Last year’s Cinemacon wasn’t entirely about promoting the kind of entertainment that I call “generic superjizz” — the same assaultive, gutslamming, ear-splitting, cartoon-like, aimed-at-apes experience that constitutes 90% of movies these days. But that’s what most of the Las Vegas-based exhibitor convention was about — jackhammer, bass-thump, super-coarse, high-velocity idiot movies for lowest-common-denominator rubes and families.
I still like going to Cinemacon but it happened so late this year (right now rather than mid-to-late March), and I couldn’t see attending a week before leaving for New York, Paris and Cannes. The Ankler‘s Richard Rushfield went, however, and has filed a report. [I’ve pasted the whole thing below.] The highlight was reading about yesterday’s Quentin Tarantino and Leonardo DiCaprio visit to the Caesar’s Colosseum stage to promote Once Upon A Time in Hollywood, which won’t even begin filming until sometime in June.
After reading Rushfield’s report I sent him the following letter:
“Cinemacon is fantasy, denial and mass delusion. And they mostly show trailers and stage promotions for BIG CRAP CG SPRING & SUMMER MOVIES, often ignoring the quality-aspiring titles that will open in the fall and holiday seasons. Which, coupled with the decision to stage it in late April, is why I decided against going this year. Okay, I also wanted to save a few bucks.
“Cinemacon honcho Mitch Neuhauser and I used to work together at The Film Journal in NYC (1600 B’way) — ’81 to ’83.
“Quentin Tarantino‘s Once Upon A Time in Hollywood has been described by QT as ‘the closest thing to Pulp Fiction that I’ve made [since Pulp Fiction]” Or words close to that. Remember the mannered, at times offbeat comic and even metaphysical stuff in that 1994 film?
“DiCaprio, who will play a struggling actor, called it a film about Hollywood and then drew a vague analogy to Singin’ in the Rain. He seemed to be saying that on some level it’ll deliver a form of hooray-for-our-culture escapism.
“These were two strong hints that Once Upon A Time in Hollywood is going to deal fantasy cards along with the usual “hangin’ out with loquacious Quentin-styled bigmouth” cards. Which means, as I’ve written before, that Leo and Brad Pitt’s characters, who, as QT said several weeks ago, “live right near Sharon Tate” (although he didn’t mention that Sharon and Roman Polanski lived there together)…it means that the film is probably going to end in a fantasy way. Leo and Brad’s characters are going to save Tate (along with Abigail Folger, Wojciech Frykowski and Jay Sebring) from the Manson gang.
“I’m not saying that Once Upon A Time in Hollywood will be about the Manson gang and their murder spree, but it will definitely intersect with the Manson gang and, most likely, the Tate home invasion on August 9, 1969.
“Your remark that ‘it’s not a Manson film in the least’ is almost certainly incorrect.
Rushfield’s Ankler report from Cinemacon Las Veags:
DENIAL IN THE DESERT?
A different kind of Ankler today. Featuring live on the scene reporting. I’ll be filing dispatches this week from my fact-finding missing to Las Vegas.
I came to CinemaCon to see what answers the theatrical industry had to the forces of disruption ripping through their business wreaking devastation and fallen studios, like some kind of interstellar Avengers villain commanding a vast army and wielding a anti-matter cannon like a pea shooter.
In response to these existential terrors, during my first day on the ground, the exhibition industry had a clear unshakable response: We’re doing great! No problems here! Are you nuts? Us, disrupted? [Wells interjection: They say this every year. They’ve been saying this for decades.]
But first: early impressions [from] my first CinemaCon.
To begin, anyone who says the entertainment industry is all glitz and glamour and beautiful people should spend a few hours amongst the theater owners of America. Walking among this crowd with their giant two-handled ID tags heralding BRADLEY from WELLS FARGO, I felt almost like a supermodel.
In a couple decades covering this industry, CinemaCon is the first event I’ve covered where I wasn’t the worst dressed and most out of shape person in the room.
And for that, I will always love CinemaCon and plan to return every year.
It should also be said that the CinemaCon goodie bag is perhaps the best thing I’ve ever seen given out in this business. I accepted the bag, for research purposes, and was dismayed to find it weighed about a hundred pounds. I schleped it back to my room expecting to sift through the Overboard commemorative coffee table book and the Rampage Swarovski Crystal Collection but was stunned when I dumped it out to find it contained nothing but movie theater candy: a mountain for chocolate malt balls and Sour Patch Kids.
Hollywood take note: this is how it’s done.
TO THE COLOSSEUM!
I have less enthusiastic words to share for popcorn handed out for the opening-night presentation. Given that this was a Roman Colosseum packed with theater owners, it was shocking how stale and inedible the popcorn was. A metaphor? A harbinger?
Speaking of metaphors you don’t want to be harbinger’s, the opening night presentation began with a tribute to cinema. The first shot shown of this gathering of the people with their hands on the future of the moviegoing experience was Thelma and Louise driving off the cliff. Gotta find inspiration where you can these days, I suppose.
The Greatest Showman has become the patron saint of movies that don’t open. Mitch Neuhauser, CinemaCon’s Managing Director who comes off on stage like the world’s most enthusiastic accountant, opened his remarks referring to the film’s remarkable, after-death resurgence, imploring theater owners to keep films on their screens to give them time to find their audiences.
Given the near-constant buzz around the event about various superhero titles, the notion that this crowd is about to cut their Avengers screens in half to let last week’s flop hang around a little more didn’t seem to have taken hold.
Neuhauser was the first to invoke the number which is warded like a talisman around the event: $40 billion. As in the global box office in 2017. As in what the hell do we have to worry about?
It’s a very big, convincing (and growing) number, that does shut down a lot of panicky knee-jerk slump talk. Still, I recall a lot of newspaper publishers waving around some pretty impressive numbers 10 – 15 years ago too.
SONY AT BAT
Sony began its presentation with an ad-lib by Will Ferrell, which fell about as flat as a Will Ferrell ad lib could. He’s always charming and funny but, working without material, he didn’t seem to know what to do with this crowd. For most of their big films, Sony trotted the stars out onto the stage to give the crowd a look at them. None seemed to have any bits prepared beyond — we’re so excited about this movie. Most shuffled around, smiled and muttered awkwardly, unsure what these people wanted to hear in a room built to accommodate Celine Dion belting to the rafters.
But the crowd got a look at Benicio Del Toro, Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams and others, and that seemed to make them happy. Stars shuffling their feet on stage, staring uncomfortably at a Colosseum full of people. Message: we appreciate you, theater owners!
When introducing the film Superfly, marketing honcho Joss Greenstein urged the crowd to give a big welcome to, here in person, on our stage, DIRECTOR X, the sound of polite but befuddled indulgence was deafening, and only deepened when the cast joined him on stage.
A slightly more off-key moment. After introducing Miss Bala and director Catherine Hardwick talked up the female empowerment message, only to have star Anthony Mackie urge ball-gown clad heroine Gina Rodriguez to “show them your leg”! Which led to the night’s most awkward exchange about Rodriguez’s shaving rituals.
The on-stage delight shown by Tom Rothman, America’s Most Beloved Entertainment Executive, was almost infectious. It must be said, he’s very comfortable up and having fun up there – never more so then when tweaking the crowd for not believing him about what a hit Jumanji would be, shoving it into their faces about how they didn’t give it more of Star Wars‘ screens.
The Sony Presentation was not unimpressive. After their year of some hits, it definitely gave the sense of a studio where things were happening, even if it’s not quite clear what all these things will add up two. There seemed to be a lot of parts two and threes of things that weren’t mega-hits to start with. By and large the movies looked good, but who the hell knows from these sizzle reels.
It was, however a very dark-looking slate. There seemed to be a string of revenge films in the line-up. (Possibly a theme dear to the heart of someone in the leadership?) I guess dark, gritty revenge dramas are one way to distinguish yourself from feel-good superheroism. Tom made a point to introduce Venom in “all his badness!”
Venom with the new trailer still looked dark. Perhaps cool, but dark, so this big question mark remains.
The much rumored about, seldom-seen Jeff Robinov had a brief moment in the sun, sharing the stage with Matthew McConaughey, introducing White Boy Rick, which looked very good, but again, a small dark drama.
The biggest film that had people talking was the one thing they teased that wasn’t dark at all, A Dog’s Way Home, coming next year, about a dog, finding its way home, and narrates its journey along the way. A day later, the place is still buzzing about the self-narrating dog.
The animated alternative universe Spider-Man from Lord and Miller, also looked fun, but raised the question: how many different Spider-men films are floating around there now? There’s the Holland Spidey films. And Holland’s Spidey also appears in Avengers and maybe TBA other Marvel things. Spidey may or not be mentioned in Venom, which either way is a Spidey spin-off. Deadpool is some kind of anti-Spidey. And now there’s the animated Matt Morales/alternative universe Spider-man. Sony seems embarked on an experiment to find out exactly how much Spider-Man the world can eat.
Having shoved the larger industry issues under the rug in the opening remarks, Sony was happy to keep them there. Aside from a brief mention from Greenstein of the need to explore ways to look at data, it was a night of an industry at the peak, for all you would’ve known.
At the end of the night, Tom couldn’t resist his “just one more thing” moment: in this case, his big reveal was to clear up the question of whether Sony would stand behind Quentin Tarantino, post-Uma allegations and his Manson film plan.
The answer: Sony’s all in with QT. Quentin came out in his most effusive-Quentiny form, telling the crowd, “Hey, I’m an exhibitor too! I own a theater!” Leo, alongside, smiled and waved as required, and reminded Tom, that they had worked together once before. AMBEE called QT’s script the best he had read in 30 years in the business.
The film was referred to by all parties as a “Hollywood story” (like Singin’ in the Rain), not a Manson film in the least.