ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

Lionsgate bullish on Kevin Hart despite drunk driving arrest

LAS VEGAS -- After Kevin Hart was arrested in L.A. on suspicion of drunk driving over the weekend, it was unclear whether he'd show at CinemaCon as planned to emcee Lionsgate's presentation for movie theater owners.

But the incident seems to have put no distance between Hart and Lionsgate. Not only did Hart turn up Thursday to help the studio promote its upcoming slate (including his July comedy "Let Me Explain"), he also hammered out a deal with Lionsgate to release his next film, "Quick & Easy."

Jon Feltheimer, CEO of Lionsgate Entertainment, said he and Hart had made the pact an hour before taking the stage at Caesars Palace Colosseum. On stage, Feltheimer sought to make light of Hart's recent run-in with the law. Alluding to the comedian's upcoming film, Feltheimer said: "'Let Me Explain' is a perfect title. That's exactly what he said when he was pulled over last Friday night."

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Hart, via Twitter, has expressed remorse for the incident, saying the incident was "a wake-up call" and that "drinking & driving is not a game or a laughing matter."

In Vegas, Hart made his own jabs, in a different direction,  pointing out the lack of racial diversity in the audience of movie theater owners. 

"There are five black people in the room. They're with me. I don't want you guys getting thrown off," he joked. "There's nothing better to me than people who have no idea who I am. You're all like, 'What does he do? Does he work for Lionsgate? Is he a chairman?'" 

Though he spent most of his time on stage repeatedly name-dropping his own film, which centers on him touring and performing at Madison Square Garden, Hart also helped to introduce some other celebrities, including "Now You See Me" stars Morgan Freeman and Isla Fisher.

"The Avengers" director Joss Whedon popped up to try to persuade  exhibitors to play his tiny black-and-white Shakespeare picture "Much Ado About Nothing." And Harrison Ford, Asa Butterfield and Hailee Steinfeld also emerged from the wings to show the first footage from "Ender's Game."

"Ender's Game," out Nov. 1, is based on the bestselling science-fiction novel by Orson Scott Card. In the picture, Butterfield stars as Ender, a child being trained to join the International Military, which is fighting to protect Earth from an alien race. 

"I was attracted to it not just for the scale of it and the power of it visually, but there's a great human story here that I think is going to touch people's hearts -- especially young people," Ford said.

The presentation concluded with the studio's crown jewel -- "The Hunger Games." A trailer from the second installment in the franchise, "Catching Fire," was introduced to exhibitors by director Francis Lawrence and stars Liam Hemsworth and Elizabeth Banks.

For her part, Banks seemed more focused on her hunky 23-year-old co-star than the footage.  "Great job, you big, tall, gorgeous Australian," the actress teased. "Isn't that accent amazing?"

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amy.kaufman@latimes.com

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