which will hit theaters in September.

Kevin Costner took the stage next to talk about his two movies coming to theaters this year. “Horizon: An American Saga – Part 1” releases on June 28th, after a Cannes debut, while “Horizon: An American Saga – Part 2” lands on August 16th. It’s a unique model, but Costner talked about the uniqueness of theaters themselves and watching stories unfold in that space. He describes the pair as a “journey movie” and hopes that people will “binge them” at the movie theater. These films have been swirling in his mind for decades, he says, originally writing it in 1988, attempting to make it in 2003 and failing, then writing four more movies to go with it. “They’re coming,” he says. De Luca and Abdy also presented Costner with the CinemaCon Visionary Award, which was delivered to a standing ovation from the crowd. “Thank you for standing,” an emotional Costner said. “I’ll remember that.”

It’s been a long five years since Bong Joon-ho’s Best Picture-winning “Parasite,” but he’s finally back with “Mickey 17.” Bong and star Robert Pattinson arrived to talk about the movie and debut the film’s first trailer. The film is adapted from a book called “Mickey7,” but Bong explained the name change. “The character is called Mickey, and the number is how many times he dies,” he says with a laugh, “and I killed him ten more times.” The trailer showcases a sci-fi story with huge laughs, all set to “Ain’t That a Kick in the Head.” Pattinson’s Mickey is an “expendable,” destined to die over and over in various experiments. It looks bonkers, but Bong described it as a very human story. We’ll find out on January 31st, 2025.

A second Shyamalan, M. Night this time, arrived on stage to showcase his latest release, “Trap.” After joking about his family being called the “Indian Von Trapps” backstage, Shyamalan described collaborating on a story idea with his eldest daughter, Saleka Shyamalan. Saleka, who also co-stars in “Trap,” sang a brief song on stage, followed by the debut of the film’s first trailer. Josh Harnett plays a dad taking his daughter to a big concert, only to find out the show is being used as a trap to catch a serial killer. There’s a big twist in the trailer itself, which we won’t reveal here, though it’s clearly not a spoiler for the film. “Trap” looks twisty and fun, like any good Shyamalan film. It arrives in theaters on August 9th.

Paying off Cripp and Goldstein’s costumes from earlier, it was time for “Beetlejuice Beetlejuice.” Tim Burton, Michael Keaton, Willem Dafoe, Catherine O’Hara, Justin Theroux, and Monica Bellucci arrived, accompanied by an extended look behind the scenes of the movie. The featurette spent lots of time detailing the practical effects, prosthetics, and production design, which looks remarkable. While the movie’s effectiveness might depend on how much you grew up watching the original “Beetlejuice,” the crafts look impeccable. This could be a contender for below-the-line Oscars this fall. The movie will be released in theaters on September 6th.

The final film to receive a full look is Todd Phillips’ “Joker: Folie à Deux.” Phillips arrived on stage, acknowledging his belated “thank you” for how distributors and theaters stuck by “Joker” in 2019, even when the conversation turned negative on the movie, helping the film to become the highest-grossing R-rated movie of all time. Joaquin Phoenix returns as the titular Joker, alongside Lady Gaga as Harley Quinn. Regarding rumors that the movie is a musical, Phillips explained, “Much like the first film, it’s a movie where music is an essential element,” rather than a straightforward musical. Phillips says it’s now a superstition for him to release his first trailer to the CinemaCon crowd, so he did exactly that for “Joker: Folie à Deux.” The trailer was released online shortly after that. We’ll see if the sequel can achieve the box office heights of the first film on October 4th.

Wrapping up the panel, Warner Bros. pitched a video taken by stars and directors from the sets of even more upcoming releases. Jack Black recorded from the New Zealand set of “Minecraft,’ which he joked would be a new kind of “blockbuster.” The video also featured Ewan McGregor and Anne Hathaway on the set of David Robert Mitchell’s “Flowervale Street,” Maggie Gyllenhaal from the set of “The Bride!,” Ryan Coogler and Michael B. Jordan from the set of Coogler’s new original film,” David Corenswet and Rachel Brosnahan from the set of “Superman,” and the cast of the new movie “Final Destination: Bloodlines.”

Wisely, one person was nowhere to be seen and only briefly mentioned: Warner Discovery CEO David Zaslav. As WBD’s stock continues to drop and Zaslav drowns in bad press, it’s easy to imagine this crowd not being so friendly to the embattled CEO. Perhaps if Zaslav wished to endear himself to the movie theater owners, exhibitors, and distributors who make up the National Association of Theater Owners, he should champion films and filmmakers rather than shelving art in favor of tax breaks.

What was your favorite piece of news from the Warner Bros. 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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