Cineamacon 2017

Jeri Jacquin

Once again, Las Vegas hosted CinemaCon 2017 at Ceasars Palace hosted by NATO (National Association of Theater Owners) where studios present to theatre owners with everything they have coming on their slate. It is also a chance to experience what is coming to concessions and comfort for theatre goers.

NATO is the largest exhibition trade organization in the world and it represents 33,000 movie screens in all 50 states with the additional cinemas in 91 countries world wide. That is amazing and bringing it all together for a week in Las Vegas continues to astound me ever year.

Every year I look forward to the amazing presentations by all who attend the conference. It changes every year yet seeing familiar faces and catching up is also the order of the week. The excitement is always present in every moment of the gathering of everyone who has one thing is common – our love of movies!

So here is our 2017 experience – enjoy!

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Monday the 27th brings a welcoming with an International Day Breakfast and a settling in of what is to come for the week. It’s a moment settle in as the studios prepare to wow everyone bringing a level of excitement and expectation for what it to come for the rest of the week.

Starting off with presentations, Sony Pictures delighted audiences with their slate with the upcoming films Spider-Man: Homecoming, Blade Runner 2049, The Dark Tower, Jumanji, Baby Driver, Flatliners, The Smurfs, The Emoji Movie, Cadavers and Rough Night.

Edgar Wright’s BABY DRIVER is filled with action but that’s what happens when Ansel Elgort tries to rob a bank. After the teaser, Wright and Elgort take the stage to tell the audience how they feel about the intensity of the film. With THE DARK TOWER, Idris Elba offers a sneak peak of the Stephen King story.

In animation, Sony Animation brings a peek at THE SMURFS, THE EMOJI MOVIE, THE STAR and a new look at PETER RABBIT.

Ryan Gosling takes the stage (slow the roll ladies) to talk about the highly anticipated return of BLADE RUNNER 2049. He described the film set as a “fully functioning living breathing world which made it so easy to concentrate on the internal world of the characterless as well as the external world that was so rich and detailed”.

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The only way to end a presentation is with The Rock aka Dwayne Johnson! When you add Nick Jonas, Karen Gillan and Jack Black to the mix, it is a look at JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE.

Tuesday the 28th brings another very cool slate from STX Entertainment The Circle, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, Molly’s Game, The Foreigner, Ugly Dolls, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Mile 22, Den of Thieves, and finally Bad Moms 2.

 THE CIRCLE stars Tom Hanks with a scene shown to the audience with an introduction by Emma Watson. She plays a woman working at a tech company that turns out to be responsible for hurting humanity.

 VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS is brought by director Luc Besson and stars Cara Delevingne who came on stage and talked about a science fiction and how do to it right. The film looks stunning visually so it captured the audience attention.

Aaron Sorkin writes and directs the final presentation for STX with MOLLY’S GAME. The title role is played by Jessica Chastain as Molly, a woman who creates a high-stakes poker game. The film includes a major cast with Kevin Costner, Idris Elva, Michael Cera and Joe Keery. Chastain comes on stage and says there is no better dialogue than Aaron Sorkin’s.

THE FOREIGNER is a Jackie Chan film that is filled with action that also stars Pierce Brosnan, Charlie Murphy, Rory Byrne and Katie Leung. Leung is another Harry Potter alumni making her way past the iconic character of Cho Chang.

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Last year, STX gave out dolls that are not as cute as you’d expect. Don’t tell that to my granddaughter Jaycie because Dreamy Bat is her bestie. Well, Dreamy Bat is finally making it to the big screen with the animated film UGLY DOLLS coming in 2019. Elton John, Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Weber are on board to work on the animated project JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT.

The dynamic duo of Mark Walberg and Peter Berg talked about their next project called MILE 22. Walberg talked about how he wanted to make this a trilogy project and for this to be the work he is defined for in this franchise.

Finally, Mila Kunis takes the stage to announce a sequel to BAD MOMS with A BAD MOMS CHRISTMAS. Filming in Atlanta in the summer it will be interesting to see how that translates into a Christmas setting.

The next studio presentation was from Paramount and their offerings of Baywatch, An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, Suburbicon, Thor: Ragnarok, Transformers: The Last Knight, and Downsizing.

Starting the summer off with a jaunt down the beach as the comedy BAYWATCH hits the screen with a little Dwayne Johnson on the side. Offering up a contest to theatres owners to sell tickets, the winner will get treated to a premier in New York City.

Former VP Al Gore gave us all a look at AN INCONVENIENT SEQUEL: Truth to Power and the joy of being at the convention gave into a moment of a yucky feeling. The trailer gave us a few Donald Trump slices but Gore trying to work with both parties on environmental issues.

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George Clooney, Matt Damon and Julianne Moore are a hit presenting SUBURBICON. Michael Bay gives the audience a peek at TRANSFORMERS: The Last Knight shot in IMAX 3D.

Alexander Payne’s film DOWNSIZING stars Matt Damon and Kristen Wiig and 10 minutes of the film which, of course, left me wanting more. Any time Matt Damon is on the screen I know it’s going to be interesting but adding Kristen Wiig and it’s going to be a must-see.

Wednesday the 29th brings Universal Pictures offerings with Despicable Me 3, Girls Trip, The Mummy, Atomic Blonde, and The Fate of the Furious.

 Nothing makes me smile more than Steve Carell but even more so when I hear his voice of Gru from DESPICABLE ME. I can honestly say that I’ve repeated a line or two more than a hundred times to make myself laugh.

So when Carell and producer Chris Meledandri take the stage for a morning chat, you can be sure it is a good time had by everyone in the audience. In DESPICABLE ME 3, Gru discovers he has a brother who is less follically challenged and with his new family with Lucy, he has to make time to find Balthazar Bratt. Of course Bratt is another villain looking for world domination. Then Carell says of his Gru role, “I am proud to be part of Illumination. It’s amazing to be a part of something that brings care and joy to others”. Yea, he got me!

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 GIRLS TRIP brings Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Regina Hall and Tiffany Haddich on stage to banter with one another about their film making experience and having a girls’ time of it.

THE MUMMY brings Sofia Boutella and Annabelle Wallis to the stage to talk about making of the film with Tom Cruise sending a hello on screen. Sharing a bit about the film, the cast talked about one stunt sequence that took 64 takes and two days between Tom and Annabelle.

Charlize Theron lit up the stage to a thunderous applause as her film ATOMIC BLONDE is set to hit theatres soon. I’m not going to lie one bit when I say this actress just stuns me at every turn. Not only does she star in the film, but Theron is also a producer! Based on the Oni Press graphic novel, this is an action film that doesn’t take prisoners.

Theron says, “I’ve been interested in this genre as an actress and as a woman. It is amazing to see this graphic novel come to the screen five years later. This is a colorful world filled with action”. Director David Leitch, also in attendance says, “The 10 minute fight scene is not right for ever movie but right for this genre. We had bold choices and we the film to be provocative and we bright that.

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The star also turned the audience with laughter when saying, “We worked our balls off on this film, I’m a full-on woman now!” Somehow it doesn’t make a difference whether she has them or not, I’m enthralled with her.

Finally, Vin Diesel makes his way to the stage to talk about THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS. The seventh film in the FAST AND FURIOUS franchise, they once again put together a cast of unforgettable talent to make a film that won’t let you rest for one second.

Diesel also confirms to the crowd that there will be a nine and ten in the FAST AND FURIOUS franchise. He says, “We are proud of how we defied expectations” in regards to the success of the films. Of course he could not forget his friend Paul Walker saying, “It was a hard decision to make the film without Paul but his legacy is in every frame we shoot. He was the concept of brotherhood. When I thought of going into the 8th chapter, it was Paul that said ‘8 is guaranteed’!” Also coming to the stage was director F. Gary Gray, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, the legendary Kurt Russell (still as handsome as ever) and Charlize Theron.

In this film, Dom and Letty return from their honeymoon but it doesn’t take long for things to get chaotic. When a woman named Cipher, played by the best villain Charlize Theron forces Dom to work for her – there are reasons that will shock everyone.

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FOCUS FEATURES brought an amazing slate and I have to say I am a huge fan of the original work they continue to bring to film lovers. Their slate is going to have me waiting with anticipation with Atomic Blonde, Victoria & Abdul, The Book of Henry, The Beguiled, The Darkest Hour and an unnamed work with Paul Thomas Anderson and Daniel Day Lewis.

There is not much else to say about ATOMIC BLONDE except don’t wait to see it – go opening day, go several times! Charlize Theron is just going to blow everyone away.

VICTORIA AND ABDUL stars Dame Judy Dench as Queen Victoria and explores the friendship with a young Indian clerk that sets the palace on its high horse. With a colorful and hilarious introduction via clip by the grand Dame herself, this is a film for anyone who loves period pieces.

THE BOOK OF HENRY is the story of Susan Carpenter played by Naomi Watts and her son Henry played by Jaeden Lieberher. Henry is a smart boy living with his waitress mother in a small town. When a young girl next story is in need of help, Susan and Henry come up with a way to help that can be frightening and deadly. Director Colin Trevorrow and Naomi Watts give their impressions of the film from the stage.

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A film that has captured my attention and the trailer made the suspense even worse is the film from Sophia Coppola THE BEGUILED. Coppola and the stars Nicole Kidman and Colin Farrell is set in the Civil War as a girls school takes in a wounded Union soldier. Also staring Kirsten Dunst, Elle Fannie and Angourie Rice, all I can scream from the rooftops is ‘What’s in the cellar! What’s in the cellar!’

My heart skipped a beat when the amazing Gary Oldman took the stage to talk about his film DARKEST HOUR. The film directed by Joe Wright is the story of Winston Churchill and the early days of World War II. Also staring Lily James, Ben Mendelsohn, John Hurt and Kristin Scott Thomas, I have to say that Oldman embraces this role. I was actually shocked by the transformation of this actor into a man who will forever be part of history.

WARNER BROTHERS brings something for everyone in their presentation with Dunkirk, Annabelle: Creation, It, Unforgettable, Everything Everything, Bastards, The House, King Arthur Legend of the Sword, Geo Storm, Blade Runner: 2049, Legos Ninjago, Aquaman and Wonder Woman.

Staring with the big guns in the presentation with director Christopher Nolan’s highly anticipated film DUNKIRK. Telling the audience that “the only platform I’m interested in talking about is theatrical exhibition” he wants theater owners to experience the film. DUNKIRK, he explains “is a huge story but at its heart it’s a survival story. I wanted to tell the story in the most visceral way possible, on the beach, in the plane and with the soldiers. When it came time to do DUNKIRK, I used cameras to take you on the beach, on the plane and in the water. The combination of talent is an ensemble like I’ve never worked with before. This is a story that needs to carry through the suspense to bring you there. The theatre is the only way to make that happen.” I think the footage Nolan brings has winner written all over it.

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How do you follow that? Well, you bring a “cute” little doll to a film called ANNABELLE: Creation. The story of how this iconic doll came to be will finally be revealed and I’m sure fans are going to be thrilled. Also, UNFORGETTABLE brings two women against each other when an ex-wife Katherine Heigl sees the new woman, Rosario Dawson, in her ex’s life as a reason to go nuts.

Stephen King is back on the screen with a frightening clown and director Andres Muschietti’s IT. I have no doubt people will flock to the theatres to have their wits taken by Pennywise who reminds us that ‘we all float down here’.

In between horror and drama is the beat down of planet Earth with the next disaster film GEOSTORM with Gerard Butler. When the satellites that control Earth go wonky, the weather becomes the attacker as the climate changes.

If comedy is more the genre preferred well then let the BASTARDS change that for you. Ed Helms and Owen Wilson are twin brothers who learn more about their mother, played by Glenn Close, than they ever wanted too. A road trip to find Daddy is in order!

Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler bring down THE HOUSE coming to theatres. As parents of a daughter wanting to go to college and no money to make that happen, they take matters into their own gambling hands.

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Charlie Hunnam takes the stage and the hearts of the women around me have stopped for a moment. Oh yes, it will take time to get Jax (SOA) out of our minds so listening to his introduction for the director Guy Ritchie’s film KING ARTHUR: Legend of the Sword keeps us all happy. Hunnam tells us that the story takes a bit of a turn as Arthur is “as far as you can imagine from royalty. It’s a little bit cheeky, a little big naughty and a lot of fun”. Who can turn that down?

Jared Leto takes the stage to bring more of the BLADE RUNNER 2049 story to the audience. Taking a moment to gush, Leto says “there are very few films in my life that have struck me as deep as the original BLADE RUNNER.”

With the success of the Lego franchise and the recent Batman addition to the gang, a new block member comes with LEGO NINJAGO MOVIE. I swear I love the humor that Lego brings to these characters with stories that are so inventive and fun.

DC gets their feet wet as Jason Momoa takes the stage, and may I say he’s taller than I ever thought, to talk about the concept of the film starting with director Zack Snyder telling the story of AQUAMAN. Also presenting for DC is Chris Pine and director Patty Jenkins for WONDER WOMAN.

Thursday the 30th brings 20th Century Fox to CinemaCon with their slate of films but can’t help but open up the presentation with dancers giving lights, fun and a rendition of ‘There’s No Business Like Show Business’. It wasn’t until the final second that the unveiling of Chris Aronson, 20th Century Fox head of domestic distribution brought the house down with applaud.

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The upcoming slate also brings cheers with the films Captain Underpants, Snatched, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul, The Mountain Between Us, War For the Planet of the Apes, Kingsmen: The Golden Circle, Red Sparrow, The Murder on the Orient Express, Alien: Covenant, Ferdinand and The Greatest Showman.

It made me jump when the trailer for CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS was shown as the crowd absolutely loved it. SNATCHED stars Amy Schumer and Goldie Hawn who took to the stage in a love fest between the two. The story of a mother-daughter trip-gone-wrong, Schumer says, ‘Even if you have triggering Mom issues, you’ll still enjoy it”.

DIARY OF A WIMPY KID: The Long Haul brings Tom Everett-Scott and Alicia Silverstone back as parents who take their kids on a road trip. Of course anyone with kids will find the comedy relatable.

Kate Winslet and Idris Elba star in THE MOUNTAIN BETWEEN US as two survivors of a plane crash do what ever they must to get down the mountain. I enjoy both of these actors so this will be on my list of films to see.

WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES instantly got attention and not just because of the huge night display on the entire front of Caesars Palace. A preview of the film has Cesar riding a horse through the woods and after a chase meet a smaller ape who also knows how to talk. He tells them about a military camp run by the nutty Woody Harrelson and it’s plain to see war is inevitable.

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I broke out in a giggle happy fit when KINGSMAN: The Golden Circle trailer came to the screen. I have to say with the addition of Channing Tatum it is a bigger plus for me to see the film and, to be honest, nothing would keep me away.

Jennifer Lawrence returns to the screen with the thriller RED SPARROW. Kenneth Branagh takes on THE MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS giving his introduction on video. The cast includes Judi Dench, Michelle Pfieffer, Johnny Depp, Josh Gad, Willem Dafoe and more.

ALIEN: Covenant brings Michael Fassbender back (and I’m not mad about that! <heavy sigh>) as director Ridley Scott gives us a sneak peek hoping that the film “scares the sh*t outta you”. Katherine Waterston leads a cast that includes Danny McBride, Billy Crudup, Guy Pearce, James Franco, Demian Bichir and Noomi Rapace.

The animated film FERDINAND brought out Jon Cena to talk about his excitement about playing the misunderstood bull. He seemed pretty thrilled about all the work he put into it and a cast that includes Kate McKinnon, David Tennant, Gina Rodriguez and Anthony Anderson.

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There is something to be said when Hugh Jackman takes the stage because he is perfect for his role in the film THE GREATEST SHOWMAN. Directed by Michael Gracey, it is the story of P.T. Barnum who had an idea and creates showmanship like the world had never seen. Also starring Rebecca Ferguson, Michelle Williams, Zendaya, Keala Settle and Zac Efron, this is going to be colorful and musically stunning.

Amazon Studios takes the stage with their slate of films with Last Flag Flying, Crown Heights, Brad’s Status, The Only Living Boy in New York, City of Ghosts, Generation of Wealth, Wonderstruck, The Big Sick, Don Quixote, Don’t Worry He Won’t Get Far on Foot, All Eyez on Me, American Assassin, Wonder, The Hitman’s Bodyguard.

 Richard Linklater brings LAST FLAG FLYING with Steve Carell, Bryan Cranston and Laurence Fishburne playing former military men who come together. CROWN HEIGHTS is the story of a man wrongly convicted of murder. Lakeith Stanfield and Nnamdi Asomugha work together to right the wrong.

BRAD’S STATUS stars Ben Stiller, Michael Sheen and Jenna Fischer in this combination of comedy and drama about decisions we make in life. THE ONLY LIVING BOY IN NEW YORK starring Jeff Bridges and Kate Beckinsale and directed by Marc Webb.

CITY OF GHOSTS comes from Matthew Heineman as activists in Syria who are also journalists. GENERATION OF WEALTH takes on the rich in America. WONDERSTRUCK tells the story of a young boy in the Midwest and a young girl in New York and what there connection is. THE BIG SICK stars Kumail Nanjiani and Zoe Kazan as a couple who deal with their cultural differences.

Before the ending of Amazon Studios presentation there was mention of upcoming films including DON QUIXOTE, DON’T WORRY HE WON’T GET FAR ON FOOT, ANNETTE, BEAUTIFUL BOY, SUSPIRIA, YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE, PETERLOO.

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Lionsgate closes the studio presentations with a little film ALL EYEZ ON ME, a film on Tupac Shakur. Michael Keaton continues to keep me riveted and makes his way to the stage to present AMERICAN ASSASSIN. Dylan O’ Brien and Taylor Kitsch star in this counterterrorism thriller.

Jacob Tremblay stars in the film WONDER that comes from the novel by R.J. Palacio with this drama about Auggie, a young boy with a facial deformity that tries to fit in.

THE HITMAN’S BODYGUARD brings the stunning Salma Hayek to the stage to introduce this film that stars Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson as a bodyguard and a hitman work together. Putting Reynolds and Jackson in these roles it pretty much a win-win!

That’s it, that’s everything and I can honestly say I don’t think it’s possible to take in any more. CinemaCon never disappoints and this year was absolutely no exception. From learning what is new and coming in theatres and meeting exhibitors along with the stars that came to support it all – it was a complete blast.

Thanks to NATO and Mitch Neuhauser, the Managing Director, for all that you do to make it a memorable week that keeps us talking for months after.

See you next year at CinemaCon 2018!

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