Sacha Baron Cohen came to Paramount Pictures' CinemaCon presentation on Monday with a warning to theater owners who aren't on board with exhibiting his new movie "The Dictator."
"There are bigger bombs than 'John Carter,'" Baron Cohen, decked out as his despotic strongman character from the film, told theater owners.
He said that exhibitors who were hesitant to put his movie on their screens should check beneath their seat for an explosive surprise.
Baron Cohen even got in a dig at the competition, noting the recent ouster of Rich Ross, chairman of Walt Disney Studios, the company behind the recent flop.
"Just shoot the executive," Baron Cohen said, before noting the "John Carter" studio just did (at least metaphorically).
In a night overflowing with tributes to Paramount's 100 year history (the studio, like Universal, is celebrating its centennial), Baron Cohen engaged in spotlight thievery of the grand larceny order.
Flanked by female guards, Baron Cohen took the stage, greeting theater owners with "death to the West." He then claimed that Roger Ebert had given "The Dictator," which opens on May 16, two thumbs up, before producing bloody prop thumbs to prove his point.
He also gently ribbed Jeffrey Katzenberg, the DreamWorks Animation chief on hand to present footage from "Rise of the Guardians" and "Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted."
Saying that he had been informed that he was the only dictator presenting at the Las Vegas trade show, Baron Cohen joked, "Imagine my surprise when I find out Jeffrey Katzenberg was here."
Baron Cohen was not the only star who took the stage at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace on Monday night. Chris Rock, Chris Pine and Dwayne Johnson were on hand as Paramount gave theater owners a sneak peek of its upcoming films.
Johnson wasn't just there to sell his upcoming stint in "G.I. Joe: Retaliation." He also picked up an award from CinemaCon, which named him "Action Star of the Decade."
The film brings back original star Channing Tatum, but pairs him with new additions like Bruce Willis and Johnson. The super soldiers find themselves forced to operate off-the-reservation after the villainous Cobra organization impersonates the president and takes over the White House.
Based on the international trailer that Paramount debuted at the convention, Johnson will have ample opportunity to dance around some pyrotechnics when the film premieres on June 29.
The studio had other action-heavy fare to flaunt to exhibitors courtesy of Tom Cruise. The "Mission: Impossible" star was not in the auditorium, but taped an introduction to convention-goers before Paramount unveiled footage from his upcoming thriller "One Shot."
Cruise joked that he is not over 6 feet tall like Jack Reacher, the homicide investigator at the heart of the Lee Childs' novel that inspired the film. However, Cruise said that the author tapped him because he believed he was "…the right guy to drive fast cars and kick the s— out of people on screen."
In the three scenes that Paramount screened for exhibitors, Cruise proceeded to do just that — manfully disposing of a group of bar thugs and engaging in a high speed chase with the law. "One Shot" debuts on December 21.
For the kiddies, Paramount offered up two animated titles through its distribution partnership with DreamWorks Animation. The studio screened 25 minutes from this summer's "Madagascar 3" and 15 minutes from next fall's "Rise of the Guardians."
"Guardians" is the more ambitious undertaking of the two films, based on the footage Paramount showed. It centers on a collection of mythological creatures like the Easter Bunny (Hugh Jackman) and Santa Claus (Alec Baldwin) who have to team up to fight the Boogieman. Think of it as a cross between "The X-Men" and "The Polar Express."
"Madagascar 3" finds the studio on more familiar terrain. This installment has the gang of animals teaming up with a group of circus performers in Europe in an effort to get back to New York City. Frances McDormand plays the foil to the loveable creatures; a French animal control expert with a fondness for big game hunting.
Rock, who voices a zebra in the film, told theater owners not to bet on "The Amazing Spider-Man" or "The Dark Knight Rises" when filling out their box office brackets.
"I think this will be the movie of the summer," Rock said.
Despite Rock's boasts, that probably won't be the case. Though the studio trotted out big stars and showed extended footage from its tentpole hopefuls, the firepower could not compare with last year when Paramount came to CinemaCon armed with the third “Transformers” film, “Thor,” “Captain America” and J.J. Abrams’ “Super 8.”
Marvel, which provided much of Paramount’s superhero heavy collection of films last year, now distributes its films through its corporate parent Disney. Paramount earned a distribution fee for rolling out “Thor” and “Captain America,” so the loss is more cosmetic than commercial.
The same will hold true for DreamWorks Animation, which is parting ways with the studio after negotiations broke down about the distribution fee it charged. Barring a last minute reprieve, "Rise of the Guardians" will be the last film Paramount rolls out for Katzenberg and company.