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When Warner Bros. President Jeff Robinov took to the stage Tuesday at CinemaCon 2012 in Las Vegas, he was met by a crowd that had already sat through a long morning program on “The State of the Industry: Past, Present and Future.” Luckily for everyone, Robinov had one superstar and several filmmakers on hand to augment his presentation, which focused primarily on the studio’s summer film slate.
First up was Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows (opening May 11), with the director himself on hand to introduce the expanded preview. Burton – whose films, Robinov noted, have grossed $3.5 billion worldwide — talked about his love as a kid for the original Dark Shadows soap opera, saying, “I was such a lousy student because I wasn’t doing homework, I was watching this weird TV show.” Before the footage rolled, Burton brought out Johnny Depp to huge applause; the star smiled, waved and said nothing.
Thankfully Depp was more talkative in the clips, which featured more of the culture-clash humor as his vampire Barnabas Collins awakes after 200 years to find himself in the 1970s. The reel also showcased more of the movie’s action, including large-scale explosions, as well as Eva Green as the villainous witch Angelique Bouchard. The package ended with a look at the movie’s cameo from rocker Alice Cooper, playing the 1970s version of himself.
Next was director Christopher Nolan, who discussed The Dark Knight Rises (July 20), the third and final Batman movie. “It’s such a unique opportunity to craft a conclusion,” he said, emphasizing its status as the end of the trilogy and the way it wraps up the story. Despite his notable support of 35mm film, and the program’s earlier celebratory prediction about the death of the format, Nolan didn’t mention his preferred method for screening the movie, noting only that two-thirds of it was shot with IMAX cameras. “What defines film is spectacle,” he said.
The Dark Knight Rises reel was a spectacle, opening with a look at a daring midair plane-to-plane jailbreak for villain Bane (played by Tom Hardy), and then continuing with a nearly dialogue-free series of images, including a large-scale attack at a football game, a brief Batman/Catwoman make-out scene, quite a bit of Joseph Gordon-Levitt as gun-toting cop John Blake, a shootout at a stock exchange and a massive bridge explosion.
“I want to be Christopher Nolan when I grow up,” Rock of Ages director Adam Shankman joked about trying to follow Nolan’s impressive presentation. His movie, based on the Broadway musical built around the hard-rock hits of the 1980s, opens June 15, and is decidedly lighthearted. “I want to make a movie with Tom Cruise in assless chaps,” was the way Shankman described his pitch. While those didn’t appear in the preview, there were shots of Cruise onstage as glam rocker Stacee Jaxx, plus Catherine Zeta-Jones leading a group of uptight church ladies in a dance number to Pat Benatar’s “Hit Me With Your Best Shot,” and plenty of familiar rock anthems given new presentations.
The final summer movie was Jay Roach’s political comedy The Campaign (Aug. 10), which stars Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis as a pair of small-town politicians duking it out for a Congressional seat. Roach said the movie started with the idea of teaming the two actors, and after considering casting them as reality-TV producers, pro wrestlers and cage fighters, the filmmakers settled on politics as the ideal setting. “Every day we’d have to rush home to check the Internet to see if we were funnier than the real thing,” Roach said of shooting during the Republican primaries. He showed the trailer, which featured Ferrell as a smooth-talking arrogant politician reminiscent of Anchorman‘s Ron Burgundy, and Galifianakis as an effeminate underdog. The biggest laugh came when Ferrell’s character accidentally punched a baby in the face.
Robinov then moved on to a couple of movies due later in the year. Director Baz Luhrmann appeared in a taped message to introduce “completely untouched” footage from his 3D adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, opening Dec. 25. The footage was pretty polished, and Luhrmann justified the 3D approach by emphasizing gaudy costumes, lavish parties and opulent sets, with swooping camera movements and slow-motion. At times the movie, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan and Tobey Maguire, looked like a close cousin to Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge.
Closing out the program was the eagerly anticipated The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (Dec. 14), the first of two Hobbit films from Peter Jackson. The director appeared in another taped message, talking about his use of the highly touted 48 frames per second projection rate (most movies are projected at 24 frames per second), which he said would look sharper and brighter and reduce eyestrain in 3D. The 10 minutes of footage was shown at the higher frame rate and in 3D, and at times it looked uncannily sharp.
Although many of the special-effects shots were unfinished, including numerous visible green screens, the footage did give a sense of the movie’s grandeur, with the familiar sweeping helicopter shots of characters walking along mountaintops, plus appearances from The Lord of the Rings stars Ian McKellen (as Gandalf), Ian Holm (as the older Bilbo Baggins), Hugo Weaving (as Elrond), Cate Blanchett (as Galadriel), Orlando Bloom (as Legolas) and Christopher Lee (as Saruman). The highlight of the reel was an extended exchange between Martin Freeman as the young Bilbo and Andy Serkis’ performance-capture Gollum, looking even more nauseatingly lifelike at the new higher-definition frame rate.