By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood March 28, 2014 at 8:58PM
Hohum Sequels: Not generating much enthusiasm were "Hot Tub Time Machine 2" and "SpongeBob Squarepants" in 3D.
Oscar Talk: More promising was Paramount's potential awards contender, Christopher Nolan’s "Interstellar" (November 7), which stars Oscar-winner Matthew McConaughey. (Later in the week, Nolan gave a keynote on the future of film that stressed his love for 35 mm.) And Jason Reitman's follow-up to "Labor Day" is "Men, Women & Children," starring Adam Sandler in more serious vein and Reitman regular Jennifer Garner.
Tentpoles: Studio Chairman Donna Langley debuted the first footage of “Fifty Shades of Grey,” which she described as the “next iconic screen romance.” The footage from the first installment of E.L. James’ S & M trilogy included some kissing and an elevator scene between Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) and Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson)---nothing too scary for exhibitors, who tend to be a conservative middle-of-the-road group.
The studio is also teasing their “Jurassic Park” reboot and sequels “Dumb and Dumber To,” which brings back Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels, “Despicable Me 3” and “Fast and Furious 7,” starring the late Paul Walker alongside new villains Jason Statham and Kurt Russell.
Breakout: Universal screened in full for exhibs Nicholas Stoller's raucous R-rated comedy "Neighbors," which having seen I can say will be a huge hit. Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne are here to stay--and so is Zac Ephron (if he stops lurking around downtown Los Angeles in the middle of the night).
Lower-Budget: Universal showed a trailer starring Scarlett Johansson as yet another femme fatale in “Lucy," and promoed a Jason Blum low-budget thriller “The Purge: Anarchy” and "Ted" writer-director Seth MacFarlane’s “A Million Ways to Die in the West,” in which MacFarlane meets his match in gunslinger Charlize Theron.
Oscar Talk: White-clad director Angelina Jolie is bidding for awards with her sophomore directorial effort "Unbroken," the Louie Zamperini biopic due on Christmas Day.
Tentpoles: The studio screened 30 minutes of sequences from Marc Webb's “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” starring leads Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone and villains Jamie Foxx (Electro) and Dane De Haan (Green Goblin).
Comedies: The studio teased “Sex Tape,” starring “Bad Teacher” duo Cameron Diaz and Jason Segal and “The Interview” with James Franco and Seth Rogen.
Musical: Will Gluck's latest movie version of the Broadway musical "Annie" stars Foxx, Rose Byrne and Quvenzhane Wallis.
Sequels: Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill are back in highly anticipated “22 Jump Street," and there's also "Think Like A Man Too."
Oscar Talk: Scott Rudin is producing the latest untitled Cameron Crowe film, which is set in Hawaii and stars Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone, Bill Murray and Alec Baldwin. And there's also David Ayer's World War II drama "Fury" (November 14) starring Brad Pitt, Shia LaBeouf, Logan Lerman, Jon Bernthal, Michael Peña, and Jason Isaacs.
Tentpoles: Disney touted Marvel’s “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and “Guardians of the Galaxy” but did not disclose details for Lucasfilm's “Star Wars" (December 15, 2015) except to say that the film set 30 years after "Episode 6" and starring three young actors starts shooting in May. Disney chairman Alan Horn admitted that Pixar won't open a feature in 2014, because animation czar John Lasseter wants to keep working on two for 2015, including Pete Docter's ambitious “Inside Out"--footage wowed the exhibs-- and "The Good Dinosaur."
Fairy Tale Movies: Angelina Jolie stars in production designer-turned-director Robert Stromberg's vsually sumptuous "Maleficent" (May 30), which has had reshoots, and Christmas brings Rob Marshall's big-budget Stephen Sondheim musical "Into the Woods," starring Meryl Streep. In 2015 comes Kenneth Branagh's live action "Cinderella," starring Lily James, Cate Blanchett and Richard Madden.
Oscar Talk: The studio screened the entire India-set sports drama "Million Dollar Arm" (May 16) written by Tom McCarthy and directed by Craig Gillespie, starring Jon Hamm as a down-on-his-luck agent looking to turn cricket players into baseball stars, which Horn said tested off the charts. The score is by "Slumdog Millionaire" star A.R. Rhaman.
Twentieth Century Fox
Tentpoles: Studio chairman Jim Gianopulos introed three would-be blockbusters: Bryan Singer's “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” Matt Reeves' “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” and DreamWorks Animation's anticipated “How to Train Your Dragon 2."
The studio also gave a peek at Ridley Scott's “Exodus: Gods and Kings,” starring Christian Bale as Moses, its latest Bible entry, as well as David Fincher’s “Gone Girl,” starring Ben Affleck, and Guillermo Del Toro’s animated adventure “Book of Life.”
Comedies: Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans Jr. star in Luke Greenfield's “Let’s Be Cops” (August 13), and Cameron Diaz and Leslie Mann topline Nick Cassavetes' revenge fantasy “The Other Woman."
Hohum Sequel: Ben Stiller is back in Shawn Levy's “Night at the Museum 3.”
Breakout: Fox unveiled a scene from Matthew Vaughn spy thriller “Secret Service,” starring Colin Firth and Samuel L. Jackson.
Oscar Talk: "Divergent" star Shailene Woodley is building buzz for her role in the film based on John Green's weepie “The Fault in Our Stars.”
Tentpoles: For the first time new studio topper Kevin Tsujihara introduced the footage, including Gareth Edwards' mega-monster movie “Godzilla,” starring Bryan Cranston. Peter Jackson provided a New Zealand video intro to the final installment of his second JRR Tolkien trilogy, “The Hobbit: There and Back Again.” Johnny Depp and Morgan Freeman accompanied Christopher Nolan cinematographer-turned-director Wally Pfister's directorial debut, "Transcendence." Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt costar in Doug Liman's big-budget sci-fi war flick "Edge of Tomorrow." Channing Tatum and Mila Kunis star in the Wachowskis' bid for comeback, “Jupiter Ascending."
Comedies: Pregnant Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler cracked up the crowd for Frank "Wedding Singer" Coraci's comedy “Blended," while husband-and-wife writer team Ben Falcone and Melissa McCarthy did the same for R-rated “Tammy,” which stars McCarthy and Susan Sarandon.
Disaster film: Steven Quale's "Into the Storm" may tap into weather anxiety.
Low Budget: The film adaptation of Gayle Forman’s YA novel "If I Stay" stars Chloe Grace Moretz as a teen who must decide how to survive the deaths of her parents in a car crash.
Oscar Talk: Clint Eastwood introduced his Frankie Valli 60s movie musical “Jersey Boys" (June 20).
Meanwhile what the studios and exhibitors should be thinking about is what free streaming site Popcorn Time (which keeps shutting down) supplies via uninterrupted Torrent sharing: a sweet user interface and a well-organized searchable deep hi-res library of old and new titles easily loaded in less than 30 seconds (a much better sampling than Netflix), from current releases "Frozen" and "The Wolf of Wall Street" to the "Star Wars" and "Godfather" films (see demo below). This is the (illegal) fantasy site that audiences really want. The studios balk at even considering such a site because of the long-term billions still to be gained from the old windows model (thank you HBO) and fears of piracy. The NYTimes addresses this here. (Warner Bros. recognized the limitations of studio site UltraViolet when it tried to supply customers with "Veronica Mars" downloads.)
Consumers shouldn't have to navigate hideous passwords and multiple clicks to get to a movie--with Popcorn Time, two clicks and you're there. There's no longer any technological barrier to delivering streaming to consumers. The barrier is the studios' refusal to understand who their audience is. They are accustomed to dictating down to them with their mighty ad dollars--"you will buy this!" Well, they're already figuring out that they can no longer get away with shoving lousy product down moviegoers' throats. Hence tinkering, reshoots and redos are the order of the day on such films as "Where the Wild Things Are," "World War Z" and "47 Ronin."
As the studios and theater owners continue pursuing the popcorn-movie model--and yes, I believe people will continue going to movie houses for years to come-- they may also want to invest in growing their potential audience via an alternative streaming portal like Popcorn Time.