LAS VEGAS — In a starry presentation that included Timothée Chalamet, Oprah Winfrey, Zendaya and a first look at “Dune: Part Two,” “Barbie” was no doubt the brightest star of Warner Bros.’ CinemaCon showcase. In fairness, the neon pink might have given her the advantage.
It was a splashy presentation for anxious theater owners in Las Vegas from a studio in transition, with new leadership teams in place to oversee films and create a 10-year plan for iconic DC Comics characters like Superman. Within the past year, Michael De Luca and Pam Abdy were selected to lead the studio’s film group while James Gunn and Peter Safran stepped in to head DC Studios.
Tuesday evening, CinemaCon attendees will be among the first to see “The Flash” (out June 16) — a film that has been the source of extra scrutiny because of star Ezra Miller’s series of arrests and reports of erratic behavior. Miller, who goes by they/them pronouns, said last year that they were pursuing treatment for “complex mental health issues.”
Miller did not appear on stage in Las Vegas alongside director Andy Muschietti, though Muschietti spoke about his lead.
“They are an incredible actor,” he said. “Probably one of the best actors I’ve ever worked with. … They wanted to do all the stunts and I let them.”
Safran also previewed the upcoming “Aquaman” and “Blue Beetle” movies, but did not have much to say about their plans beyond 2023.
The audience cheered for a pulsating first look at Denis Villeneuve’s “Dune: Part Two,” which hits theaters on Nov. 3.
“Part One was a more contemplative movie,” Villeneuve said. “Part Two is more action packed, an epic war movie.”
Not only is it “more dense” but it was also filmed entirely in IMAX, he said. The first movie was about “40% IMAX.”
“Dune: Part Two” picks up with Chalamet’s young hero Paul Atreides and Zendaya’s Chani right were he left them. Chani, Zendaya promised, is “not just in dreams this time.”
The two characters, she added, are trying to balance just being young people in the world with the weight of having to also be warriors for their people.
“Dune 2” adds actors like Austin Butler, Christopher Walken and Florence Pugh to the already big ensemble.
The pitch to Butler, Villeuneuve said, was to play an “Olympic sword master mixed with a psychotic serial killer.” The “Elvis” star said yes.
Margot Robbie, Ryan Gosling and writer-director Greta Gerwig unveiled a new trailer for the candy-colored extravaganza. The promotional spot revealed more about the film’s mysterious plot, including the fact that Robbie’s Barbie experiences some “imperfect” things like burnt toast and flat feet and goes searching for the truth about the universe.
Robbie, who produced and stars, was the engine behind the project. She was the one who asked Greta Gerwig to help make the film.
Gerwig and her partner Noah Baumbach co-wrote the script and, Gerwig said, when they finished she got the sense that he liked it so much that he wanted to direct it.
“I said, ‘Step aside,’” Gerwig laughed. “I was so in love with it I couldn’t imagine anyone else doing it.”
While writing, she said she jotted down the name “Ryan Gosling” for Ken, though she had neither met him nor had any idea if he’d be interested.
Gosling, most know by now, was. On stage at Caesars Palace, Gosling wore a T-shirt with Gerwig’s name on it in the Barbie font.
“I have to be honest, up until this point I only knew Ken from afar,” Gosling said. “I didn’t know Ken from within.”
“I doubted my Kenergy,” Gosling continued. “Greta and Margot, I feel like they conjured this out of me. … I was living my life and then one day I was bleaching my hair, shaving my legs and wearing bespoke neon outfits and roller blading down Venice Beach.”
“Barbie,” which counts disco, “The Wizard of Oz” and Technicolor musicals as inspiration, opens in theaters on July 21.
Oprah Winfrey made her CinemaCon debut to talk about the big screen adaptation of “The Color Purple” stage musical. Winfrey, who produced the new film, starred in Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of the Alice Walker novel in 1985 and received an Oscar nomination for her performance.
“‘The Color Purple’ in 1985 was the biggest and most important thing that had ever happened to me,” Winfrey said. “This is a full circle moment for me.”
Director Blitz Bazawule said they “told the story in such a joyful way.” Both stressed that it’s the kind of film that should inspire groups and families to come out to the theater and the never-before-seen trailer promised that it is “not your mamma’s ‘Color Purple’.” The cast includes Taraji P. Henson, Danielle Brooks, Colman Domingo, Fantasia, H.E.R., and Jon Batiste.
“It is our mission to put people in seats for this movie,” said Winfrey of the Christmas day release. She suggested buying tickets for friends and putting purple ribbons on them.
Chalamet also spoke about “Wonka,” a colorful origin story about the eccentric chocolatier directed by “Paddington” director Paul King that opens on Dec. 15. A new extended trailer showed a first look at Hugh Grant as a small, orange Oompa Loompa threatening to do a song and dance, which got laughs from the audience.
“That was the first time you all saw Hugh as the Oompa Loompa right?” Chalamet said. “It was a trip.”
David Zaslav, the CEO and President of Warner Bros. Discovery., reiterated his commitment to theaters — a 180 from former WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar who made the controversial decision to send all 10 Warner Bros. movies straight to HBO Max in 2022.
“We believe in full windowing of motion pictures,” Zaslav said. “We do not want to do direct to streaming movies. We’re in no rush to bring movies to Max (the new name for HBO Max).”
In 2023, Warner Bros. plans to release 16 movies in theaters and aspires to get to more than 20 a year.
“We’re all in on motion pictures,” Zaslav said.