By Amy Kaufman
6:00 AM PDT, April 16, 2013
LAS VEGAS -- Movie theater owners aren't known for being the most raucous crowd. But plop Brad Pitt in front of them and anything can happen.
"I love you!" one woman shrieked from a balcony in the cavernous 4,100-seat Caesars Palace Colosseum, where hundreds of exhibitors from around the world had gathered Monday night for CinemaCon. At the annual convention, studios show off footage from their most hotly anticipated releases and fly in movie stars to help promote their films to those who book them in cinemas.
Paramount Pictures kicked off the four-day conference by touting Pitt's zombie flick "World War Z," as well as "Star Trek Into Darkness" and Michael Bay's "Pain & Gain."
With director J.J Abrams stuck in the mixing stage, finishing up the new "Star Trek" for its mid-May release, writer Damon Lindelof was tasked with introducing the movie to the audience. He quickly brought out a number of the film's cast members, including Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, John Cho and Alice Eve, and proceeded to ask each of them one quasi-awkward question.
Pine, who was at CinemaCon last year to help market "Rise of the Guardians," seemed most comfortable on stage addressing the evolution of his character, Captain James T. Kirk.
"I think in the first film ... Kirk got the chair a bit too prematurely," the actor explained. "He was still a kid -- brash, headstrong, at times arrogant kid-punk. And in this installment I think we see Kirk earn the chair."
Unlike the first film, the sequel has been converted to 3-D, and the 18 minutes of material Paramount played Monday night showed off the technology. In one scene, for instance, Kirk and the film's villain (played by Benedict Cumberbatch) must fly through space dodging dangerous debris -- all of which juts out jarringly at moviegoers.
But it was the footage from Pitt's film -- which will also be in 3-D when it's released in June, but was not yet finished -- that really caused the audience to jump from their seats. Playing a United Nations employee trying to save his family and the world from a zombie pandemic, Pitt encounters fast-moving zombies on planes, on the crowded streets of Jerusalem and in traffic jams.
The clips shown Monday night revealed more images of the actual zombies, which have thus far largely been hidden in the film's trailers. Let's just say that if you get bitten by one, it causes an unpleasant chain reaction.
"Five years ago, I knew absolutely nothing about a zombie; today, I consider myself an expert," Pitt said. "This whole thing started because I just wanted to do a film that my boys could see before they turned 18 -- one that they liked, anyways. And they love a zombie."
As for "Pain & Gain," exhibitors were shown the entire action comedy starring Dwayne Johnson and Mark Wahlberg, which arrives in theaters April 26. But only its director Michael Bay turned up in Vegas. Paramount also announced that Bay's next film, the fourth installment in the "Transformers" franchise, will be shot with 3-D IMAX cameras, as will Christopher Nolan's "Interstellar."
"I've helped you theater owners out here fill your theaters for many, many summers," said the ever-modest Bay. "Tonight, I'm screening for you 'Pain & Gain.' It's a little project I had for about 12 years. I was tired of press always taking digs at me, saying that I can only do multi-hundred-million-dollar pictures."
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