To introduce the Elton John biopic “Rocketman” to cinema owners in Las Vegas, Paramount Pictures brought out a troupe of sparkly dancers for a routine set to the British songsmith’s upbeat number “I’m Still Standing.”
It was a telling moment for a studio that has gone through serious turmoil in recent years. But two years after Jim Gianopulos took over as chairman of the Viacom-owned studio, the studio came to CinemaCon, the exhibitors’ annual trade show, to show it is back on its feet.
Gianopulos and Paramount distribution head Kyle Davies pitched hard for their upcoming film slate, showing footage and bringing out the stars for “Terminator: Dark Fate,” “Rocketman,” Ang Lee’s “Gemini Man” and “Dora and the Lost City of Gold.” Paramount promised a year of “eclectic” movies for theater owners.
“Now in our second year under the leadership of Jim Gianopulos and our new executive team, we are focused on providing you full slates of eclectic movies and groundbreaking filmmaking,” Davies told the crowd of cinema owners.
Paramount is clearly betting big on “Rocketman,” starring Taron Egerton as the “Candle in the Wind” piano man and directed by Dexter Fletcher. (The latter helped 20th Century Fox finish another music biopic, the smash Queen hit “Bohemian Rhapsody,” after Bryan Singer left the project). The company’s footage showcased the character’s journey from a shy prodigy to a flamboyant rock star, complete with wild costumes.
“His fans love him and his music so much, that making sure they got to see an honest and true portrayal of this great man is extremely important for us and him,” Fletcher said.
Arnold Schwarzenegger got the biggest laughs of the morning while selling exhibitors on the new “Terminator: Dark Fate,” directed by Tim Miller, who previously worked with Gianopulos on 20th Century Fox’s “Deadpool.”
“This is really not to present the movie, this is a fundraiser for my next political race,” said the former California governor.
Schwarzenegger regaled the audience with jokes about how important James Cameron’s 35-year-old killer android franchise has been to his career, not only in Hollywood but also in politics.
“Think about it, what would I do without those lines?” he said. “‘I’ll be back.’ ‘Hasta la vista, baby’ ... Even in politics when I was running for governor, I’d say I’m gonna terminate Gray Davis … Terminate climate change … ‘Hasta la vista, gerrymandering.’”
Miller at one point appeared to tear up while talking about making the latest big-budget action blockbuster in the series, which was seminal for him. Linda Hamilton, the original Sarah Connor actress, joined the Governator and Miller on stage to a wave of applause from exhibitors in the crowd.
Also featured was “Dora and the Lost City of Gold,” a live action adaptation of the Nickelodeon cartoon “Dora the Explorer,” which reimagines the character as a high schooler. The film is an example of the studio’s strategy of working more closely with Viacom brands for its movies. One of the stars, Michael Peña, cracked a joke that that the richness of Latin culture had a significant influence on the movie, “even though it filmed in Australia.”
The studio also trotted out footage of its live action version of “Sonic the Hedgehog,” featuring Ben Schwartz voicing the smart-mouthed blue hero in new footage, as well as an additional featurette focusing on Jim Carrey in an over-the-top performance as the villain Dr. Robotnik.
The show wrapped up with a brief look at footage from “Gemini Man,” Ang Lee’s ambitious sci-fi action film with two versions of Will Smith — one of them digitally de-aged to the point of resembling the “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” days.
“Every once in a while a story comes along that is so special ... that filmmakers need to wait for the technology to catch up with the vision of the world they want to create,” Gianopulos said when introducing the film. Lee, who made “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and “Life of Pi,” “knows how to use technology in service of the story,” Gianopulos added.
Gianopulos closed the show with a message to exhibitors: “We began this journey in earnest last year, and we’re committed to delivering exceptional audience-pleasing films … for years to come.”