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At Last, CBS Films Generates Some Heat

Noontime ShoWest presentation of upcoming youth fantasy drama and Dwayne Johnson action film impresses exhibitors

CBS Films entered its big day at ShoWest Thursday with one underperforming drama under its belt ("Extraordinary Measures").

So what came next? There was applause, but no incendiary buzz, after the new film company conducted a morning screening of its new romantic comedy "The Back-Up Plan" starring Jennifer Lopez… and TV star Alex O’Laughlin.

Lopez stars as a man-weary woman who gives up on romance and opts for artificial insemination. Just pregnant, she falls in love with a cheese-maker (O’Laughlin) on her way out of the fertility clinic. The movie has some decent chemistry, but it felt, at least to some, more like a sitcom pitched at the big screen.

The momentum picked up dramatically at the division’s noontime luncheon, when CBS Films president and CEO Amy Baer rolled out an upcoming slate that included summer sci-fi youth drama "Beastly," which stars Alex Pettyfer, Vanessa Hudgens and Neil Patrick Harris, all of whom were in attendance Thursday.

"Alex is so handsome, he could rob a bank without a gun or a disguise," Harris quipped, mimicking the young Londoner’s accent. "Excuse, miss, but that vault back there. Could you bring it to me?"

In a new play on ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ Pettyfer plays a narcissistic rich boy who is cursed by a witch, and turns into a hideous beast. Guess what – he has to become a nice guy to …. be human again.

Also taking a turn at the podium were Dwayne Johnson and Billy Bob Thornton, stars of the upcoming action thriller "Faster," currently in production and set for release this fall.

Both films presentations drew enthusiastic reactions from the luncheon crowd of exhibition officials, some of whom wondered openly why CBS Films didn’t launch with one of these projects.

CBS Films officials say the answer is simple logistics: "Extraordinary Measures" was ready to go — and testing well — when the division was set to launch, while the other projects simply weren’t ready.