In a series of articles from the floor and back rooms of CinemaCon, our intrepid reporter, Lorenzo Porricelli (board member and co-founder of OC Screenwriters) tells us "off the record, on the QT and very hush-hush" what's happening in Las Vegas!
CinemaCon, Las Vegas, (March 28, 2017)
For those who don't know, CinemaCon is a yearly event for studios to display their upcoming movies to The National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO), a trade organization based in the United States whose members are the owners of movie theaters. Major theater chains are members, as are many independent operators.
This year, Sony Pictures kicked off CinemaCon2017 with a huge bang, stunning the packed audience at Caesar’s Palace Coliseum with a preview of upcoming films from Sony that had audiences grabbing their seats during the absolute best car chase ever done on film in Baby Driver with Ansel Elgort; cringing in fear for an absolutely terrifying horror movie appropriately named, Cadaver; and laughing so hard tears flooded the aisles for the remake of Jumanji, with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Jack Black, a film that’s sure to take the box office at Christmas; Spiderman gets a reboot with a twist, its Peter Parker during his teen years in high school, called Spiderman: Homecoming, with Tom Holland as Parker and the film includes Ironman as his mentor; Sony also showed their animation prowess with films as diverse as Smurfs to Emojis, a new concept that also had the audience roaring with laughter; an audience favorite was Rough Night, with Scarlett Johansen, a raucous comedy about a girl’s night out that goes crazy, absolutely crazy and destroys any similar guy movie.
Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series is a new franchise Sony is launching this summer, and the first glimpses were horrifying, and the series should be a big winner.
Sony also had all the film’s stars appearing: with Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson and Jack Black adlibbing their own version of scenes from Jumanji on the stage, and Dwayne Johnson did an homage to Robin Williams that didn’t leave a dry eye among the crowd of 5,000.
Tom Holland (Spiderman) talked about what it was like to work with Robert Downey and how the character he played was shaped with Downey’s influence.
Ansel Elgort, the driver in the most outrageous car chase ever done on screen, and the director, spoke of what it was like being strapped to a car going 80 mph, the director with a camera in hand, and when you see the wild chase, you will know the results of hard work paid off.
It looks like a great year for Sony!
And that’s on the QT, and very hush, hush.
Long Live the King!
Dwayne Johnson rules CinemaCon 2017 – and Hollywood.
CinemaCon, Las Vegas, (March 29, 2017)
Move over Robert Downey, Matt Damon, Will Smith, Mark Wahlberg, Johnny Depp, and Jackie Chan - there’s a new King of Hollywood who was crowned at CinemaCon 2017 in Las Vegas, and this king is going to wear that crown for a long, long time.
Dwayne Johnson, the once-upon-a-time pro-wrestler who got paid $40 a night when he started in the ring, now earns anywhere from $20 - $60 million up front for every film he makes, not even counting the percentage backend deals where he could make an additional $100 million per picture.
So is he working? At that price, you betcha.
There hasn’t been a player this powerful, adventurous, respected, and will-liked in this town since Frank Sinatra, and CinemaCon 2017 has proven this and he has appeared as the star of films with three different studios this week teasing the audience, and audiences gave him ovations with every appearance.
In the upcoming time between now and Christmas, Johnson is the anchor of three huge franchise movies – with popularity unheard of with fans and Hollywood since Sinatra’s name was on everyone’s lips as a dealmaker and job provider, and most of all as a box office Midas.
Universal Studios was up first for Johnson at CinemaCon 2017, with “Fate of the Furious,” and Johnson plays Hobbs, a character as well-loved as Paul Walker’s. And Universal is very smart and had its first ever screening for the film at CinemaCon this week, with more than 6,000 movie theatre owners in attendance cheering and calling their theatres with cell phones in one hand and champagne in the other, to place the trailer for the film on every screen and every movie. Some even demanded it play at the beginning and end of every trailer set for added punch.
“Fate of the Furious” will be huge. It opens like the rest did on Good Friday in April and will be there well through Memorial Day or even Fourth of July. It is a riotous mix of outrageous action and side-splitting humor that even pokes fun at itself and has an intelligent script that carries the story all over the globe, and I mean all over the globe, and practice expanding your lungs – the action, chases and thrills are so fresh and over-the-top, you’ll be holding your breath almost the entire film – that’s how real the tension is, but that tension is juxtaposed against a well-scripted canvas of humor that makes this Furious the most extravagant of the series.
Johnson’s presence adds such story gravitas to the film. Yes, Paul Walker was loved, and Vin Diesel is liked, but jaded movie industry people and the public just can’t get enough of Johnson. Yet Johnson is so humble. He shared how he once had just $7 in his pocket, and his words were tender: “In 1995 I had 7 bucks in my pocket and I knew two things – I’m broke as hell and one day I won’t be.“
And Johnson really enjoys playing with the audiences and introducing his movies and the casts, all here for “Fate of the Furious,” and it was a great feeling for the audiences hearing his hilarious repartee with cast members, including Vin Diesel. Diesel was onstage with Johnson. But Johnson definitely is the star. He commanded the stage, and played to the room of movie theatre owners and studio executives that gather yearly in Las Vegas for CinemaCon.
Johnson also stars in Paramount’s R-rated, hilarious boot-up of “Baywatch,” a film Paramount has such confidence in because of Johnson’s uproarious portrayal of lifeguard Mitch Buchanan, the film is set as its Memorial Day offering, and Memorial Day Weekend is as busy as Thanksgiving weekend, as summer official kicks off. At CinemaCon 2016, Johnson promised to bring the cast of Baywatch to CinemaCon 2017. And he did. That alone is testament to his strength, as the first class cost to fly, to feed, hotel suites, easily cost Paramount $250 thousand.
Johnson also premiered the first-ever Fuschia trailer – and as you know, trailers are either green-banded for general audiences, or red-banded for adults-only, but the trailer for “Baywatch” is the first-ever Fuschia- colored, and rated FU – FUCKING UNBELIEVABLE – with the line message reading: PERVASIVE HOTNESS, COMEDY AND ACTION, MAY CAUSE PISSING IN PANTS DUE TO EXCESSIVE LAUGHTER. Johnson thought of it, and it was perhaps the hit of CinemaCon so far, with theatres demanding the Fuschia trailer for moviegoers to view. Hopefully Paramount does so, as the attention will sell a million tickets.
And the film was just phenomenal – no one could stop laughing, and they weren’t cheap laughs, these were well-earned and well-written, especially a scene where Johnson has Zac Effron, playing a lifeguard stud with not too much upstairs, check a corpse’s scrotum. I’m still laughing three days later.
Johnson again drew the audience into his world – saying the theatre that sells the most presales tickets to the movie will be brought to Hollywood, put up and the Beverly Hills Hotel, and be special guests at the World Premiere. And again, the audience loved it.
And as if to crown the movie industry calendar year, Johnson was on the CinemaCon 2017 stage yet again, for Sony Pictures this time, as the star of “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.” And even if you liked and remembered the original, this one is so far over the top, so hilarious, and the writing is so original, this film will definitely give Star Wars a run for its money during the Christmas holiday. And again, a studio is entrusting its holiday fare to Johnson.
And Sony was also very smart. When first pictures of the cast were seen, there was public outcry over Karen Gillan's preposterous jungle attire. But Johnson assured people that her wardrobe would "make sense once you know the plot" as Gillan was dressed in a crop top and leather vest-turned-bustier. And at CinemaCon he made sense of it by stating she was a kid who had been sentenced to cleaning a basement at school and found the clothes and put them on.
And the audience again cheered Johnson, who paid homage to Robin Williams, whose character is important to this film, and brought out co-star Jack Black, who told the hilarious story of his first meeting Robin Williams, and then Johnson did also, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house when he said “we love you, Robin.” And you knew he meant it.
“Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” opens on December 22, just in time for Christmas, and again, is so well written it is for audiences of all ages.
And imagine Johnson and Jack Black onstage redoing scenes from the movie with their own editing, it not only added to the festivities but again, cemented Johnson as someone not afraid to poke fun at himself, his roles, his ego, which is endearing to all audiences.
And Johnson is now a successful producer in Hollywood, with the television show “Ballers”, showing Johnson unafraid to overexpose himself to viewers, as he said, there are a lot of segments out there.
Johnson is slated for upcoming films (of which he gets a share of grosses in addition to his acting fees) as diverse as a remake of “Big Weekend in Little China.” The Kurt Russell cult classic; “San Andreas 2,” the sequel to the $500 million 2015 epic. And don’t forget, Johnson also was key to the success of Disney’s animated “Moana,” which to date has grossed “$617 million. Johnson chooses his roles, and he is very intelligent. Why wouldn’t a star go into a Disney movie, it will be seen by families from America to China to South America, to Europe. Very, very smart. They’re even going to want to see him in the well-deserved R-rated “Baywatch,” and be enthralled again with his family adventure “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.”
Dwayne Johnson feels like a brother, and he is a member of just about everyone’s family.
Hail Dwayne Johnson, the new King of Hollywood.