It’s What We Didn’t See That Defined CinemaCon 2024

We’re leaving Las Vegas.

CinemaCon 2024 is over — time for studios to go out and prove their pitches at the box office. Based on what we saw, or really what we didn’t see, that will be an uphill battle.

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First, let’s take a moment to appreciate the folks and films that showed up. Arguably, the biggest star to attend CinemaCon was Kevin Costner. The cynical point of view? He was pitching not one but two “Horizon” films to theater owners — and simultaneously pitching third and fourth installments to Warner Bros. Plus, Costner received a trophy (the CinemaCon Visionary Award), for which WB execs shooed him offstage just to call him back up. Kinda silly. Speaking of WB execs and no-shows, if David Zaslav was in town, he didn’t come on stage.

Jeff Goldblum did, as did his fellow “Wicked” co-stars Ariana Grande, Cynthia Erivo, and Michelle Yeoh. Chris Hemsworth was in attendance to promote two films (“Furiosa” and “Transformers One”); same with Lupita Nyong’o (“The Wild Robot” and “A Quiet Place: Day One”). Dwayne Johnson showed up for “Moana 2” — he’s always a gamer. Anya Taylor-Joy came, along with up-and-comer Ariana Greenblatt, Amy Poehler, Brian Tyree Henry, Glen Powell, Henry Cavill (he’s got three movies for Lionsgate), Halle Berry, etc. Kudos to them.

And shoutout to Lionsgate Motion Picture Group chairman Adam Fogelson, who surprisingly may have gotten the most laughs of the week.

Folks like James Gunn, Jack Black, Mark Wahlberg, James McAvoy, Ridley Scott, John Krasinski, Ryan Coogler, and Michael B. Jordan, and others sent their regards via video or an onstage surrogate. We’re not hating on this group (too much) — more stars didn’t send messages than did. Keanu Reeves would have been a big hit after pulling double-duty on the big screen as an angel in Aziz Ansari’s “Good Fortune” and for reprising his role as John Wick in “Ballerina.” Jason Blum, who almost never misses CinemaCon, was a surprise no-show and missed out on personally announcing “Five Nights at Freddy’s 2,” in addition to other Blumhouse positioning.

Sorry for calling names — everyone’s got their own things. And this year, there’s more of a legitimate excuse to politely decline. The 2023 writers and actors strikes created even more 2024 scheduling difficulties than a typical year, so some of these people are actually still finishing their movies. Warner Bros. ended its presentation with a reel of all its talent on set right now — as if just to prove it.

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - APRIL 10: (L-R) Aziz Ansari and Adam Fogelson, Chairman, Lionsgate Motion Picture Group speak onstage during the Lionsgate Presentation during CinemaCon 2024 at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace on April 10, 2024 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by David Becker/WireImage)
Lionsgate film group chairman Adam Fogelson (right) takes a seat while comedian Aziz Ansari riffs.WireImage

We didn’t count, but anecdotally it felt like this year’s CinemaCon featured fewer clips as well. A lot of what we got — “Michael,” “Ballerina,” “The Amateur,” “Mickey 17,” or Angel Studios’ “David” — will wait for 2025. Even AMC CEO Adam Aron, who appeared on a Wednesday panel discussion with Puck’s Matt Belloni, said it’s the ’25 and ’26 slates — not 2024’s — that could make for a $10 billion year.

We also didn’t get as much free swag this time around. It’s less for us to pack for home, but another sign of the times. One exhibitor we spoke with saw it as a sign of necessary frugality at the studios.

As much as the famous faces and the giveaways can help the assignment, it is the films that still define CinemaCon. In recent years, the hype has made it feel more like Comic Con. Not this year.

A screening of Universal’s “The Fall Guy” opened CinemaCon 2024, and though the crowd loved Ryan Gosling and company, critics had already seen it at SXSW. Neon’s “Babes” was screened on Wednesday night to a half-empty Colosseum, though we heard a lot of belly laughs from those who were there. There were the requisite trailers (highlights: “Twisters,” “Joker: Folie à Deux,” “Good Fortune,” and “Gladiator 2”) and sneak peeks (“Furiosa,” “Michael,” “Wicked”), but outside of Disney, which screened 75 minutes of footage — including 35 minutes from “Inside Out 2” — we got fewer extended chunks of films than normal. Again, that could definitely be (and is, in some cases) a backlogged production issue.

That said, we were hoping for even just a bit more: a title for “Mission: Impossible 8” or anything really on the new movies from Ryan Coogler and Jordan Peele. Disney had a snippet in a sizzle reel of its “Snow White” remake but kept it out of their presentation. Warner Bros. is making us wait a little longer for anything from the animated “Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim.” And we’re (still) dying to know who’s voicing Shadow in “Sonic the Hedgehog 3.”

One executive in the exhibition industry suggested our feeling could partially reflect a rebuilding year at NATO. This was Michael O’Leary’s first rodeo after replacing the beloved icon of the industry John Fithian. Perhaps O’Leary is still finding his feet. In his CinemaCon opening speech that both called for more capital investment and touted the importance of mid-budget films, O’Leary had one of the more memorable teleprompter flubs of the week.

“I believe the future of the theatrical industry is limited,” O’Leary read.

The former MPA attorney lawyer quickly caught his mistake: “LIMITLESS,” O’Leary corrected himself. Hey, it was a Tuesday morning in Vegas.

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - APRIL 09: Michael O’Leary, President & CEO, NATO, attends "The State of the Industry and a Special Presentation from Crunchyroll" during CinemaCon, the official convention of the National Association of Theatre Owners, at Caesars Palace on April 09, 2024 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jerod Harris/Getty Images for CinemaCon)
NATO President and CEO Michael O’LearyGetty Images for CinemaCon

Speaking of the MPA, try as the press did, we got few concrete answers about what happened to the MPA’s annual theme report. The theme report gives a valuable pulse of the industry, market trends, official box office counts, streaming numbers, and more. Since the March 2022 report for calendar year 2021, it wasn’t MPA but more like MIA.

They’re “still working on it” and had a “couple of internal issues,” CEO Charles Rivkin said in a press conference. “But it has not gone away.”

OK, but what gives? The presser started out on an awkward note as journalists pushed for answers. It has something to do with accuracy for streaming numbers and figuring out if the way they’ve been doing the report for years is even the best format for it, Rivkin suggested. Considering it’s already April 2024, maybe don’t count on a report for last year, let alone 2022.

“I take responsibility for its delay,” he said. The MPA’s two most public-facing responsibilities, among others, include being a ratings board but also a research body, he explained, and it’s “really important to get that resource out there for a lot of reasons.”

But we’re assured that next year we’ll have stuff to see from Sony after the studio sat this year out, a first look at DC Studios’ “Superman,” and something special from Tom Cruise and “Mission: Impossible 8.” Maybe by that point Amazon and Apple will show up, too.

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