7 Takeaways From CinemaCon 2018: Change Is Everywhere, Movies Endure

The movie exhibition business wrapped its annual CinemaCon

gathering in Las Vegas this week, and there was plenty to learn about the state of the entertainment industry and the change that is convulsing the entertainment business.

One studio had an entirely new executive team, another had to address the elephant in the room — its pending acquisition by another huge conglomerate — and the bar for entertaining the room was raised by a marching band, a video skit starring a studio mogul and … Cher.

One thing I’ll say for the movies overall — the ones coming down the pipeline about music and musicians and their journeys seem the ones with the most heart. Here are my takeaways

Also Read: Lionsgate Trots Out Blake Lively and ‘Blindspotting,’ But Identity Crisis Looms

Marvel Studios

1. Disney is a monster.

There’s no denying the dominance of this content-creating, brand-defining machine led by Bob Iger and Alan Horn on the movie side. Never was the strategic brilliance of Iger in acquiring Marvel and Lucasfilm more clearly on display than at this year’s presentation (last year the studio barely bothered to show, it felt so confident).

Disney consistently leads the Hollywood pack in market share, has had 12 films hit $1 billion at the box office in the last six years, and looks poised to continue to do so with upcoming films including this weekend’s “Avengers: Infinity War” and the new Star Wars installment, “Solo.”

And while Marvel is a hit machine, spinning off one global superhero hit after another, the other pillars of the Disney palace are also incredibly strong – besides the “Star Wars” saga, Pixar with another “Incredibles” franchise coming, traditional animation and a whole lot of interesting realistic computer graphic-drawn movies. The one most intriguing to me is “The Lion King,” with real animals. Any excuse to bring that beloved title and music to the screen seems like a good idea. Things to worry about: what will happen to animation if John Lasseter doesn’t come back?

Also Read: ‘Mowgli’ Director Andy Serkis Promises a Darker, Bloodier ‘Jungle Book’ Sequel

Getty Images

2. Suddenly, Paramount has come back to life.

After years of moribund production and morale-sucking boardroom battles and family strife, this iconic studio finally seems to have some energy, direction and pulse. New CEO and chairman Jim Gianopulos got everybody’s attention by opening with a self-deprecating video skit, in which a “Vegas Air” flight attendant criticized the mogul for having too many vowels in his name and then did her own imitation of “A Quiet Place,” the studio’s stealth horror hit.

It was a savvy way to win over the crowd since a lot of the upcoming films on Paramount’s slate would not be out until 2019 and an entirely new executive team — Wyck Godfrey, Brian Robbins, Mireille Soria — was being introduced. The studio is counting on good will and a little patience but the overall message was clear — Paramount has a plan, is making movies at a steady clip once again and has its head back in the game.

My only real quibble: Tom Cruise spent waaaaay too much time on stage explaining his latest death-defying stunt jumping out of an airplane for “Mission: Impossible – Fallout,” but that’s because he’s Tom Cruise. At least he didn’t jump on a couch.

Also Read: ‘A Quiet Place’ Sequel in Development at Paramount Pictures

3. Universal brought the delight of movies to the room.

Universal offered a mix of drama (“First Man” is about Neil Armstrong’s journey to the moon), horror (“Halloween” with an irrepressible Jamie Lee Curtis), fantasy (Peter Jackson’s “Mortal Engine” is creating new worlds that, he promises, are like nothing we’ve ever seen) and thrillers (M. Night Shyamalan has a new one coming with Bruce Wiillis and Sam Jackson).

But even though he wasn’t in the room, it was Dwayne Johnson’s new action movie, “Skyscraper,” that seemed like something that you need to see on a massive screen, and that is likely to make your heart stop. That guy is a movie star, can we just say that?

Universal ended it all with a surprise live performance by Cher of “Fernando” by ABBA. She plays the grandmother in the sequel to “Mamma Mia.” The original was an unwatchable mess of a movie with the cheesiest performances on the planet that made a bajillion dollars. I’ll probably watch the sequel.

The great @Cher delights us all at #cinemacon with performance of Fernando by ABBA. Here’s a glimpse: @TheWrap pic.twitter.com/nKthcmHPpy

— Sharon Waxman (@sharonwaxman) April 26, 2018

Also Read: James Wan and ‘Aquaman’ Cast Offer First Look at Work-in-Progress Atlantis

4. Warner Bros. needed help, a lot of help.

The studio is in transition, now under former New Line head Toby Emmerich, and his newness showed. The presentation dragged on as one troupe of movie stars followed another, making small talk and pretending to be relaxed around stilted emcee Will Arnett. (Why bring Anne Hathaway on stage for “Ocean’s 8” if you’re not going to talk to her?)

And if “Life of the Party” with Melissa McCarthy seemed like one too many versions of the movie we’ve already seen her do (clueless fish out of water, this time she’s a mom going back to college), the ensemble film “Tag” — drama? comedy?  thriller? mystery? — about a group of friends who play a highly aggressive form of tag for a month every year was simply a hot mess.

“Crazy Rich Asians” looks like it could be a big winner, though the trailer made it hard to tell. But wait! There’s one huge redeeming movie on the Warner slate that made all of it worthwhile. Bradley Cooper brought “A Star Is Born,” his remake of the famed Barbara Streisand – Kris Kristofferson love story. And the trailer unveiled of Cooper and Lady Gaga was a revelation. The film promises a full-on love story with Gaga dropping all the makeup and pretense and bravada. Which brings us to…

Also Read: ‘A Star Is Born’: Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga Nail High Notes With Trailer Debut

5. Music movies rule. 

There are so many wonderful films this year about music and musicians that it’s worth pointing it out. As mentioned, “A Star Is Born” looks like it will deliver. Cooper learned to play an instrument well enough to perform.

But Fox’s upcoming “Bohemian Rhapsody” appears to be a similarly strong take on the legendary Freddy Mercury, an epic performer and rule-breaker, played by Rami Malek. And did I mention that the “Mamma Mia” sequel has Cher in it?

6. 3-D is dead.

Over four days and dozens of movies that were presented to the exhibitors in Vegas, only one movie — ONE — was in 3-D, a technology that was all the rage four or five years ago. The lone exception was “Alita,” a largely CG action movie by technology diehard James Cameron about a young female cyborg given a superhuman body. (I think that’s what it was about.)

Robert Rodriguez directed it, and I’m not entirely sure if the 3-D adds all that much to the story. But what was once supposed to be the salvation of movie theaters — adding a premium ticket price to their weekend box office haul — has mostly fizzled. Calling Jeffrey Katzenberg, who predicted otherwise.

Also Read: Enter a 3-D Jungle With ‘Jumanji’ in Virtual Reality This December

Getty Images

7. And finally: Fox.

Who knows if the studio will be at CinemaCon next year? If the Disney acquisition of most of 21st Century Fox goes through, it won’t. So studio chief Stacey Snider wisely used the moment to remind the thousands of exhibitors in the room that she knew no more than they did about the future of her studio, but that she was committed to delivering great movies in the meantime.

And she backed it up with an emotional reel of Fox movies over the last 80 years, from “Titanic” to Shirley Temple to “12 Years a Slave,” reminding everyone what a contribution Fox has made to the culture. “Let’s wear our heart on our sleeves,” she urged the packed hall, choking up (and she wasn’t the only one). “Let’s celebrate the humanity that comes from discovering that we are more alike than different.”

Her words managed to overshadow the bravura, hilarious opening of the Fox presentation with Deadpool leading dancers to the song “One” from the Broadway classic “A Chorus Line.” And it was a fitting reminder that if Fox goes away, we may all be the poorer.

Related stories from TheWrap:

‘A Star Is Born’: Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga Nail High Notes With Trailer Debut

Fox Film CEO Teases Uncertain Future With Looming Disney Acquisition: ‘We Face a New Transition’

Lionsgate Trots Out Blake Lively and ‘Blindspotting,’ But Identity Crisis Looms

The movie exhibition business wrapped its annual CinemaCon

gathering in Las Vegas this week, and there was plenty to learn about the state of the entertainment industry and the change that is convulsing the entertainment business.

One studio had an entirely new executive team, another had to address the elephant in the room — its pending acquisition by another huge conglomerate — and the bar for entertaining the room was raised by a marching band, a video skit starring a studio mogul and … Cher.

One thing I’ll say for the movies overall — the ones coming down the pipeline about music and musicians and their journeys seem the ones with the most heart. Here are my takeaways

Marvel Studios

1. Disney is a monster.

There’s no denying the dominance of this content-creating, brand-defining machine led by Bob Iger and Alan Horn on the movie side. Never was the strategic brilliance of Iger in acquiring Marvel and Lucasfilm more clearly on display than at this year’s presentation (last year the studio barely bothered to show, it felt so confident).

Disney consistently leads the Hollywood pack in market share, has had 12 films hit $1 billion at the box office in the last six years, and looks poised to continue to do so with upcoming films including this weekend’s “Avengers: Infinity War” and the new Star Wars installment, “Solo.”

And while Marvel is a hit machine, spinning off one global superhero hit after another, the other pillars of the Disney palace are also incredibly strong – besides the “Star Wars” saga, Pixar with another “Incredibles” franchise coming, traditional animation and a whole lot of interesting realistic computer graphic-drawn movies. The one most intriguing to me is “The Lion King,” with real animals. Any excuse to bring that beloved title and music to the screen seems like a good idea. Things to worry about: what will happen to animation if John Lasseter doesn’t come back?

Getty Images

2. Suddenly, Paramount has come back to life.

After years of moribund production and morale-sucking boardroom battles and family strife, this iconic studio finally seems to have some energy, direction and pulse. New CEO and chairman Jim Gianopulos got everybody’s attention by opening with a self-deprecating video skit, in which a “Vegas Air” flight attendant criticized the mogul for having too many vowels in his name and then did her own imitation of “A Quiet Place,” the studio’s stealth horror hit.

It was a savvy way to win over the crowd since a lot of the upcoming films on Paramount’s slate would not be out until 2019 and an entirely new executive team — Wyck Godfrey, Brian Robbins, Mireille Soria — was being introduced. The studio is counting on good will and a little patience but the overall message was clear — Paramount has a plan, is making movies at a steady clip once again and has its head back in the game.

My only real quibble: Tom Cruise spent waaaaay too much time on stage explaining his latest death-defying stunt jumping out of an airplane for “Mission: Impossible – Fallout,” but that’s because he’s Tom Cruise. At least he didn’t jump on a couch.

3. Universal brought the delight of movies to the room.

Universal offered a mix of drama (“First Man” is about Neil Armstrong’s journey to the moon), horror (“Halloween” with an irrepressible Jamie Lee Curtis), fantasy (Peter Jackson’s “Mortal Engine” is creating new worlds that, he promises, are like nothing we’ve ever seen) and thrillers (M. Night Shyamalan has a new one coming with Bruce Wiillis and Sam Jackson).

But even though he wasn’t in the room, it was Dwayne Johnson’s new action movie, “Skyscraper,” that seemed like something that you need to see on a massive screen, and that is likely to make your heart stop. That guy is a movie star, can we just say that?

Universal ended it all with a surprise live performance by Cher of “Fernando” by ABBA. She plays the grandmother in the sequel to “Mamma Mia.” The original was an unwatchable mess of a movie with the cheesiest performances on the planet that made a bajillion dollars. I’ll probably watch the sequel.

4. Warner Bros. needed help, a lot of help.

The studio is in transition, now under former New Line head Toby Emmerich, and his newness showed. The presentation dragged on as one troupe of movie stars followed another, making small talk and pretending to be relaxed around stilted emcee Will Arnett. (Why bring Anne Hathaway on stage for “Ocean’s 8” if you’re not going to talk to her?)

And if “Life of the Party” with Melissa McCarthy seemed like one too many versions of the movie we’ve already seen her do (clueless fish out of water, this time she’s a mom going back to college), the ensemble film “Tag” — drama? comedy?  thriller? mystery? — about a group of friends who play a highly aggressive form of tag for a month every year was simply a hot mess.

“Crazy Rich Asians” looks like it could be a big winner, though the trailer made it hard to tell. But wait! There’s one huge redeeming movie on the Warner slate that made all of it worthwhile. Bradley Cooper brought “A Star Is Born,” his remake of the famed Barbara Streisand – Kris Kristofferson love story. And the trailer unveiled of Cooper and Lady Gaga was a revelation. The film promises a full-on love story with Gaga dropping all the makeup and pretense and bravada. Which brings us to…

5. Music movies rule. 

There are so many wonderful films this year about music and musicians that it’s worth pointing it out. As mentioned, “A Star Is Born” looks like it will deliver. Cooper learned to play an instrument well enough to perform.

But Fox’s upcoming “Bohemian Rhapsody” appears to be a similarly strong take on the legendary Freddy Mercury, an epic performer and rule-breaker, played by Rami Malek. And did I mention that the “Mamma Mia” sequel has Cher in it?

6. 3-D is dead.

Over four days and dozens of movies that were presented to the exhibitors in Vegas, only one movie — ONE — was in 3-D, a technology that was all the rage four or five years ago. The lone exception was “Alita,” a largely CG action movie by technology diehard James Cameron about a young female cyborg given a superhuman body. (I think that’s what it was about.)

Robert Rodriguez directed it, and I’m not entirely sure if the 3-D adds all that much to the story. But what was once supposed to be the salvation of movie theaters — adding a premium ticket price to their weekend box office haul — has mostly fizzled. Calling Jeffrey Katzenberg, who predicted otherwise.

Getty Images

7. And finally: Fox.

Who knows if the studio will be at CinemaCon next year? If the Disney acquisition of most of 21st Century Fox goes through, it won’t. So studio chief Stacey Snider wisely used the moment to remind the thousands of exhibitors in the room that she knew no more than they did about the future of her studio, but that she was committed to delivering great movies in the meantime.

And she backed it up with an emotional reel of Fox movies over the last 80 years, from “Titanic” to Shirley Temple to “12 Years a Slave,” reminding everyone what a contribution Fox has made to the culture. “Let’s wear our heart on our sleeves,” she urged the packed hall, choking up (and she wasn’t the only one). “Let’s celebrate the humanity that comes from discovering that we are more alike than different.”

Her words managed to overshadow the bravura, hilarious opening of the Fox presentation with Deadpool leading dancers to the song “One” from the Broadway classic “A Chorus Line.” And it was a fitting reminder that if Fox goes away, we may all be the poorer.

Related stories from TheWrap:

'A Star Is Born': Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga Nail High Notes With Trailer Debut

Fox Film CEO Teases Uncertain Future With Looming Disney Acquisition: 'We Face a New Transition'

Lionsgate Trots Out Blake Lively and 'Blindspotting,' But Identity Crisis Looms

‘A Star Is Born’ CinemaCon Trailer Shows Lady Gaga, Bradley Cooper Singing Live

Lady Gaga convinced Bradley Cooper to sing live for “A Star Is Born.” The pop star told the actor that a pet peeve of her’s was watching actors lip-synch to pre-recorded music in movies. “‘What I can’t stand in movies is w…

Lady Gaga convinced Bradley Cooper to sing live for “A Star Is Born.” The pop star told the actor that a pet peeve of her’s was watching actors lip-synch to pre-recorded music in movies. “‘What I can’t stand in movies is when it’s playback,'” Cooper said Gaga told him, before debuting a new trailer for […]

‘A Star Is Born’ With Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper Gets First Look – CinemaCon

Warner Bros debuted the first look at A Star Is Born, directed by and starring Bradley Cooper alongside Lady Gaga.
“It’s a big swing this movie,” said Cooper, saying how he always wanted to do a love story and the best way to express that i…

Warner Bros debuted the first look at A Star Is Born, directed by and starring Bradley Cooper alongside Lady Gaga. “It's a big swing this movie,” said Cooper, saying how he always wanted to do a love story and the best way to express that is through music. “We jumped on stage in front of real crowds,” said Cooper. Lady Gaga did not make an appearance at the studio’s CinemaCon presentation in Las Vegas. In the new movie, Cooper plays Jackson Maine, a country music star on…

Webby Awards: ‘Game Of Thrones’, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Lady Gaga Among Winners

The International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences unveiled the winners of the 22nd Annual Webby Awards. Honorees include HBO’s Game of Thrones for, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Rise Up for Public Service & Activism, and Lady Gaga for her d…

The International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences unveiled the winners of the 22nd Annual Webby Awards. Honorees include HBO’s Game of Thrones for, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Rise Up for Public Service & Activism, and Lady Gaga for her documentary Gaga: Five Foot Two. Other winners include Jay Z, director Steven Soderbergh, actor Jesse Williams, #MeToo trailblazer Susan Fowler, RuPaul,  Phoebe Robinson & Jessica Williams’ podcast 2 Dope Queens and more. National Geographic…

Bradley Cooper on His Secret Pact With Lady Gaga for ‘A Star is Born’

When first-time director Bradley Cooper was shooting his forthcoming remake of “A Star in Born,” his co-star, Lady Gaga (aka Stefani Germanotta), made a deal with him. “She said right from the beginning that there would be a bargain,&…

When first-time director Bradley Cooper was shooting his forthcoming remake of “A Star in Born,” his co-star, Lady Gaga (aka Stefani Germanotta), made a deal with him. “She said right from the beginning that there would be a bargain,” Cooper recalled at a public talk at the Tribeca Film Festival with Robert De Niro. He […]

Robert De Niro Praises Bradley Cooper’s ‘A Star Is Born,’ but the First-Time Director Owes His Success to Lady Gaga

De Niro calls Cooper’s directorial debut “terrific” and hopes it gets the attention it deserves.

After starring opposite one another in four films — “Limitless,” “Silver Linings Playbook,” “American Hustle,” and “Joy” —Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro reunited for a one-on-one conversation at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival. The hourlong discussion found Cooper looking back at his Oscar-nominated career and included David O. Russell being invited onstage to co-moderate. De Niro started the conversation with a revelation: He has already seen Cooper’s “A Star Is Born.”

“A Star Is Born” marks Cooper’s directorial debut and is the third time the property has been remade since the original opened in 1937, starring Janet Gaynor and Frederic March. The remakes have included a 1954 musical, starring Judy Garland and James Mason, and a 1976 rock musical, starring Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson.

“It’s terrific and Bradley is excellent in it,” De Niro raved. “The movie is wonderful. I hope it gets the attention I feel it should when it opens. Bradley learned to sing. He is terrific. He really worked hard and it paid off. You see all the hard work he did, it’s special.”

Cooper shot the movie over 42 days after spending nearly three years in development. The film is set in the country-music world and stars Cooper in the lead role opposite Lady Gaga, who is making her film-acting debut. Both actors play country musicians whose romance complicates the highs and lows of their careers. Cooper said he decided to make “A Star Is Born” his directorial debut because the material called for it.

“There was a reason why [De Niro] wanted to tell ‘A Bronx Tale,’ why he wanted to direct it and nobody else,” Cooper said. “I’ve never thought I should be directing the movies I’ve starred in, but I always realized I was a bit different than other actors because I was so obsessed with the storytelling.”

“The broken love story in ‘A Star Is Born’ kept haunting me,” he continued. “Shots kept coming into my head. I would dream about it. I realized I had to do it, whether it fails or not. I knew I had to try and I wound up absolutely loving it. You can’t hide when you sing. The best way to express love is through singing and music. I knew if I could marry that in a way, it would be special.”

"A Star Is Born"

“A Star Is Born”

Universal Pictures

Cooper has been in the editing room for months in order to get the final cut just right. Warner Bros. originally set the film to open May 18, but the release date has been pushed back twice, first to September 28 and then to its current October 5 date. Cooper assured the audience the delays have been because he’s taking the time to make the movie he envisioned from the start, and he promises when the film is released it will be “the movie [I] set out to make.”

Read More: Robert De Niro Says Donald Trump Is a ‘Mad Man’ and ‘Low-life’ at Tribeca Event

As previously reported, Cooper spent some of the 42-day shoot filming at actual music festivals to get as much realistic footage as possible. Cooper and Gaga jumped onstage and sang at the Stagecoach Festival and at Glastonbury in front of 80,000 people. In an ironic twist, Cooper was able to film at Glastonbury because previous “A Star Is Born” star Kristofferson had a set there and gave up four minutes to Cooper. By the end of the shoot, it became clear to Cooper that Gaga was his most valuable player.

“Gaga is a revelation,” Cooper said. “I relied on her. She said right from the beginning that this is going to be a barter: ‘I’m gonna rely on you to get a performance out of me, and I’m gonna make sure you’re going to be a real musician.'”

Gaga made the decision for both her and Cooper to sing live and not rely on pre-recorded tracks, telling the director, “We’re going to sing everything live. The only way this is going to work is live. I can’t stand when I watch movies and you know its pre-recorded and I can see people lip-syncing.”

Cooper said singing live in front of thousands of festival-goers was “terrifying.” Audiences will be able to see for themselves if he pulled it off when “A Star Is Born” opens October 5. At the very least, Cooper will have one passionate fan in De Niro.

You can watch De Niro and Cooper’s entire Tribeca conversation in the video below.

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Review: Country Elton John Tribute Album Bests Its Pop Counterpart

No list of things we don’t miss from the ’90s — scrunchies, Starter jackets, Discmans, Earthlink, talking to the hand — would be complete without the inclusion of the tribute album, a fad that seemed to die out by the end of the decade, with occasional flare-ups since. For every inspired concept that had alt rockers […]

No list of things we don’t miss from the ’90s — scrunchies, Starter jackets, Discmans, Earthlink, talking to the hand — would be complete without the inclusion of the tribute album, a fad that seemed to die out by the end of the decade, with occasional flare-ups since. For every inspired concept that had alt rockers […]