Yes, Sony Pictures had a really bad year in 2014, but the studio is moving past its horrible hacking scandal and wants movie theater owners to as well.
That was the message that came across loud and clear during the company’s presentation to exhibitors here Wednesday, as Tom Rothman made his first big industry appearance since replacing Sony Pictures movie boss Amy Pascal in February.
“We have been through as challenging a time as any modern company has faced,” Rothman acknowledged. “But we survived. ... We have more than survived. We have thrived. Sony Pictures is unbroken, unbowed and pushing on to new heights.”
He made sure to thank Pascal, who he pointed out was responsible for greenlighting a number of the films in Sony’s upcoming slate. Exhibitors got a shout-out too, for “sticking with us” after the studio abruptly pulled “The Interview” from theaters in December due to terrorism threats -- circumstances Rothman called “unique and difficult.”
“It’s a new day at the studio, and there are mighty things ahead,” he said.
Indeed, Sony went to great lengths to present a robust slate -- even though much of it was overshadowed by Rothman’s final announcement that the studio would create an animated “Spider-Man” film with “The Lego Movie” directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller for 2018. Here are some of the highlights:
--If you think the whole “The Interview” debacle scared Sony away from working with Seth Rogen, you’re wrong. In fact, it seems the studio will try to capitalize on the notoriety of its controversial collaborator when the actor-turned-filmmaker’s next movie, “X-MAS,” comes out in December. The film’s tag line? “From the guys who almost brought you ‘The Interview.’” For what it’s worth, this Rogen flick shouldn’t anger any foreign governments: It’s about three childhood friends who celebrate a time-honored Christmas Eve tradition together before moving on to adulthood.
—Neal Moritz is really excited about how well “Furious 7" did. So excited, in fact, that the producer touted the success of his Universal Pictures release during the Sony presentation -- where he was meant to be talking about his new “Goosebumps” movie.
“I’ve got a new favorite word,” Moritz told the crowd. “Can anybody guess what that word is? ‘Billion!’”
Get it? Because “Furious 7" has made more than $1 billion worldwide so far.
Anyway, he did go on to talk a bit about “Goosebumps,” which was directed by Rob Letterman. In the film, Jack Black plays R.L. Stine -- the prolific author of the scary children’s book series -- and he keeps all of his manuscripts under lock and key in his house. But when some new kids move in next door and start snooping, they accidentally open the books and out pop the monsters of Stine’s imagination.
“Why couldn’t you write about rainbows and unicorns?” one kid frets in the trailer.
“That doesn’t sell 400 million copies,” Stine retorts.
“Worldwide?” the kid asks.
“No, domestic,” the author replies. “But that’s still very impressive.”
--Ang Lee came to CinemaCon a few years back when 20th Century Fox gave a big early push to his “Life of Pi.” This year, the Oscar-winning filmmaker wasn’t able to make it to Vegas to promote his military drama “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk,” which he’s currently shooting in Georgia. Still, Lee sent a video from the set in which he revealed that he’s shooting the film in 3-D at 120 frames per second -- more than twice the rate Peter Jackson used on his “Hobbit” films.
The movie, which is set for release in 2016, stars newcomer Joe Alwyn as a soldier who is sent on a press tour after his overseas battle was broadcast on the news. “The experience is not just about the extravaganza -- not just action, but drama as well,” Lee said. “I think it’s more personal. I think the future is really exciting, to go through the journey of a new cinematic experience. It’s a new way of dreaming.”
--Is there anything Meryl Streep can’t do? We hate to sound like one of her breathless fans, but seriously: She looks rad in “Ricki and the Flash.” In the movie, Streep plays mother to her real-life daughter, Mamie Gummer, but she’s not a traditional mama bear -- she’s a rock ‘n’ roll star, one who’s been an absentee parent for much of her kids’ life. But when she finds out that her daughter’s marriage is falling apart, she rushes home to help out.
This is Streep like you’ve never seen her: She’s wearing more eyeliner than Kim Kardashian and half of her head is permanently braided. “Someday you’re gonna wake up and find a gray hair -- and I don’t mean on your head,” she advises her daughter, spreading her legs in the air to illustrate her point.
--Robert Zemeckis was on hand to preview “The Walk,” a film about French high-wire artist Philippe Petit. Audiences first met Petit in James Marsh’s 2008 documentary “Man on Wire,” which like “The Walk” took a look at how he pulled off a daring wire walk between the Twin Towers at the World Trade Center in the ‘70s. Joseph Gordon-Levitt spent time with Petit at his home in upstate New York to train for the role. There, the actor apparently learned how to walk 12 feet above the ground, but he may not have had enough time to master Petit’s French accent, which proved distracting to many in the crowd at CinemaCon.
--We might be seeing Will Smith on the awards circuit for “Concussion,” the timely NFL head injury drama due out this Christmas. Sony didn’t show exhibitors much of the film, in which Smith plays Nigerian doctor Dr. Bennet Omalu, but what the crowd did see was powerful -- the M.D. giving an emotional speech about what football players risk when they enter the game. “When a man is a football player,” he says, “he knows he will break his arm or his leg. He does not know that he can lose his mind, his family, his money -- his life. They have to know.”
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