If nothing else, Cinemacon 2017 persuaded me that three previewed films may well become finalists in the 2017/18 Best Picture race — Alexander Payne‘s Downsizing, Steven Chbosky and Steven Conrad‘s Wonder (this year’s Lion-like contender) and The Greatest Showman, an apparently sumptuous musical biopic about the legendary P.T. Barnum with Hugh Jackman in the title role.

Pic costars Zac Efron, Rebecca Ferguson, Michelle Williams, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Natasha Liu Bordizzo and Zendaya. It’s been directed by Australian commercial director and (uh-oh) “visual effects artist” Michael Gracey and written by Michael Arndt, Jenny Bicks and Bill Condon. A handsome, spirited trailer (pic’s dp is Seamus McGarvey) was screened.

Showman‘s musical numbers were composed by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, the lyricists for Justin Hurwitz‘s La La Land tunes.

The Greatest Showman has been in the planning stages for several years. Gracey was hired to direct in August 2011. Principal photography began on 11.22.16.

Jackman’s presentation of the forthcoming 12.25 release was the highlight of the 20th Century Fox Cinemacon show, which was easily the finest and grandest of all.

Rather than just highlight their action and CG-driven gutslam releases (as Universal did), Fox ballyhooed a varied slate — Snatched (5.12), Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul (5.19), Alien: Covenant (5.19), War for the Planet of the Apes (7.14), Kingsman: The Golden Circle (9.29), The Mountain Between Us (10.20), Red Sparrow (11.10), Murder on the Orient Express (11.22 — Johnny Depp plays the murdered guy), Ferdinand (12.15) and The Greatest Showman.

Jackman during his Cinemacon pitch for The Greatest Showman.

Accurate P.T. Barnum quote: “There’s no such thing as bad publicity.”

Possibly inaccurate P.T. Barnum quote: “There’s a sucker born every minute.”

H.L. Mencken quote sometimes mis-attributed to Barnum: “No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.”

W.C. Fields quote sometimes mis-attributed to Barnum: “Never give a sucker an even break.”