5 highlights from Sony’s CinemaCon presentation, from ‘Passengers’ to ‘Spider-Man’

reporting from las vegas

“If you’ve got it, flaunt it.”

That was the approach Sony Pictures’ chairman Tom Rothman said the studio took this year at CinemaCon, where the company teased well over a dozen films from its upcoming slate. Sony showed off everything from low-budget horror (“Don’t Breathe,” “When The Bough Breaks”) to animated fare (“Angry Birds,” “Sausage Party”) to blockbuster hopefuls (the “Ghostbusters” reboot and new “Spider-man” film). The studio flew in a handful of stars to promote the films, too: Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Pratt, Melissa McCarthy, Tom Holland.

FULL COVERAGE: CinemaCon 2016

It was, in fact, a tad overwhelming. Fortunately, we sat through the 2½-hour presentation for you, and are here to reveal which of Sony’s five movies you should start getting excited about.

1. “Passengers”

What happens when you put the two of the most sought-after actors in Hollywood alone together in space? Something kind of amazing, apparently.


OK, sure, so the odds that a film co-starring Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence would suck are, admittedly, slim. But until Sony previewed a few minutes from Morten Tyldum’s sci-fi romance, we had no idea just how good this thing might be. Let’s set the scene: A young writer (Lawrence) and a mechanic (Pratt) both decide to embark with roughly 5,000 others on a space journey that will take them to another planet. The catch? The trip takes 120 years, and they have to remain in hibernation pods for the entire flight. Midway through the journey, however, each of the character’s pods malfunction, and they awake when there’s still a casual 90 years left on the trip.

As depicted in the footage screened on Tuesday, Pratt’s character wakes up first, slowly realizing he’s the only one (besides an android bartender played by Michael Sheen) aboard the Starship Avalon who isn’t in his pod. One year and three weeks later, there’s J.Law, equally as perplexed as to why she’s been awakened.

Overwhelmed by the prospect of their possible demise, the pair start exploring the starship together. They go to the movies, share popcorn, go swimming and try on fancy clothes. Slowly, an attraction develops, and before you know it, she’s crawling over a cafeteria table to stick her tongue down his throat.

The chemistry between the actors was evident off-screen too, as they bantered and Rothman looked on in awe. At one point, Pratt jokingly dropped his microphone on the ground -- a “mic drop,” as the youngs say -- when it accidentally landed on Lawrence’s foot.

“Ow!” The actress shrieked.

“That’s the anti-Kanye,” Pratt lamented.

“Now everyone will believe me when I say they have chemistry together,” noted Rothman.

2. “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk”

Usually, studios emphasize their flashy summer fare at CinemaCon, getting exhibitors excited about the movies they know will bring in big bucks. While Sony certainly did that -- Spidey, anyone? -- they also showcased their big fall awards play.

Ang Lee’s first outing since “Life of Pi” is in the midst of what Rothman called a very “complicated” post-production process, but that didn’t stop the studio from showcasing a teaser (with unfinished effects, Rothman cautioned). Still, it promises to be visually arresting.

Billed by Rothman as Sony’s answer to “Lone Survivor” and “American Sniper,” “Billy Lynn” is adapted from Ben Fountain’s lauded satirical novel about a 19-year-old soldier who returns home a reluctant war hero.

In other words, as the title character says in the newly revealed footage, “It’s so weird being honored for the worst day of your life.”

The trailer, set to a haunting version of David Bowie’s “Heroes” provoked a strong response in the Ceasar’s Palace Colosseum audience. But exhibitors and moviegoers may still have questions about its ultra-high frame rate.

3. “Ghostbusters”

Little new was revealed about this hoped-for franchise starter, but at least Sony didn’t skimp on flying the cast to Vegas.

Director Paul Feig brought his all-female “Ghostbusters” foursome on stage with the original theme song playing in the background, then bantering with Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon.

McCarthy attributed her belief in ghosts to growing up on a lonely farm (“I was certainly talking to someone in those barns”). McKinnon expressed gratitude for the airy Ghostbuster suits that “allow my crotch to breathe.”

As for the footage, attendees got a look at the Ghostbusters’ first spectral encounter – with a lady spirit who seems nice at first, but, you know…. Suffice it to say, there’s a bucket-load of slime involved.

4. “The Magnificent Seven”

“Training Day” and “Equalizer” director Antoine Fuqua joined Chris Pratt to tout their upcoming Western remake.

Sony Pictures distribution chief Rory Bruer tried to get a conversation started with the guys by asking about Pratt’s on-screen character and Fuqua’s approach to directing a diverse cast that includes Denzel Washington and Byung-hun Lee.

But then Pratt went off script.

“We worked our .... off on this movie,” he said, adding, “This is breathing air into this genre that you haven’t seen.”

Pratt said he’s always wanted to be in a Western, and from the looks of the footage, this should be a fairly gritty one.

5. “Spider-Man: Homecoming”

Yes, you heard right. That’s the subtitle of the new Spider-Man movie.

Rothman did his best to channel the late Apple chief Steve Jobs by revealing “one more thing” at the end. But really, what else could it have been?

The Spidey presentation began with what at first appeared to be an ill-fated attempt to Skype in Tom Holland – aka Peter Parker – from the premiere of “Captain America: Civil War.”

Luckily Sony’s technology didn’t stand in the way. Holland made his appearance live, on stage, to announce the title of the Sony-Marvel Studios collaboration. The studio also unveiled the film’s new logo, which was apparently news to Holland.

“I’m in the movie and I haven’t even seen that,” Holland said.

The studio also revealed a scene featuring Holland, Marisa Tomei as Aunt May. Oh, and Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark, who says of Tomei, “I can’t believe she’s someone’s aunt.”

Rothman gave a quick shout-out to former Sony studio head Amy Pascal, who is producing the Spider-Man movie with Marvel’s Kevin Feige.

Follow Ryan Faughnder on Twitter for more entertainment business coverage: @rfaughnder