Hollywood Hits Vegas, Bets Big on Sequels
by Jonathan Crow & Sean Phillips
April 3, 2009
Amid the glitz and glamour of Vegas, ShoWest -- the annual convention and trade show for movie theater chains, now in its 35th year -- opened this week.
It's traditionally an event where studios hype their slate of films for the next few years, and producers build buzz for their projects by screening movie clips. In the old days, like way back in 2008, publcity department budgets were big and they lavished goodies on the conventioneers; one theater chain handed out free hot dogs to one and all last year. This year, however, in direct correlation with the sore economy, the giveaways were fewer and the Page Ranking pizzazz was generally downsized. While Paramount Studios showed off a giant statue of the Transformer Bumblebee in front of the Paris hotel, Universal didn't even bother to show up.
Yet ShoWest '09 did manage to yield some cool surprises for film fans and industry types alike.
The talk of the convention was the boffo box-office success of DreamWorks' "Monsters vs. Aliens" last week, which broke all existing records for a 3-D IMAX movie. That bodes well for Disney, which announced during a panel hosted by Walt Disney Studios Motion Picture Group President Mark Zoradi on Tuesday their plans for an impressive 17 movies in 3-D over the next three years.
Two films that are being converted into 3-D are the Pixar classics "Toy Story" and "Toy Story 2," which will be re-released for a special two-week double-feature run in October, whetting the public's appetite for next year's "Toy Story 3."
Zoradi also screened a few minutes of another animated classic that was chosen for the 3-D treatment, "The Beauty and the Beast," to be released in time for Valentine's Day 2010. Other 3-D clips screened included "Tron 2," the eye-popping sequel to the 1982 cult hit, and a series of shorts in advance of "Cars 2" called "Car Toons." The bespectacled audience was likewise enthralled by the first 47 minutes of Pixar's latest movie "Up" -- the first flick from that studio to make the leap to 3-D.
The following day just before an early viewing of the Sandra Bullock film, "The Proposal," Disney presented some very raw footage from "The Princess and the Frog," a fable animated in warm, old-fashioned 2-D that is reminiscent of the sketches Walt himself might have drawn.
Sony was the other studio making waves at ShoWest. At their presentation, the studio's President of Worldwide Distribution Rory Bruer surprised just about everyone by revealing that they are going forward with a third movie in the long dormant "Men in Black" franchise, slated for the summer of 2011. At present, details are few and far between, but reportedly both Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones will reprise their roles.
Bruer also announced that Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis and Ernie Hudson will reunite to star in "Ghostbusters 3." Though the release date is still TBA, writers Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky from "The Office" have been tapped to draft the script. One rumored story line is that the four original members will mentor a new generation of slime-spackled Ghostbusters. Less surprising, Bruer confirmed that the studio is hard at work on "Spider-Man 4," with Sam Raimi slated to direct again.
Paramount Pictures unveiled some slam-bang action scenes from two of their big summer blockbusters. Director Michael Bay was on hand to show off some of the new robots in disguise from his sequel "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen." Plus, conventioneers got an early look at the long-awaited "G.I. Joe." In the scene, Channing Tatum races across the rooftops of Paris to stop the evildoers from COBRA from destroying the Eiffel Tower (Spoiler alert: he doesn't make it in time).
Apart from these studio panels, there were a few other movies screenings that wowed ShoWest audiences. One was "District 9," a down-beat sci-fi drama produced by Peter Jackson. Shot in a loose documentary style in the vein of "Children of Men," the movie concerns a group of earth-bound aliens forced to live in squalid ghettos in South Africa.
Another movie that garnered some talk was Guy Ritchie's "Sherlock Holmes," starring Robert Downey Jr. Shot with Ritchie's trademark music video style of filmmaking -- lots of slo-mo shots and lightning-quick edits -- the film looks to be something of a departure from previous movie versions of the famed super sleuth.
If you want a glimpse of one of the most talked-about movies of the convention, Disney/Pixar's "Up," watch this extended scene from the movie in the player below.
Hollywood Hits Vegas, Bets Big on Sequels
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