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CinemaCon: Sony Relies on Low-Risk Sequels, Comedies, and Faithfuls Adam Sandler, Will Smith

Box Office
by Anne Thompson
April 23, 2013 9:56 PM
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Jaden Smith in "After Earth."

After seeing several CinemaCon studio presentations in a row, you start to see the retreads coming. The requisite rehash of 2012 hits, adding up to $4.1 billion worldwide, did not reveal that both "The Amazing Spider-Man" and "Men in Black 3" cost too much to return serious profits, or that the global bounty from "Skyfall" was shared with Eon and MGM. As I watched Sony's dog-and-pony show, led off by studio star Adam Sandler arriving on stage with trumpet fanfare from Romans in tunics and breastplates, I was checking off a grid.

Dystopian sci-fi adventure: Will and Jaden Smith play father and son marooned on a nasty Planet Earth in M. Night Shyamalan's cool-looking "After Earth" (May 31). Where's Tom Cruise when you need him? Even more promising is Neill Blomkamp's follow-up to "District 9," which earned him some independence on "Elysium" (August 9), which stars Matt Damon as a man struggling in a hellhole on Earth who sets out to fight for the medicine he needs to survive.

Apocalyptic comedy: The last remaining refuge of the original is comedy, and thankfully writer-directors Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg confront the apocalypse in their own raunchy way in L.A. showbiz comedy "This is the End" (June 12) starring a cast of friends playing their deranged selves, from James Franco and Michael Cera to Emma Watson and Rihanna. This looks hilarious.

President in danger thriller: "White House Down" (June 28) stars the ubiquitous Channing Tatum, who starred in more $100-million movies than any other star in 2012. And Jamie Foxx plays a remarkably athletic president under terrorist attack. Where's Gerard Butler when you need him?

Matt Damon in 'Elysium'

Comedy sequels: Sandler's "Grown-Ups 2" (July 12) stars Salma  Hayek, David Spade and Kevin James. "It's a fucking four-quadrant movie, let's get it done motherfuckers," Sandler exhorted the theater owners. 

Low-risk concert movie: Morgan Spurlock directs young Brit band "One Direction: This is Us" (August 30) in concert and behind the scenes.

Animated family sequels: "Smurfs 2" (3-D, July 31), "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2" (September 27).

Young adult fantasy bestseller movie: "Mortal Instruments: City of Bones" (August 23) stars Lily Collins ("Mirror Mirror") as a young teen whose mother Lena Headey ("Game of Thrones") admits she's born into a family of Shadowhunters who chase demons. Tag line: "There is a world hidden within our own." Where's Sarah Michelle Geller when you need her? The release date confirms my suspicion that Sony's expectations are low. 

Reluctant coach turns team of losers into winners: In "Battle of the Year" "Lost" star Josh Holloway trains a ragtag team to battle for a world championship (3-D, September 13). See "Monsters University."

Low-risk horror remake: Inevitably, Stephen King's "Carrie" (October 18) has been recast with Chloe Moretz and Julianne Moore. At least Kimberley Peirce is at the helm. She's never dull.

'Stalingrad'

Low-risk acquisition: One of the more compelling Sony pictures previewed in Las Vegas was an independently financed international pick-up from Russia, Fyodor Bondarchuk's World War II actioner "Stalingrad," about the infamous standoff waged in November 1942. It was shot with Red cameras in IMAX 3-D and does not yet have a domestic release date. (My set visit is here.)

Needless to say the last quarter brings the quality award season movies Sony chief Amy Pascal really likes to make, from George Clooney's period art heist thriller "Monuments Men" and Tom Hanks in Paul Greengrass's Somali pirate movie "Captain Phillips" to David O. Russell's Abscam comedy now titled "American Hustle."

And 2014 brings more of same: new film versions of "Annie," "Popeye" and "RoboCop" as well as sequels to "Think Like a Man," "21 Jump Street" and "The Amazing Spider-Man" (May 2).


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