Sony Teases More Blockbusters — and Will Smith — as Tom Rothman Mocks the Naysayers

CinemaCon 2023: “As the punditocracy pissed on your business, we at Sony held fast,” studio chairman boasted to theater owners

Tom Rothman at CinemaCon 2022
Tom Rothman at CinemaCon 2022 – photo by Frazer Harrison via Getty Images

Unlike last year’s CinemaCon, Sony Pictures Chairman Tom Rothman didn’t have a record-breaking hit like “Spider-Man: No Way Home” to tout from his studio’s 2022 box office record. But that didn’t stop him from cheering on theater owners from the Caesars Palace stage and mocking those who predicted their demise.

“For the past three years, as the punditocracy pissed on your business, we at Sony held fast,” Rothman boasted. “We are the only studio that held entirely to theatrical. We were sure that movies in theaters would not only survive but triumph. Well, whaddaya know?”

In 2022, Sony’s yielded relatively quieter numbers than in 2021, when films like “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” and “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” became big successes while “Spider-Man: No Way Home” became one of the top 10 highest-grossing films of all time.

While there was some solid tentpole success with “Uncharted” ($148 million domestic) and “Bullet Train” ($103 million) along with mid-budget hits like”Where the Crawdads Sing” and “A Man Called Otto,” films like “Morbius” and “The Woman King” had to stretch just to break even theatrically.

But Sony’s CinemaCon presentation showed that the studio is ready to get back aboard the franchise train with a cluster of films taken from its IP folio, and it started with an introduction from “Bad Boys” stars Will Smith and Martin Lawrence, who are currently filming a fourth installment in the action series.

“Bad Boys for Life” was one of the last big hits before the pandemic shutdown with $426 million worldwide, so it is little surprise that Sony would move forward with another film even with Smith still in slap-induced exile among Hollywood insiders. It also won’t be surprising if Smith’s fans come roaring back to theaters for more “Bad Boys” when the next chapter comes out next year.

Marvel was also a big part of the show, with filmmaker Kemp Powers showing off brand new footage from Sony Animation’s visually ambitious “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse,” Aaron Taylor-Johnson showed up to reveal how he’s going to look wearing hunter’s pelts in the antihero film “Kraven the Hunter,” which unlike “Morbius” will sport an R rating.

Sony also showed off a video message from “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” director Jason Reitman and the film’s cast, who are currently filming the hit blockbuster’s sequel that will see the Spengler family and Paul Rudd’s Gary Grooberson as the kids’ new stepdad traveling to New York and moving into the Ghostbusters’ original firehouse.

At the same time, Rothman also stressed that Sony would not abandon original films, emphasizing upcoming movies like the raunchy Jennifer Lawrence comedy “No Hard Feelings,” the Glen Powell/Sydney Sweeney romcom “Anyone But You,” and Ridley Scott’s historical epic “Napoleon” starring Joaquin Phoenix, which will be released in partnership with Apple and which was showcased with an extended battle scene from the film.

“Originality is always a risk, but the real risk is boring the audience with sameness,” Rothman said.

The presentation finished with the CinemaCon Lifetime Achievement Award being presented to Denzel Washington, who in turn presented the first trailer for “The Equalizer 3,” which sees the Oscar winner reunite with Antoine Fuqua as the ruthless vigilante Robert McCall.

“If things go well, I might be able to come back next year!” exclaimed Rothman after the trailer screened before dropping a giddy F-bomb.