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CINEMACON: STXfilms Kicks Off the Expo With First Look at Upcoming Slate

Actually, this is Day 1 and a ½ because as I mentioned in my earlier preview, Monday’s International Day tends to be a bit slower than the remainder of the week.  The only significant event on Monday was some of the awards, including the International Filmmaker of the Year award to Bohemian Rhapsody producer Graham King.
Monday night, NEON also premiered its upcoming movie Wild Rose, but since I knew that I could see that in New York City once I get back, I decided to spend some time with some industry colleagues instead at a dinner thrown by Fandango. (Apparently, NEON showed some footage from upcoming films like the excellent doc The Biggest Little Farm, as well.)
Tuesday kicked off with the usual “The State of the Industry” panel where more awards and accolades were given, more people spoke – notably John Fithian of NATO and Charles Rivkin of the MPAA. “Diversity” and “Netflix” were two of the most used keywords over the course of that morning’s presentation. More importantly, the relatively new studio STXfilms got the jump on the conference by having the first full presentation of footage.
Crazy Rich Asians director Jon M. Chu came out after a sizzle reel of his hit film to talk about the importance of cinema and how seeing E.T. the Extraterrestrial and Tim Burton’s Batman inspired him to go to the movies. He said that Batmanwas his “moon landing.” He also talked about the influence of The Joy Luck Club on him as a filmmaker. He also talked about how it was important to him and the producers to release Crazy Rich Asians theatrically vs. on a streaming service like Netflix. That obviously worked out for the film, which became a global blockbuster with ??? million. He also mentioned how important it was for him to make a movie with actors that looked like him, thanking the exhibitors for showing his movie.  He also introduced the annual sizzle reel of the “Best of 2018” aka the highest-grossing global blockbusters of 2018. No surprise that Avengers: Infinity War was #1 worldwide with more than $2 billion.
I won’t get too into some of the introductions and awards given out during the panel, since a lot of it probably won’t be of interest to most of you. Charles Rivkin, CEO of the MPAA, gave a speech that made me think he will enter the Presidential race someday, while NATO head John Fithian cited a bunch of numbers in terms of how many tickets were being sold to, and what demographic was buying the most tickets. This portion of the presentation also included a tribute to MPAA’s head rater Joan Graves who was retiring after 30 years with comments from many former MPAA CEOs as well as filmmaker Eli Roth, who spoke about collaborating with the raters, rather than fighting them.
Finally, it was time for the STXfilms presentation and the company’s Chairman of Motion Pictures Adam Fogelson came out to make one last ditch attempt to get anyone interested in the weekend’s Best of Enemies, with an extended look that included interviews with the stars and the original people they play in the film.

STXfilms

That was followed by an extended look at POMS, STX’s Mother’s Day release geared towards… well…  Mom. Diane Keaton was on-hand to talk about the movie and show off her “skinny legs” that made it harder for her to do the cheerleading scenes. Fogelson cited last year’s hit Book Club as a reference — the movie even shares a producer —  and the cast around Keaton, which includes Jacqui Weaver, Pam Grier, Celia Weston and Rhea Perlman, makes me think that this might get me through my general disdain towards Keaton… if I bother to see the movie.
Fogelson next showed an extended trailer for Chadwick Boseman’s 21 Bridges, which looks like my kind of movie, a New York police thriller in which Boseman (who also produced the movie with the Russo Brothers) plays a police officer who is trying to find a cop-killer. In order to do so, they shut down the 21 bridges in and out of New York in order to find the killer and end his spree. It also stars Stephan James (If Beale Street Could Talk), Sienna MillerTaylor Kitch and JK Simmons and is directed by Brian Kirk (Game of Thrones). Boseman trained both with the New York and L.A.P.D. but wisely didn’t do a straight comparison of the two forces. That’s out on July 12, offering some counterprogramming for the summer blockbusters.
Next up was the action-comedy My Spy, directed by Peter Segal (Get Smart) and starring Dave Bautista as a CIA agent who is paired with a young girl named Sophie (played by newcomer Chloe Coleman from the second season of Big Little Lies). Fogelman referenced movies like Kindergarten Cop and others before showing the first trailer for the movie, and there were funny moments with Ken Jeong and Kristen Schaal as Bautista’s CIA handlers.  The two stars of the movie came out and Coleman was incredibly cute when talking about the swear jar on set, even getting $5 from Fogelman when Bautista decided to swear.  Honestly? This looks so cute and funny that I could see it being one of STX’s surprise hits this year.
Fogelson spoke about the upcoming horror sequel Brahms: The Boy II, and showed the first footage, which included Katie Holmes and her family finding a creepy old house like something out of Burnt Offerings, but towards the end of the footage their mute son finds the doll Brahms buried in the woods behind the house. I never got a chance to see The Boy, but this looks like it could be one of the creepier horror movies whenever it’s released. After the footage, Katie Holmes came out to talk to Fogelman about the movie, as well.

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Fogelman then gave the CinemaCon crowd a first look at director Guy Ritchie’s new movie The Gentlemen, produced along with Miramax.  It’s another crime-comedy in the vein of Ritchie’s early films Snatch and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels with an ensemble cast that includes Charlie Hunnam, Henry Golding (from Crazy Rich Asians), Matthew McConaughey, Michelle Dockery, Hugh Grant and Colin Farrell. It looks very funny, especially if you like Ritchie’s form of R-rated humor. Hunnam and Golding were on-hand to talk about working with Ritchie, Hunnam having worked with him on King Arthur and telling the audience about his first meeting with Ritchie to be cast in the lead role of that movie, having tea for three hours. Golding was pulling double duties making that movie at the same time as the holiday film Last Christmas with Emilia Clarke.  They spoke about working with Ritchie and the big name actors they were able to work with.  Going by the footage, I’m sure Joan Graves would have a field day if she had to work on rating the movie, as there was a lot of expletives… as can be expected from a Guy Ritchie movie.
Another wonderful surprise was the first footage from STXfilms’ adaptation of The Secret Garden, produced in conjunction with Studio Canal and David (the Harry Potter movies) Heyman’s Heyman Films.  It’s being finished up by director Marc Munden for Spring 2020 with the cast including Colin Firth, Julie Walters and 14-year-old Dixie Egerickx.  The footage shown looked quite wonderful, very colorful and joyous, similar to some of Heyman’s other films, including the Paddington movies.
Fogelman then went through a list of other films, saying that Second Act star Jennifer Lopez is bringing her next two movies to the studio including the currently-filming Hustlers with Constance Wu and Cardi B, written and directed by Lorene Scafaria, which will be ready for the fall. Fogelson also mentioned the micro-budget horror film Countdown and something called Horizon Line, neither which have been on my radar. Beyond that, STX will continue its relationship with Kevin Hart after the hit The Upside, developing two new movies with him. Gerard Butler is reteaming with his Angel Has Fallen director Rick Waugh for Greenland, and Foglelman used the time to announce Bad Moms’ Moms with Cheryl Hines, Susan Sarandon and Christine Baranski reprising their roles from 2017’s A Bad Moms’ Christmas. Other films in development include the Alicia Keys dance movie Work Itand Vin Diesel’s Muscle. He also reiterated the very recent announcement of Awkwafina and Ike Barinholtz making Crime after Crime with STX.
Last up was the presentation for STX’s upcoming summer film Uglydolls, based on the popular toy line created by David Horvath and Sun-Min Kim, which will also be STX’s first animated feature. Kelly Clarkson and Pitbull came out to talk about the movie and clown around with Fogelson. I have to admit that I wasn’t even remotely impressed when I saw the trailer recently in front of Disney’s Dumbo, because one of the things it completely disregarded to show was that UglyDollsis a musical. That seems to be a pretty large misstep considering the large cast of musical stars including Clarkson, Pitbull, Nick Jonas, Blake Shelton and Janelle Monae.
Trying to turn opinions around for the May 3 release, Fogelson showed footage that featured three of the songs in the movie, a number sung by Kelly Clarkson with contributions from Shelton and Pitbull, Nick Jonas’ introductory number as well as a number sung by Monae.
All-in-all, it was a pretty decent presentation that showed that STX will be offering a ton of variety with their upcoming line-up, and it seems like all the actors and filmmakers have been happy working with STXfilms. One bone I have to pick with Fogelson’s presentation is that he failed to mention release dates for most of the films. I had no idea that both 21 Bridgesand Brahms: The Boy IIwere coming out in July until I looked them up.
Next up will be my full write-up of the Warner Bros. “The Big Picture” presentation.

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