Hugh Jackman's P.T. Barnum musical "The Greatest Showman" was the star of 20th Century Fox's slate Thursday, helping make the studio's presentation the greatest show at CinemaCon this week.
Also part of the Fox lineup: a sexy spy thriller starring Jennifer Lawrence, Ridley Scott's latest "Alien" flick and a new "Planet of the Apes" movie featuring stunningly lifelike monkeys.
But it was "The Greatest Showman" — which doesn't hit theaters until December — that got the biggest push at the annual gathering of theater owners. Whereas other studios tend to highlight their blockbuster movies at CinemaCon, Fox often opts to put a spotlight on its Oscar hopefuls. In years past, Ang Lee promoted "Life of Pi" and James Cameron touted "Avatar" in front of thousands of exhibitors, who would have been thrilled if Cameron had showed up here with a news of his long-anticipated "Avatar" sequels.
Jackman, though, did plenty to wow the crowd and sell the "The Greatest Showman." After thanking his "mum," who was apparently in the audience, the actor addressed the exhibitors at length, thanking them for their commitment to the theatrical experience. "There's not one person in this room who didn't, at some point in their lives, love movies more than anything else and wish that one day they could be in this business," Jackman said.
So the audience was already on his side before he introduced the trailer for the film, which tells the origin story of P.T. Barnum, who founded the Barnum & Bailey Circus (later merged with Ringling Bros.). Though that very circus recently announced it would close this May after 146 years in the business, the film portrays the circus as a purely magical place. With music from the guys who wrote the Broadway hit "Dear Evan Hansen" — and costarring Zac Efron, Michelle Williams and Zendaya — the movie, directed by Michael Gracey, appears to have an inspirational tone.
"Every one of us is special," Barnum says to a little person he hires to be in the circus, "and nobody is like anyone else. That's the point of my show."
The studio also gave the crowd a first look at "Red Sparrow," the November thriller starring Jennifer Lawrence as a seductive spy. After suffering a grave accident during a dance performance, she's forced to abandon her ballet career and find something else that makes her feel special: Apparently, working as an undercover spy in Russia.
"You will be trained to determine a target's weakness and exploit that weakness through seduction," instructs her coach, played by Charlotte Rampling. Lawrence's character then attends a "Hunger Games"-esque training camp before she sets her sights on her target — played by Joel Edgerton — who she may end up having feelings for.
Other stuff you'll want to look out for? "Kingsman: The Golden Circle," the sequel to the Colin Firth thriller that features a cameo from Channing Tatum playing a southern whiskey entrepreneur. "Murder on the Orient Express," Kenneth Branagh's adaptation of the Agatha Christie train mystery with a star-studded cast including Johnny Depp, Daisy Ridley, Judi Dench and Josh Gad. And "The Mountain Between Us," a survival story that sees Idris Elba, Kate Winslet and a dog stranded on an icy mountain after a small plane crash. Where's Bear Grylls when you need him, amirite?
Goldie Hawn and Amy Schumer came out to talk about their May comedy "Snatched," with the younger actress gushing over the veteran's return to film after 14 years.
"I hope I can be double the woman of you," Schumer said, pointing to her own curvy body and outfit: a tank dress layered over a button-down blouse. "Do I look like a fat girl going to temple?"
"Yes," Hawn said, shaking her head mournfully, who went on to heap praise on her costar. "After coming back," she said, "you were my girl and you were my baby."