Warner Bros Pictures set the bar high with the sheer amount star power they brought to Las Vegas for the 2016 CinemaCon. The annual gathering of National Association of Theatre Owners members normally has studios flying in their big guns to promote upcoming films, but Warner Bros went all out this year. Among the stars who took the stage at Caesars Palace were Ben Affleck, Amy Adams, Will Smith, Jared Leto, Margot Robbie, Joel Kinnaman, Adam Beach, Jai Courtney, Russell Crowe, Emilia Clarke, James Wan, Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Teresa Palmer, Kevin Hart, Alexander Skarsgard, Christoph Waltz, Samuel L. Jackson, Bradley Cooper, Andy Samberg, Katie Crown, Will Arnett, Eddie Redmayne, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, and Colin Farrell.
Kicking off Warner Bros’ presentation of their upcoming slate of films, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice‘s Ben Affleck and Amy Adams were introduced after Chairman and CEO Kevin Tsujihara confirmed Affleck will direct and star in a stand-alone Batman movie. Affleck and Adams are also a part of the Justice League movie directed by Zack Snyder, and Affleck said it’s “tremendously exciting to be part of the DC Universe.”
The DC Universe was also represented by a video from the set of Justice League in London featuring director Snyder, Jason Momoa, Henry Cavill, and Gal Gadot.
Next up was one of the presentation’s most anticipated films: Suicide Squad. Director David Ayer said, “Every film’s a journey. Every journey leads to the theater.” Ayer also said his film isn’t just a movie, it’s an event and should be seen on the big screen. The entire main cast then took the stage but it was Will Smith who did all of the talking. Will got the CinemaCon crowd worked up, saying he was very, very proud to be in Vegas with this particular film. “This group of people, we’ve bonded,” said Smith, adding that they’re friends who have created something special and spectacular. Before the lengthy clip full of bad guys doing good things played, Ayer said the film’s like “spending a couple of hours with the coolest kids in school.” The clip was action-packed and featured a lot of new scenes of Jared Leto as The Joker as well as Margot Robbie being completely badass as Harley Quinn. Based solely on the trailers and clips, Suicide Squad is going to give Deadpool a run for its money as the most entertaining superhero film of 2016.
Russell Crowe did what you’d expect Russell Crowe to do…he ignored the teleprompter and just winged it. Actually, he gave the script a chance but quickly found it lacking. “I was told they’ve written me a script to say to you today. We’ll see,” joked Crowe. Reading what was scripted, Crowe said, “Ryan [Gosling] would have loved to have been here today,” before going off-script to say, “That’s bullshit.” Laughing, Crowe said Gosling wouldn’t have loved it. He called his The Nice Guys co-star a cineast who’s a great student of film and then paid him a huge compliment by comparing him to Gene Wilder. Crowe said he loved working with Gosling and that after 49 movies over 25 years, Gosling made him break character more than he had in his other movies combined. The NATO crowd was definitely won over by the combination of Crowe winging it and the clips. The extended clips had the CinemaCon crowd laughing out loud and I actually overheard one theater owner saying, “That’s going to be a big hit.”
Next up was a preview of Me Before You with Emilia Clarke (Game of Thrones) representing the film. Clarke said, “It was a privilege to bring Jojo’s brilliant novel to the screen.” Clarke promised the film will be moving, romantic, and also inspiring, with the clip focusing on the relationship between Clarke and Sam Claflin’s characters.
Horror was the focus of the next portion of the presentation. Director James Wan was joined by his The Conjuring 2 stars Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson to talk about the horror sequel. Wan said the sequel explores one of the Warrens’ most intriguing and controversial cases, and Farmiga added that it was compelling and more than a little frightening even for the Warrens. After Wilson complimented Wan as being in a class by himself, an extended trailer had the audience jumping in their seats.
The Conjuring 2 was followed by Lights Out produced by James Wan and Lawrence Grey and directed by David F. Sandberg. The film is inspired by Sandberg’s short film which became a viral hit. Sanderg said, “The way this film came together couldn’t have come together better.” Lights Out star Teresa Palmer accompanied director Sandberg on stage and said we can all relate to the film because we all remember what it’s like to be alone in the dark.
A taped message from Dwayne Johnson served to introduce Central Intelligence director Rawson Marshall Thurber and Kevin Hart. Thurber called Hart one of the funniest actors around and said Johnson is one of the biggest action stars on the planet, a label that Hart took issue with. Hart said he’s been working out every single day and has the guns to prove it. In fact, he’s in such good shape physically that he thinks he’d actually be able to take Johnson if they fought. Hart also joked that Central Intelligence is the perfect summer movie because he’s in it. The special clip showed more of Johnson in a fat suit and explained how it is that Johnson recruits Hart as his partner.
They didn’t walk on the stage accompanied by the classic Tarzan yell or accompanied by any animals, but that was perfectly fine for the crowd which was apparently made up of quite a few Alexander Skarsgard admirers. A few whistles and hoots were heard before Skarsgard, joined by his The Legend of Tarzan co-stars Christoph Waltz, Margot Robbie, and Samuel L Jackson, joked about the film being from people who made some movie about somebody named Harry Potter or something like that. He also said he had a good time making the movie, with Robbie confirming Jane in this Tarzan story is no damsel in distress. Jackson promised big sets and big action, and Waltz added that they’re very proud of this film.
War Dogs was next in the lineup and it was producing partners Todd Phillips (The Hangover movies) and Bradley Cooper who were on hand in Vegas to chat up the movie. Cooper recalled it was in a parking lot across the street where Ken Jeong shot the scene in which he’s naked in the trunk of a car and winds up juggling his balls on Bradley’s neck. Bradley joked it took eight hours to shoot the scene…because he kept asking for more takes. War Dogs marks the first film from Phillips and Cooper’s production company, but it was Phillips’ fifth time in six years making the trek to Vegas for CinemaCon. Turning serious, Phillips thanked Warner Bros for being willing to take chances and supporting filmmakers. He also acknowledged that he’s not a fan of public speaking but said this year he has something important to say. “There is disruption coming on the horizon,” said Phillips, in a reference to alternate means of releasing films, saying now is the time it needs to be discussed. “Why are we in such a rush to take the thing that separates us from a physical group in a movie theater and do away with it?” asked Phillips. Phillips believes movies are meant to be a group experience; films are made to be watched with 500 strangers in a darkened theater. He spoke passionately about his desire to make sure films go to theaters first before being offered up on alternate platforms.
Warner Bros also used their hour and a half panel to promote their animated slate, with filmmakers Phil Lord, Chris Miller, and Nicholas Stoller on hand to talk about the animated films slate that includes The LEGO Batman Movie, Small Fry, Scooby Doo, Ninjago, and The LEGO Movie 2. LEGO Batman‘s Will Arnett says this movie will explore what, other than the fact he watched his parents die, makes Batman so bummed out and we’ll find out what it is that drives him. Then director Doug Sweetland and Andy Samberg and Katie Crown took the stage to represent Storks. Samberg gave a shout-out to his mom and called Storks the “best movie ever made,” noting that he has discerning taste.
Finishing out the presentation, Warner Bros Pictures is revisiting the world of Harry Potter with the new fantasy adventure film Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them starring Eddie Redmayne and set in America. Redmayne, Colin Farrell, Alison Sudol, and Dan Fogler took the stage to introduce a behind-the-scenes video and the new trailer. Sticking to the script on the teleprompter for the most part, the cast said this new film will feature new wizards and witches along with new creatures. They expressed how happy they were to be a part of the team that brings Rowling’s vision to life on the screen, calling their time on Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find an “amazing experience.” Farrell, however, veered from the script, saying hello to the crowd in an effort to, in his words, “cut the tension” which built up from his co-stars reading from the teleprompter.
Overall, the biggest hits of the presentation were Suicide Squad and The Nice Guys (Russell Crowe should be signed up to host the presentation next year), with The Legend of Tarzan following not far behind. At least that’s my decidedly non-scientific appraisal, based on the level of applause.