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CinemaCon: Sony and Warner Bros. Deliver the Goods But Neon Comes Up Short


Image via Warner Bros.

This year’s CinemaCon is well underway in Las Vegas, where Warner Bros. and Sony already made a splash inside the Coliseum at Caesar’s Palace.

Though it has been a tumultuous year for movie theaters, to say the least, the exhibition business ended the year in a good place thanks to the super-strength of Spider-Man: No Way Home, which grossed $1.9 billion at the domestic box office to become the third-highest domestic grosser of all time. Just as Spidey grosses began to slip — after an 88-day theatrical window — The Batman arrived in theaters, where it has taken in $759 million worldwide. Not quite the $800 million that Warner Bros. dreamed of but a healthy haul nonetheless.

As such, it should come as no surprise that both studios led their presentations with superheroes, whether Sony was trumpeting its Into the Spider-Verse sequels — Across the Spider-Verse and the newly-named Beyond the Spider-Verse — or teasing upcoming Marvel movies such as Kraven the Hunter (with Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Madame Web (with Dakota Johnson), or Warner Bros. was showing off the next phase of the DCEU with Black Adam and The Flash, as well as sequels to Shazam! and the studio’s billion-dollar whale, Aquaman. Of course, there were still no updates on Joker 2 or the fate of Henry Cavill‘s Superman, but a boy can dream.

Both studios are also looking for new heroes as well, as Warners is introducing Superman’s dog, Krypto, in the animated movie DC League of Super-Pets, while Sony announced that it’s developing an El Muerto movie starring Spotify sensation Bad Bunny, who will be the first Latino actor to star in their own live-action Marvel movie. Never heard of El Muerto before? Don’t sweat it, you’re not alone.

The hardest working man in showbiz, Dwayne Johnson, took the stage at WB’s panel to hype up Black Adam and Super-Pets, the former of which is set to change the hierarchy of power in the DCEU, and the latter of which will rely on Johnson’s battle-tested chemistry with Kevin Hart, who voices Batman’s dog, Ace the Bat-hound.

Austin Butler Elvis
Image via Warner Bros,

Both Sony and Warner Bros. showed off some possible awards contenders, as WB has Baz Luhrmann‘s Elvis movie starring Austin Butler as the King of Rock and Roll and Tom Hanks as Colonel Tom Parker, while Sony has the Whitney Houston biopic I Wanna Dance With Somebody starring Naomi Ackie. The two studios’ slates almost mirror each other, as WB has Michael B. Jordan‘s directorial debut Creed III on the horizon, while Sony impressed with its footage of the George Foreman biopic starring Khris Davis as the unlikely heavyweight champ.

WB has the mysterious thriller Don’t Worry Darling from director Olivia Wilde, and Sony has an adaptation of the bestselling mystery novel Where the Crawdads Sing, and what that movie lacks in star power, Don’t Worry Darling has in spades between Florence Pugh, Harry Styles, and Chris Pine. That was hardly the only star-studded original movie on display, as Sony also showed off the first reel of Bullet Train, which pits Brad Pitt against a group of assassins (including Mr. Bunny) aboard a high-speed train, and the studio also dropped a great trailer for The Woman King, which finds Oscar winner Viola Davis leading a determined group of female warriors as they protect their African kingdom from colonizers.

As always, sequels were in fashion at CinemaCon, as Warner Bros. announced a sequel to The Batman and a release date for The Meg: The Trench, while Sony announced Venom 3, The Equalizer 3, and a sequel to Ghostbusters: Afterlife.

Not everything can be a blockbuster, of course, and that’s why we love the kinds of indie movies that Neon distributes. The execs over there typically have great taste, and the following is no reflection on the movies, but simply on the studio’s presentation, which left much to be desired.

Fire of Love
Image via Sundance Film Festival

Neon really only focused on three movies, and two of them were documentaries — the Sundance acquisition Fire of Love and Brett Morgen‘s David Bowie doc Moonage Daydream. While I’m a fan of David Bowie and Morgen spoke eloquently about why he wanted to make a movie about the shape-shifting singer, the concert footage failed to stir me, and I can’t imagine that’s what theater owners flew in from all over the country for.

Fortunately, Neon did bring David Cronenberg to Vegas (his first time in Sin City, apparently), and Cronenberg in turn brought the first trailer for his sci-fi thriller Crimes of the Future, which he hopes is still relevant despite having written the script more than 20 years ago. With a cast that includes Viggo Mortensen and Kristen Stewart, it should be more commercial than most Cronenberg flicks. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing is up to you. I’m just celebrating the maestro’s return to body horror.

Stay tuned for more from CinemaCon, where Universal screened Scott Derrickson‘s new Blumhouse thriller The Black Phone and Top Gun: Maverick is slated to make its world premiere on Thursday. We’ll also file reports on presentations from Disney, Universal/Focus, Paramount and Lionsgate. See you soon…

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