LAS VEGAS — With "Gone Girl," 20th Century Fox previewed one of the most hotly anticipated releases of the year at CinemaCon on Thursday. But it was one of the studio's least-talked-about projects that got the warmest audience reaction.
After unveiling a brief first look at "Girl," David Fincher's adaptation of Gillian Flynn's bestselling mystery novel starring Ben Affleck, the studio's chairman and CEO Jim Gianopulos surprised exhibitors by introducing a clip from "Secret Service." Directed by Matthew Vaughn, the film was initially set to hit theaters next year but was only recently bumped up to this fall after positive early screenings.
Set in the U.K., the movie features Colin Firth as the head of an elite spy agency — but it's not exactly the kind of taciturn spook he played in the John Le Carre adaptation "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" in 2011.
In "Secret Service" footage shown Thursday, Firth is seen wooing a young recruit (newcomer Taron Egerton) in a pub when their conversation is interrupted by thugs. Despite his thick-rimmed glasses and tailored suit, Firth swiftly takes out the motley crew with the aid of his gadget-equipped umbrella.
The crowd — perhaps aware of Firth's more twee reputation — seemed to enjoy seeing the British actor kicking butt, particularly in the context of the kind of comic-book outrageousness Vaughn is known for.
Reaction was more muted for "Gone Girl," which centers on a man named Nick Dunne (Affleck) suspected of murdering his wife, Amy (Rosamund Pike), after she disappears. Set to a Richard Butler cover of Charles Aznavour's moody "She," the footage flashed between scenes of the couple together and other scenes of Nick dealing with the aftermath of his wife's disappearance.
When he's not dealing with the media at press conferences or showing the police around his home, Dunne is recalling memories of Amy lying in the bath or getting into bed. There was virtually no dialogue to be heard under Costello's song, save for Nick's assertive line at the end of the teaser: "I did not kill my wife. I am not a murderer."
The films were part of an ambitious 2014 slate from Fox, which also teased big-budget sequels like "X-Men: Days of Future Past," "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" and "How to Train Your Dragon 2." The studio was also the first this week to feature a live performance element of its presentation, bringing in Ester Dean and B.O.B. to sing a song from the "Rio 2" soundtrack with a slew of barely clothed samba dancers alongside them.
Also as part of the Fox festivities, Cameron Diaz and Leslie Mann also showed up to promote their April romantic comedy "The Other Woman," while Shailene Woodley spoke passionately about her turn in the teen cancer drama "The Fault in Our Stars."
"I think Fox is sort of pioneering a new revolution in having a young female lead of a movie" in having her wear an oxygen tube throughout an entire film, Woodley told the crowd.
While executives were likely pleased with Woodley's remarks, they were less happy with comments made by National Assn. of Theater Owner head John Fithian earlier in the week.
On Tuesday, Fithian surprised many conferencegoers by saying he opted to watch Fox Searchlight's "12 Years a Slave" at home instead of in a cinema because it was "too unequivocally intense."
Two days later, Fox's president of distribution Chris Aronson fired back.
"We are excited to offer everything from intense epic adventures to equally thrilling comedies to intense dramas — all of which are films that are meant to be seen in the best possible venue, your cinemas," he said. "That includes movies that win the Oscar for best picture, like '12 Years a Slave.' "
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