Last year, Universal and Focus Features won the hearts of many CinemaCon attendees with a presentation that featured various movie theater owners introducing the studio’s upcoming attractions. This year, they did it again for arguably the most diverse studio presentation at the trade show.
“We remain committed to bringing the best films from the best directors to your theaters,” Universal domestic distribution head Jim Orr said, highlighting that Universal and Focus lead the film industry with a combined 25 films hitting theaters in 2022. “If we narrow what we release, our mutual audience will only get smaller. Of course we need the biggest blockbusters, but we need more than that to keep thriving.”
After an introduction by Orr and Universal chairman Donna Langley, the presentation consisted of various CinemaCon attendees who introduced the filmmakers and stars behind the studio’s upcoming films, including “Nope” director Jordan Peele who provided the first footage of his enigmatic third horror film.
The theater owners also talked about the impact these filmmakers had on their businesses, such as NextAct Cinema co-founder Anthony Fykes, who pointed out that when he opened the first Black-owned theater in Maryland in 2019, Peele’s “Us” was one of the first major hits they had at their cinema. Two 19-year-old employees at Alamo Drafthouse also joked around with Jamie Lee Curtis before showing a look at the first trailer of “Halloween Ends.”
Filipino comedian Jo Koy got the entire auditorium roaring with a short, foul-mouthed stand-up act to promote his upcoming comedy “Easter Sunday” about life in a Filipino family, also taking time to talk about how as films get more diverse, comedies that poke at the specifics of a certain culture can have appeal that spans every ethnic boundary.
Other conversations between star and exhibitor included Steve Carell for Illumination’s “Minions: The Rise of Gru” putting Ontario theater owner Everett Allen on the spot to do his best Gru impression while Billy Eichner touted “Bros” as the first major studio LGBT romcom and the “best thing to come to Caesars Palace since Adele refunds.”
On the drama side, Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazan introduced the first ever footage of Oscar contender “She Said,” a retelling of the New York Times investigation that brought down Harvey Weinstein and a deep dive into the culture of silence in Hollywood that the #MeToo movement seeks to challenge. Focus distribution chief Lisa Bunnell also came out to show off “Downton Abbey: A New Era” while talking about various films in development including Lesley Manville in “Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris” and James Gray’s upcoming Cannes film “Armageddon Time” starring Anthony Hopkins.
And finally, the show was capped off with Universal’s billion-dollar moneymaker “Jurassic World,” with this summer’s trilogy capper “Jurassic World: Dominion” being introduced by Jeff Goldblum and Bryce Dallas Howard with the former saying that the blockbuster will be the first he takes his two young sons to. The new trailer had everything people have come to expect from “Jurassic,” including dinosaurs eating people and Chris Pratt holding his hands up to stop those dinos from eating him.
Though the films and guests were wide-ranging in tone and scope, all the guests gave their thanks to everyone in attendance for keeping their theaters open.
“When you scream, you scream louder when people are near you. When you feel something, you feel deeper when other people are right next to you,” a choked up Jamie Lee Curtis said. “You don’t get that experience with movies in your living room. You get it in movie theaters.”